Category takes it on the chin

The poor private cloud gets no respect

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Pity your private cloud, if you have one. If cloud analysts are to be believed, private cloud is losing ground as public cloud providers — chiefly Amazon Web Services, Google, and Microsoft — keep adding features and functions, many of which target enterprise IT buyers.

Last week, for example, Gartner analyst Thomas Bittman blogged that 95 percent of enterprise IT types he surveyed found something lacking in their own private clouds. Of course Bittman loaded the gun for them, distilling the reasons “your enterprise public cloud is failing”  into six key categories and then polling an audience about them at an event.

Part of the problem may be in definitions. Private cloud is not merely a highly virtualized data center. It needs to deliver on-demand services easily and offer the sort of scale-up-and-down-as-needed elasticity that is the hallmark of public clouds. In a response to one comment on his post Bittman defined private cloud as the

cloud computing style delivered with isolation. Fully private would be fully isolated. It doesn’t need to be owned and managed on-premises, but today it often is (I’d say, 90-95% of the time).

Of the 140 companies Bittman surveyed, the most common reason for dissatisfaction (noted by 31 percent of respondents) is that too much emphasis was placed on cost-cutting, not on providing agility in creating, spinning up and down capabilities as needed. The second most-cited complaint, for 19 percent of respondents, was that their private cloud doesn’t do enough. But check out the whole post, along with the comments.

In August Gigaom Research published its own analysis showing public cloud options outstripping private clouds (subscription required) for several reasons. Notably, even if you are running a real private cloud — not just a heavily virtualized server room — you are probably still buying, deploying and maintaining your own hardware and software.

Gigaom research analyst David Linthicum — who is also SVP at Cloud Technology Partners, which works with the big public cloud providers — noted in that report that security, or lack thereof, has been touted as a key private cloud selling point but is not necessarily a differentiator in the way most people expect. He wrote:

Private clouds, while they feel more secure since you can see the blinking servers in your data center, are as secure or less secure than public clouds, generally speaking. Enterprises are just discovering this fact, and are opting for public clouds as cloud projects come on-line.

Ouch. Private cloud purveyors, please feel free to comment below.

Philip Bertolini, CIO of Oakland County, Michigan, said to term private clouds as failures because there is not 100 percent satisfaction is unfair. In the Gartner blog post, he noted, Bittman discusses how 95 percent of the users have had problems but that doesn’t mean their efforts failed.

“Moving to the cloud is difficult and has to be planned out carefully. Any IT project requires good planning or the results can be less than desirable. I do believe that the is not the magic wand for everything that troubles us. Using the cloud wisely with good planning can be very successful,” Bertolini noted by email.

There is some merit to the private-cloud-doesn’t-meet-expectations argument. Vendors have fed into that by overselling the technology, for one thing. But, the notion that a small number of public cloud vendors (even vendors as huge as [company]Amazon[/company], [company]Google[/company] and [company]Microsoft[/company]) can fill every need is a stretch.

As more than a dozen vendors, many of them pitching OpenStack-based private clouds, duke it out, they need to counter this perception that public cloud is becoming the inevitable destination for many, many workloads going forward.

This story was updated on February 12 with quotes from Oakland County CIO Philip Bertolini and on February 13 with a note of David Linthicum’s affiliation with CTP.

9 Responses to “The poor private cloud gets no respect”

  1. ewalsh5

    Powering up your containers using red hat OS is just the next logical direction for those who’ve already hedged their bets on using the containers in virtualized space to amp their scale (meet the IoT and Big Data avalanche, or so to speak). The benefits of having a PaaS ( bit. ly/ 1NdgIVh) and IaaS fueled by easy OS upgrades, security monitoring and Docker’s increased prominence right behind OpenStack, does promise a healthy future. – commenting on behalf of IDG and Red Hat

  2. Nelson Bostrom

    Why does David Linthicum say that private clouds are less secure? Is that just a consequence of enterprises not procuring the right security and therefore an opportunity for security vendors to fill this void?

    Also, Private Clouds are not just on premise…per the Gartner blog post…

  3. CloudSigma

    Private clouds aren’t dead of course, but the point is, they are shrinking fast which will mean within a few years they will be a niche use case. As Barb rightly points out, security has been a key shield to keep people in private environments but that’s changing fast. With wide adoption of public clouds and many choices, the statistics speak for themselves with regards to the actual security observed by thousands of public cloud users versus private cloud ones.

    People forget, having a public cloud deployment doesn’t mean you have to have public internet exposure for example. Direct connections, exchanges such as the Equinix cloud exchange ( ) or direct encrypted access offered in-browser by the provider.

    Economically public clouds blend computing workloads to achieve higher utilisation as well as benefiting from specialisation and scale. Users of public clouds get to shed non-core IT responsibilities and focus on the areas they want to where they can add value. It’s a very powerful long-term value proposition.


  4. Greg Knieriemen

    These “Private Clouds are dead” stories are tiresome. It’s horrible that GigaOm has David Linthicum as a “researcher” and cites his work. Linthicum works for Cloud Technology Partners… guess what they do? They partner with public cloud providers – I’ve cited other research that definitively shows private clouds growing faster than public clouds in comments on similar stories on GigaOm ( but you keep pushing this narrow vision of what enterprises are adopting.

    • Sorry to be tiresome @greg knieriemen. As stated in the story, some of these arguments have merit but you also have to look at where they come from — as noted about the Gartner survey. yes i should have noted Linthicum’s other job. Frankly i didn’t realize the CTP tie in at the time and will add a note to the story. Still, everyone is free to state an opinion. Even HDS evangelists. ;) I have found David to be a credible source over the years. And, success/failure of private cloud adoption or the perception around that are topics worth discussion.

    • Thanks for the comments Greg, well put, I agree. I tire of seeing story after condescending story/post implying that there is only one way, and that anything/one other than that is a fool. I think that some of David’s points have merit, the spin that is put on those points nullifies any nuggets of merit that may exist.

  5. All comes down to definitions. Private cloud could just consist of basic services like compute and storage – then it’s not too complex and in many cases has serious cost benefits. If you broaden the definition to include a range of platform services, then it becomes more difficult to compare against public cloud providers like AWS, Google or Microsoft simply because their product portfolios are so massive.

    Specific claims like “better security” from running your own systems are only true if you have the same level of investment in security teams, physical security, technical measures and the ability to keep that level of investment up to date. In most cases, you’re not going to be able to match what public cloud providers can offer, and most of the fear is probably coming from the word “public”, which is a red herring.

  6. There is another core reason I see enterprise organizations struggling with Private Cloud: the services themselves. Vendors offer a mis-match of different services that more closely resemble Public Cloud w/ private tendencies than considering where enterprises are coming from in the virtual world.

    In addition, the vendors themselves are creating a fair amount of confusion by sticking to the marketing buzzwords rather than focus on the specific services they can provide. In sum, the private cloud landscape is a huge missed opportunity.