Gartner endorses private clouds -- but not how IT usually defines it

Adding virtualization to your data center does not make it a private cloud, so server huggers needs to move beyond that approach

The message from Gartner analysts was "go private cloud" last week at the Gartner IT Infrastructure, Operations & Management Summit 2011 conference. However, the same analysts emphasized that building a private cloud is more than just adding virtual machines to physical servers, which is already happening with dizzying speed in the enterprise.

This is refreshing to hear, considering that my consulting life has revolved around explaining the differences between virtualization and cloud computing lately. To be clear, adding virtualization does not make it a cloud. Clouds, including private clouds, don't require virtualization, but they do need self-provisioning, use-based accounting, multitenancy, and APIs, among other cloud attributes.

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The trouble is that hardware and software vendors have gone gaga over the concept of private clouds, using it as a new argument for you to purchase more IT gear. There's a been a ton of confusion around just what a private cloud is and does, as they push the same old stuff rebranded as "cloud." I find that most enterprise technology consumers don't know what a private cloud really is, but instead latch on to the idea they can continue to hug servers. We love our servers.

In additional good news, Gartner is urging enterprises to put together a long-term strategy for the private cloud. I would extend this and urge you to create a holistic cloud computing strategy that includes private clouds. This means defining your existing as-is state, including all applications and data, and then defining the right target platforms, including the use of cloud computing platforms: private, hybrid, and public. Finally, define a road map and migration plan that needs to occur over time.

If this seems easy, it's not. The ability to transform the enterprise to more effective and efficient platforms using cloud computing is a multiyear process, and it will require new resources and funding in the short term. Moreover, the hype and confusion around the term "private cloud" is driving many enterprises in the completely wrong direction and preventing them from finding the true value.

Gartner has this one right. But until you create your own strategy and obtain a deeper understanding of the technology, private clouds -- or any clouds -- won't do you much good.

This article, "Gartner endorses private clouds -- but not how IT usually defines it," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and track the latest developments in cloud computing at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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