Blog post

Private Cloud Computing is Real – Get Over It

By Tom Bittman | February 05, 2009 | 19 Comments

Future of InfrastructureCloud

cloud in a bottle smThere’s an argument over whether the term “cloud” can be used to describe the changes taking place in internal IT architectures. How silly! Regardless of the term, there is a major trend playing out over the next few years where internal IT providers want to make fundamental changes so that they behave and provide similar benefits (on smaller scale) as cloud computing providers.

I believe that enterprises will spend more money building private cloud computing services over the next three years than buying services from cloud computing providers. But those investments will also make them better cloud computing customers in the future.

Building a private cloud computing environment is not just a technology thing – it also changes management processes, organization/culture, and relationship with business customers (our Infrastructure and Operations Maturity Model has a roadmap for all four). And these changes will make it easier for an IT organization and its customers to make good cloudsourcing decisions and transitions in the future.

We will even see several organizations evolve from being private cloud computing providers to becoming public cloud computing providers.

Can you find a better term? Go ahead. But you’ll be fighting an uphill battle. At Gartner, more and more of our clients are trying to understand what cloud computing can provide today, how it will evolve, what they should do now to prepare, and what they can learn from cloud computing. We are talking about private cloud computing on a daily basis. Get over it.

The Gartner Blog Network provides an opportunity for Gartner analysts to test ideas and move research forward. Because the content posted by Gartner analysts on this site does not undergo our standard editorial review, all comments or opinions expressed hereunder are those of the individual contributors and do not represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management.

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  • Amen. I’ve been observing interest in this trend since the middle of last year.

    I belive most IT is reluctant to call it a “cloud”, but they are definitely looking at creating elastic “compute utilities” where resources, physical and virtual, can be frequently repurposed.

    This model, I hope, will forever change how IT thinks of itself as a service provider.

  • Tom Austin says:

    Paper tiger argument, Tom B.

    When you predict that “enterprises will spend more money building private cloud computing services over the next three years than buying services from cloud computing providers” I’d love it if you would quantify how much “cloud” IT will build internally and for what purposes.

    Intellectually, I know enterprise IT orgs will be looking to see what cloud-related technologies they can exploit and I think this is a valuable market for technology providers to pursue but let’s not deceive ourselves, either. Most “inhouse-clouds” will only be nominal competitors to the (real) Internet-based cloud.

  • Lydia Leong says:

    I’ve been spending the last two days crunching numbers — building a cloud infrastructure TCO tool, and building the cloud infrastructure forecast. Based on the numbers I’ve been running, I agree completely — what enterprises spend internally will dwarf external public cloud for quite some time.

  • Jay Fry says:

    I agree with you (and commenter Ken O above). The term may or may not be what people use, but the concept is the right one. Calling internal/private clouds “clouds” helps ground the conversation in the ideas that people like Amazon and others have begun to show are possible. People “get it” by using the term as a starting point.

    And people are looking for ways to do this cloud computing stuff with what they already have. More here:

  • Chuck Hollis says:

    You and I are on the exact same wavelength on this one. Always nice to meet someone who sees the world the way you do, even in the face of harsh criticism.

    I’ve written 3 (4?) posts on this topic, and there are several more stacking up. This isn’t theory anymore, I’m meeting more large enterprises who are actually starting to run apps on these things.

    Maybe we should chat some time?

    — Chuck

  • Rdoos says:

    Internal clouds are certainly a hot topic and I don’t think you will get many people arguing against momentum that is building.

    I think the issue comes back to the definition of cloud and the difficult transition from grid/utility computing to cloud computing. All of the definitions I have seen, including Gartners, include the concept of “remote” whatever that may be. Remote may be over the internet, over a private network, it could be all internal to a company. We are cloud when we move or split the location dependency. A lot of what people have been doing, especially with VDC-OS (VMware) is grid/utility. Yet this is going to change into internal clouds as it expands with more cloud like features that can be brought in by the vCloud API.

    I see cloud as RES. Remote Elastic Service. For a detailed explanation of RES see RES can be just as easily internal cloud.


  • I think what we will see more initially are the hybrid clouds, phrase coined by IBM. As larger companies are trying to understand and evaluate cloud computing – they will be reluctant to part with control of their data. It is easier to understand the benefits of pushing the legacy applications into the cloud. However, its harder to do in reality. Some start-ups already shipping software that allow automated publishing of the legacy apps into the cloud and even offer universal cloud search ( This market is only starting to heat up and I agree it is bound to change the IT as we know it.

  • rage says:

    That’s all well and good only if this private computing cloud is impervious to the intrusive invasion of piracy and espioange fiends feigning agency with national security organizations. I’m all for it, so long as there is a modecum of PRIVACY guaran-damn-teed.

  • Tom, I think you’re dead right on this one, and the 3 year time frame sounds accurate as well. My company is a startup building cloud infrastructure, and when Network world did a small write-up on us earlier this year, we were inundated over the next 72 hours with enterprises looking to understand what exactly we did. That type of latent demand is not typical.

    It will take time, but the benefits of commodity, self-service virtual machiens, and elastic architecture will eventually tip the enterprise into adopting something that looks a lot like Amazon EC2 inside the firewall.

    January blog post on the subject –

  • Rainer Thiel says:

    There is nothing silly about questioning the value of the term private cloud. Your picture of the cloud in a bottle says it all. It is a silly image that further debases the metaphorical use of the word cloud.

    So everyone is using the term and you predict (probably correctly) big spend. Yes, and?

    I suggest you read the 1946 George Orwell essay “Politics and the English Language”. You’re all over it

  • Tom Bittman says:

    Rainer, the use of cloud in cloud computing has been useful to describe the idea of IT being done at a distance, by someone else, without my involvement, without my concern. That metaphor has worked. And now the issue is how we describe that when all of the attributes of cloud are the same, except that the “cloud” is limited in subscribers, and more within the control of the using organization(s). As I said in other posts (and research), there is a spectrum of difference between [public] cloud computing and private cloud, and actually many of the interesting applications are in the middle of this spectrum (for example, a cloud service limited to business partners, a cloud service limited to a specific industry or named companies, a cloud service shared across the U.S. Federal Government but not outside, etc.). I don’t think it is useful to limit the concept of cloud computing only to a service open to any subscriber, and completely controlled by a third-party. Or, at least, we need a term to describe the rest of the spectrum.

    As Orwell said, “a newly invented metaphor assists thought by evoking a visual image.” And yes it is mixed, but catachresis works here, because otherwise there is no other name. “Private cloud computing” is quickly grasped by our clients.

    In 2001, two of us developed a concept we called “Policy-Based Computing Services”. This accurate but metaphorically dead term was used to describe how infrastructures were evolving to become more services-oriented, more automated, more shared and elastic. We renamed it later to “Real-Time Infrastructure” (not much better, granted). Our concept was the predecessor to On Demand, Adaptive Infrastructure, Dynamic Systems, etc. All of these concepts are still with us – but now in the form of “Private Cloud”. The big difference is the mixed metaphor of private and cloud make perfect sense to our clients – they get it.

    As I even said in my blog post, I think there is too much angst over the term – concern that “cloud” cannot be used in this sense. I am wide open to a better term that provides the combined imagery of the behavior and general attributes of cloud computing (service-based, scalable and elastic, shared, metered by use, and Internet technologies) with the idea of controlled subscribers and control of resources. Until that term emerges with the same traction as “private cloud”, my focus won’t be on arguing about the term, but describing what is behind the term, what it means, what it is and isn’t, what are companies doing that works or fails. No doubt, this term (like cloud computing itself) will be abused and misapplied – and I will be spending a lot of time deflating vendor hype around old products painted with the new metaphor. But that does not make the metaphor useless or silly.

  • I started working on a private cloud about a year ago – – it’s gone open source and still in active development.

  • Steven Peacock says:

    Of course they will spend more on Private Cloud. As funding rolls in for Infastructure Modernization what are you going to lable it? “More of the same stuff you have been pouring money into”… of Cloud computing the hot thing this year.

    I think this will help companies justify pilot projects in general infastructure modenization and perhaps, just perhaps move them closer to the shared, virtualized, elastic, service provider model. Perhaps.

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  • Don Trojan says:

    Companies cannot afford to build their own private cloud more importantly do not need to . In order to have an effective private cloud you need to have two data centers 50 miles apart; high speed fiber between the data centers; in a geographic location low in environmental risk and be SAS 70 compliant. The cost to build such an infrastructure is beyond a midsized companies capabilities. In fact a lot of fortune 2000 companies do not have such an infrastructure. So why should they build a private cloud when there are capable managed data center providers that can provide this capability at an attract price.

  • Ravi says:

    For Medium to Large scale companies it would make sense to have a private cloud and if the technology (software to build and manage a private cloud) is mature enough , people will start implementing the same.

    There are very good advantages of having a private cloud especially in the pre-prod environment.

  • Punit Pandey says:

    In maybe 95% of cases, private grid and public cloud will make more sense and corporates should think about it. With private cloud, they may end up with the same problems that they wanted to solve with a cloud.

  • Nick Lachey says:

    Nice post. I found this blog which describes the top benefits of utilizing cloud computing in general, and a cloud database in particular