Using private clouds for all the right reasons

Here's why some customers are adopting the technology -- and what they're doing.

Private clouds are all the buzz these days, so you'd be forgiven for thinking that everybody's doing it. But in fact, fewer companies than you might think have deployed 'true' private clouds.

Forrester found in a recent survey of 2,330 people that 26% of IT executives say they have a private cloud. But among those who claimed they have a private cloud, only 13% implemented the technologies that Forrester says truly define a private cloud, like self-service and automated provisioning, among other features. Instead, they built private environments that have some but not all the features of a private cloud.

Further, some businesses that are building private clouds would really be better off with a standard virtualized data center or with a public cloud, experts say. Around half the time, businesses build private clouds for the wrong reasons and should be doing something else instead, estimates David Linthicum, a consultant at Cloud Technology Partners.

"In many instances I'll determine quickly that it's an emotional decision versus a logical one," he says. For example, some IT departments are so used to running their own data centers that they have a hard time letting go of it. Sometimes that's because they may be concerned about how the shift might affect their jobs.

That doesn't mean there isn't a need for private clouds. There is, in the right circumstances, which include new, large development operations, apps that draw on truly sensitive data and aging data centers.

The rationale

The first question businesses should ask themselves is why they want to build a private cloud. Typically, enterprises talk about security, Linthicum says. But that's not the whole story, he says. "The reality is, it's control. They want the thing to exist in their data center. It's just hard to change habits," he says.

Mike Schutz, general manager of product marketing for Windows Server and Management at Microsoft, agrees that control is an issue. "In some cases what the public cloud doesn't provide today is a level of control that some organizations need," he says.

It's not just the ability to reach out and touch the servers. With a private cloud, a business can build just the amount of memory and storage it wants and make its own software choices too, around databases, for instance. Organizations can also customize security to fit their needs and use the networking gear that ensures fastest connections to their data.

Security can be a good reason to use private cloud in some cases, Linthicum says. If a business is handling state secrets, personally identifiable information or proprietary research, a private cloud can make sense.

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