The battle between public and private clouds

When companies start building private clouds, will cloud providers eventually lose out?

Lately I've seen a lot of chatter on the interwebs debating public vs. private cloud infrastructures. This could be the first development in cloud computing that actually hurts cloud vendors. It's the whole Internet-vs.-intranet debate all over again. And while that all worked out fine in the end, this new situation could go either way.

Right now cloud computing is all the rage, and the focus has been on taking things from inside the infrastructure to a heavenly place in the "public" cloud. "Private" clouds, on the other hand, tamp all of that goodness back down into a corporation's datacenter. So the real question becomes who will win and who will lose when it comes to business customers. This is pure speculation on my part (not a joke at the expense of my readers -- I love you guys), but here is how I think things will shake out.

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I think companies like Amazon will start seeing less and less opportunity in the enterprise space, while hardware vendors like Cisco and their "unified computing" offering see more and more opportunities to make clouds rather than manage them. I think the large storage companies will win out. Cloud computing's biggest challenges at the enterprise level are the various rulings, regulations, and good ol' corporate bureacracy surrounding where data resides. Many enterprises interested in the cloud's benefits are hesitant to make the switch due to the legal ramifications. With that in mind, I see the large storage vendors like EMC and NetApp playing an obvious role, but I also see a role for some of the newer startups like Fusion-io and Storspeed.

I know, I know -- too early to tell. What do you think will happen in the showdown between cloud providers and cloud makers? Personally, I think that CIOs with enterprise budgets and control of enterprise infrastructures will start building clouds of their own and yanking the one technology taking data out of private datacenters back under their iron purviews: back into safe, warm, cozy datacenters for all your proprietary and client data.

As always, I welcome your comments and open discussion.

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