In defense of the private cloud -- sorta

The private cloud is oversold and often the wrong choice, but it doesn't have to be that way

Recently, there have been some great discussions around the true value of the private cloud, including this editorial from InfoWorld's Eric Knorr. The notion is that the private cloud is a popular approach to cloud computing, but it does not produce the same value as the public version. Nonetheless, in a few cases, it's still the right solution.

The truth is, most of the criticism that private clouds have received in the last few years is well deserved. In particular, private clouds have indeed been a path for vendors to sell more hardware and software -- which flies in the face of the value of cloud computing. OK, in the face of public cloud computing.

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In IT, the tendency is to view private clouds as a binary concept: It sucks, or it's great. There needs to be some middle ground in the discussion.

In reality, private clouds have been overapplied in many instances, shoehorned into problem domains where they don't belong. This is due to IT shops that still want to hug their servers, and hardware and software vendors that have become good at leveraging the hype behind cloud computing into selling upgrades or, worse, rip-and-replace "solutions."

Private clouds have their time and place. It's typically in enterprises that need to migrate their processes and data to new, more scalable systems -- yet, for legitimate reason, they can't place the data and processes on public cloud resources.

The key phrase is "legitimate reason." Private clouds mimic the value of public clouds by providing self- and auto-provisioning of typically homogeneous platform resources. Thus, the number of problem domains where private cloud technology is a true fit is limited.

At the end of the day, private clouds are perfectly good architectural choices if they are applied properly. However, in many cases, they are not.

There's no simple solution for this question, but a simple maxim applies: Those charged with picking technology should focus on the requirements more than the solution. This includes looking at all paths, including both private and public clouds, or perhaps remaining with traditional systems for now. If you approach your problem that way, chances are you'll choose the right path.

This article, "In defense of the private cloud -- sorta," originally appeared at Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and track the latest developments in cloud computing at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.