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Borrowing from public cloud architecture and technologies, the private cloud weaves a new management layer around virtualized data center systems

The primary mission of computing has always been to automate business. The secondary mission has been to automate the automation, a quest that grows ever more urgent as data center technology achieves such towering complexity it threatens to collapse under its own weight. 

The private cloud is the latest attempt to boost the efficiency and agility of the vast assortment of hardware and software sprawled across data centers. The idea is to pool compute, storage, and network resources and manage them from a central software control point rather than scrambling to provision, monitor, manage, and reconfigure all that infrastructure manually.

Predictably, the organizations with the most experience designing and running shared infrastructure are the public cloud service providers themselves. Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Salesforce can’t manage their data centers the old-fashioned way — with static chunks of infrastructure dedicated to individual application instances — and hope to deliver services to millions of subscribers over the Internet reliably and cost-effectively. These pioneers’ experiences running public clouds at scale have yielded the basic models for the private cloud.

Downsizing the cloud

Some are quick to point out that public cloud providers typically offer a few services at massive scale, not the wide diversity of applications at the small or moderate scale characteristic of the typical enterprise. So is the public cloud model applicable to enterprises at all? Isn’t “private cloud” just a marketing phrase for virtualization plus a little bit of automation?

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