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Private Cloud - Emerging Trend or Buzzword?

With a nationwide technology and management consulting practice, Slalom Consulting has worked with a number of clients, from Fortune 500 companies on down, to build cloud-based solutions on platforms such as Amazon's AWS and Microsoft's Azure. Along the way, we've had numerous opportunities to consult with our clients on how to best leverage the cloud in their own businesses. While the IT community in general is starting to understand when to consider cloud computing, new buzzwords have entered the dialog to create additional confusion. One such term is the private cloud.

First, it is helpful to define the public cloud. In our consulting practice and with our client, we tend to use cloud computing as a synonym for public cloud. There are the big providers that we've all heard of - Amazon, Google, Microsoft - as well as countless smaller providers that offer custom services that qualify as cloud computing. While it is difficult to create a crisp definition of cloud computing, some generally accepted characteristics include:

  • A pay as you go economic model
  • An ability to quickly provision and deprovision environments
  • Access to a large amount of elastic computing and storage from an external provider.
As opposed to public cloud in the context of cloud computing, the private cloud is not well understood. In many respects, the term seems to be a marketing buzzword capitalizing on the popularity of the cloud concept. From my vantage point, it is nearly impossible to distinguish an internal cloud from a well-implemented virtualization strategy. Some definitions include self-service portals and metering capabilities for chargebacks as integral parts of a private cloud strategy, while others go further still and define a Private cloud as managed by an external vendor on separate hardware and software. It's clear that it's still too early to define the private cloud and the term will continue to change over time as the underlying technology becomes more tightly defined.

While a public cloud provides many benefits, such as a new economic model, nearly instantaneous provisioning and de-provisioning, and access to potentially unlimited computing power; it also suffers from all the typical drawbacks such as concerns over security and compliance. In many respects, private clouds reverse many of these pros and cons. Private clouds may not have a truly new economic model - you may still need to purchase the requisite hardware and software up front. Likewise, you don't typically have access to nearly unlimited computing power. While you can rapidly provision in a private environment, you don't benefit economically from deprovisioning in the sense that you still own the equipment. On the positive side, you own the environment, so concerns over security and compliance are reduced. Let's consider three scenarios where these types of solutions might both be considered.

Scenario One: External Marketing Site


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