Private Cloud – Emerging Trend or Buzzword?
By Jerry Kaczmarowski, General Manager, Slalom Consulting
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
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
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
In this scenario, a marketing professional needs to quickly spin up a site
outlining a hot new consumer product that will be launched in a few months.
Marketing wants to create a high end user experience that won't conform to the
guidelines of their corporate site. They also need to collect relatively limited
personal information (name, email address, etc.) of those customers who are
interested in hearing updates as the product is released. At the end of a three
month window, the site will be shutdown. This is an ideal candidate for a public
cloud based solution for the following reasons:
Scenario Two: Support A Retail Purchasing Site During The Holiday Season
- The marketing department needs to circumvent some of the standards on
the corporate site
- The site needs to be launched immediately to meet the tight timelines
associated with the product launch
- While some personal information is collected, it is not "high risk"
personal information, such as credit card numbers or other personal financial
- The solution has no integration points with other parts of the business
- At the end of a narrow window, the site needs to be decommissioned.
During the busy holiday season IT needs to be ready to spin up additional IT
horsepower to support retail sales. For security and compliance reasons, the
company has decided that their ecommerce system needs to be maintained internally
rather being moved to the cloud. In this situation, a Private cloud approach
works well for these reasons:
Scenario Three: Ecommerce Site That Supports User Content
- Corporate standards have already dictated that customer financial information
will be housed internally
- The ecommerce system is tightly integrated with the company's ERP, CRM,
and Business Intelligence solutions.
A consumer electronics online retailer has an existing ecommerce site that
they use for marketing and selling entertainment products. Like the company
in scenario two, they decided customer data must remain under internal control.
However, as part of their ecommerce solution, they want to provide product videos
to help their customers better understand how to install and use the products
they are considering purchasing. Some of these videos will be a professionally
produced in high definition, but users will also be allowed to post their own
do it yourself videos on the site. This scenario could be a good fit for a hybrid
- The company can keep its core ecommerce site hosted internally to deal
with privacy and security issues
- The videos will contain no truly private information; they are intended
to be open to the public so can sit in the cloud
- The company doesn't have a good sense yet for the storage needs, so the
elasticity inherent in a Public cloud model is a clear benefit.
In summary, I would highlight a few takeaways. First, public clouds are gaining
momentum and mindshare. Private clouds are an alternative, but it is still difficult
to distinguish marketing from reality as it relates to the underlying technology.
Last, it's not one size fits all. Hybrid solutions can be built today, and will
likely become even more common as cloud standards are defined and accepted by
the IT community.