Over the past few years, while people (myself included) have been bickering about the relative merits of public versus private cloud, something very important has been going on without anyone really taking much notice. The Web — which is the cloud in its widest sense — has crept up unseen and wrapped its silky tendrils around us — enterprises and individuals alike — to the point where now we are all immersed in a globally connected, universal compute network whether we like it or not. As a result, the ground on which this public versus private debate takes place has shifted, and in many ways the terminology is no longer helpful.
My disagreement with private cloud was always around a certain type of private cloud — what might be better termed denial cloud. My suspicion was that enterprises attempting to implement cloud technologies on their own terms wanted to avoid dealing with the wider connectivity of the Web. Pursuing that kind of private cloud is a dead-end strategy. On the other hand, I don't have any argument with private clouds that take the Internet full-on. Even Amazon, Facebook, Salesforce.com and most other large-scale public cloud providers operate their own private infrastructure on the back-end. I'm all in favor of that form of fully connected private cloud — one that delivers multi-tenant services to the outside world (and at the same time often consumes external services too).
Nowadays there's nowhere for anyone to hide, even those enterprises that still shy away from public connectivity. We have moved into the next phase of the cloud era, when every organisation is a cloud provider — even though few of them actually recognise what's happened. Any enterprise is providing cloud services if it serves mobile clients, remote workers, self-service by customers, employees or partners, e-commerce, inbound marketing and a whole host of other necessary online interactions in business today. And yet because they don't realize what they've gotten into, most of them are making a hash of it. Paradoxically, when they do fail — as providers like Sony and RIM each did this year in spectacular fashion — it's the cloud that gets blamed, even though the failures are down to poor execution rather than anything inherently wrong with the cloud itself. Yes, these companies are cloud providers, but they failed because they did it so crushingly badly.
That's why my new message to enterprises everywhere is this: if you're going to do private cloud, then do it properly for goodness' sake. Every private cloud has a public face and if you believe differently then you're in denial.