The private cloud has always been a contradictory notion

Posted by Ron Miller on Nov 13, 2014 10:14:00 AM

canstockphoto14630904Yesterday at AWS re:Invent, AWS Senior VP of Web Services Andy Jassy quoting IDC in his presentation, said "by 2020 the distinction between private and public cloud will disappear." It got me thinking where the notion ever came from in the first place.

I first started hearing about this idea of a private cloud back in 2009, --that is running a cloud-like infrastructure inside your data center. Then shortly after that its little sister, Hybrid Cloud, was born --that is mixing a public and private infrastructure. But if the cloud is actually the notion of running your hardware and software on *somebody else's* infrastructure than the idea of private and hybrid clouds was just, I think, a way of making the whole concept more palatable to CIOs who after all have data centers full of legacy hardware and software.

The private cloud idea gave skeptical IT pros a place to hang their hats, a way to get comfortable with the cloud without actually using cloud services, then the hybrid cloud provided a way to dabble in public cloud without having to go all the way. It was a gateway drug for the cloud.

This all actually came together for me when I saw a presentation by SoftLayer CTO Marc Jones in Dublin last week. He put up a slide that confused me at first. The slide offered three ways to use SoftLayer Infrastructure as a Service: on bare metal, in the public cloud or in the private cloud. The reason this puzzled me is because I always saw bare metal as a way to get the benefits of running your own data center in the cloud. It offers a way to go to the cloud with a dedicated server, otherwise known as single tenant giving you what is essentially a private space in the public cloud. And I saw a private cloud as something you ran in your own data center, not on a public cloud infrastructure service.

I went up to Jones after his presentation and asked him about it, and that's when the idea of the public-private cloud hit me. He explained that the bare metal server is for a single operating system without a hypervisor --in other words, you're running a single OS and application and you want the best throughput you can get. The public-private cloud, however, lets you run a hypervisor and divide the servers into multiple virtual machines just as you would in a private cloud in your data center --only it's in SoftLayer's cloud, not your data center.

This blew my mind a bit, I have to admit, because I hadn't considered that you could run what we think of as a private cloud operation in a public cloud, but if you can, then it changes completely how we think of private clouds. It no longer requires a privately owned data center at all, which brings us back to Jassy's IDC quote.

If all of this is true, and SoftLayer is defining its service delivery in these terms today, than perhaps the idea of the public and private cloud as we have known it will indeed fade to black by 2020. While I'm not suggesting that all private data centers will close by that date --given the slow pace of change inside most IT organizations, that's highly unlikely --but maybe our definitions of anything to do with the cloud (if that's what we still call it) will by its nature involve hosting by a vendor. The vendor could be SoftLayer, AWS, Google, Microsoft (or whoever else comes along between now and then), but the idea is using external services, not your private data center.

As Roo's mother, Kanga, might have said in Winnie The Pooh had they ever discussed modern technology, "Roo dear, if it's in your private data center, it's not the cloud."

Photo Credit: (c) Can Stock Photo

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Topics: Cloud Industry and Technology

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