The poor private cloud gets no respect

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.