Private Cloud: What the heck is that?!

Posted in AWS Blog
27/01/2016 Bart Van Hecke

There! I did it…

After some hesitation I finally dare to ask my fellow cloud gurus: What is this mythical creature that all cloud experts (because, in case you didn’t notice, everyone involved in IT, is a cloud expert nowadays) are talking about?
Frankly, after all this time I still have no idea whatsoever…

Infrastructure As A Service

First, let’s begin by defining the characteristics of Infrastructure As A Service. After all, cloud starts with ‘providing infrastructure’ to your users/customers, right? (I’m not going to talk about PAAS, SAAS,… here, as this would lead us way too far from the actual purpose of this blogpost)

In my humble opinion the basic IAAS characteristics are:

  • A set of computing resources that is always available on a pay-for-use basis
  • Computing resources that are managed via an API and require no physical interaction with hardware
  • Low variable expense and only pay for what you use
  • Easy to scale up and down
  • On-demand server provisioning
  • Converts CAPEX into variable OPEX
  • Self service infrastructure provisioning

  • I have been doing some research on how private clouds meet the above criteria and my overall personal findings are that private clouds are usually little more than virtualized server farms (re-branded with the word ‘cloud’ off course).
    The term ‘cloud’ is so hot & catchy that every CIO/CTO/IT Professional believes he/she should at least sit at the table when diner is being served.
    To me, the term ‘private cloud’ seems to be invented just to give people a feeling that they too can have ‘cloud’ and be really progressive & ‘agile’ (yet another abused and over-hyped term) even if this means they have to buy and maintain all their own hardware and deal with the complexity of building such an IAAS layer.

    What I truly hate about the term “private cloud” is that it pretends to offer something it really can’t….

    There are off course benefits for enterprises that are building a ‘self provisioning’ style of virtualized server environments. However, I haven’t seen anyone yet being able to build and manage a complete services portfolio like the higher level services offered by most public cloud providers such as infinite scaling functionality, managed database services, automated code deployment and abundant other offerings.

    Fundamental lack of education and awareness


    The reasons for building your own so-called ‘private cloud’ might be:

  • Migrating to the public cloud is an unexplored area an thus too hard to even take in consideration
  • Public cloud is unreliable and unsecure
  • Re-branding the existing virtual server environment to “private cloud” can happen overnight and is an easy sell to the business
  • It department wants to demonstrate to their management that they are pro’s in maintaining hardware
  • We need to able to ‘hug’ our servers

  • FYI: I have not invented the ‘reasons’ above; these are real-life questions of IT decision makers when talking about leaving their own datacenter and making the move to public cloud.

    The issue here is clearly a lack of fundamental understanding of cloud in general. People (and even technical people) are simply not aware what ‘real’ cloud computing means and how it can help enabling the customer organization to streamline IT operations and minimize time and money spent on system uptime.

    We can write numerous pages about IT governance, data privacy, security,… in the cloud, but why bother as there are already many good reads out there which might help you to demystify all prejudices about Public Cloud:


  • Benefits of True Cloud Computing

    As I already highlighted several times, the three fundamental benefits of true cloud computing are:

  • Reduced cost
  • Increased operational agility
  • Superior technical facilities

  • I’m aware of the fact that I keep repeating myself, but I honestly don’t see how a ‘private cloud’ provides these benefits. Sure, it might provide some of the benefits, but not all of them according to my experience.
    Building a ‘private cloud’ on existing hardware can definitely reduce waste, but fails to deliver the most important economic change that cloud provides.
    On-demand private resources may help to deliver increased flexibility, but you (or your service provider) still have to deal with the overhead of managing own hardware or outsource these tasks to a third party.
    Off course this statement also applies to the big public cloud providers, but in my opinion these organizations are just so much better in dealing with this as it is their core business after all + they are truly able to pass on the economies of scale to their customers, a true cloud benefit where traditional managed services companies mostly fail.


    From my point of view, a private cloud just can’t offer the wide range of building-block services that a public cloud can, and as such, a private cloud doesn’t even exist for me.
    I’m convinced that there are really good examples out there of organizations who design, build and manage really brilliant and technically well designed virtual server infrastructures and either use these services internally or sell them to customers, but please… stop calling them ‘private clouds’…

    This article solely describes my own personal vision on ‘true’ cloud computing and is not an official statement about what cloud is and what it is not. I absolutely have no intention to claim that I’m an authority on this matter, but I am convinced that you might have noticed by now that there exists only one cloud in my world and that’s the public cloud…

    Feel free to reach out if you want to discuss this topic, as I’m always eager to get new insights and thoughts about your organization’s cloud journey. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll finally meet someone who can really explain me the definition of a ‘private cloud’ 🙂

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