'Private cloud' = just another buzzword for on-premise datacenter?

'Private cloud' = just another buzzword for on-premise datacenter?

Summary: VMware made its big "private cloud" pitch last week with its introduction of vSphere. Not to be outdone, Microsoft is fleshing out its private cloud positioning at the annual Microsoft Management Summit this week in Las Vegas.


VMware made its big "private cloud" pitch last week with its introduction of vSphere. Not to be outdone, Microsoft is fleshing out its private cloud positioning at the annual Microsoft Management Summit this week in Las Vegas.

Whether or not they admit it publicly (or just express their misgivings relatively privately), Microsoft officials know the "private cloud" is just the newest way of talking about an on-premise datacenter. Sure, it's not exactly the same mainframe-centric datacenter IT admins may have found themselves outfitting a few years ago. But, in a nutshell, server + virtualization technology + integrated security/management/billing  = private cloud.

Microsoft's "official" description of the distinction between private and public clouds basically says as much. From a press release the company issued this morning:

The private cloud: "By employing techniques like virtualization, automated management, and utility-billing models, IT managers can evolve the internal datacenter into a 'private cloud' that offers many of the performance, scalability, and cost-saving benefits associated with public clouds. Microsoft provides the foundation for private clouds with infrastructure solutions to match a range of customer sizes, needs and geographies.

The public cloud: "Cloud computing is expanding the traditional web-hosting model to a point where enterprises are able to off-load commodity applications to third-party service providers (hosters) and, in the near future, the Microsoft Azure Services Platform. Using Microsoft infrastructure software and Web-based applications, the public cloud allows companies to move applications between private and public clouds."

Microsoft recently got tripped up by the public cloud lingo when company execs gave off confusing mixed signals regarding whether or not Microsoft planned to make its Azure cloud operating system available to IT customers to use on-premise. In the end, the Softies admitted Azure was not something Microsoft planned to allow others to run in their own datacenters, but promised they'd make a solid private cloud platform, based on Windows Server, Hyper-V and other Microsoft wares, available to customers who were less enthusiastic about moving their data and apps to a Microsoft-hosted datacenter.

Is there more Microsoft could and should do to make the concept of the "private cloud" more meaningful? One reader says there is:

"It would take a helluva lotta development and testing to emulate Azure's automatic scale-out and scale-up, semi-automatic app deployment and other 'autonomic' Azure features to enable multi-tenant services. This is especially true with SQL Data Services (SDS) moving to a fully(?) relational model and needing some way to automate partitioning of SQL Server instances."

For now, Microsoft is touting a handful of shipping and/or soon-to-be-shipping tools and services as fleshing out its private cloud, including:

Update (April 29): In an April 28 blog posting, Microsoft Senior Director of Development Platform Management Steven Martin added some more "here now" and "coming soon" items to Microsoft's list of what if offers "private cloud" customers. In the here now category Martin included: Management tools like VMM, which allow users to "connect the compute power from your servers into a single, logical resource"; and provide automated provisioning of compute resources. On his coming soon list, Martin listed a number of Windows Server 2008 R2 features, like live-migration support for Hyper-V; larger VM support (for 32 and 64-bit VMs with up to 64GB of memory per VM); and the ability to boot from VHD and clustered shared volumes. Martin reiterated that the Windows Server and Azure teams are sharing code and knowledge and said Microsoft's ultimate goal is to make the Azure Services platform and an enterprise data center "technically speaking, largely indistinguishable."

What's your take? Is "private cloud" just a euphemism for on-premise datacenter? Or could and should there be other products, licensing arrangements, and services available to users who want to act as their own hosting agents? What would Microsoft need to put into a "private cloud" solution to get you onboard?

Topics: Storage, Cloud, Data Centers, Hardware, Microsoft, Virtualization


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Sooo.. wrong.

    Private clouds are exactly the same as the public cloud with the exception of its location. While a datacenter is part of the private cloud, the cloud itself is way more. It provides remote apps, services such as e-mail, web sires, GIS services, and the list goes on. If anything the public cloud is just another buzzword for off-premise datacenter. In fact, any computer is a data center regardless of whether it is attached to the cloud or not.

    Both versions of cloud can be used for exactly the same things. And a datacenter, per se, is such a small part of what a cloud can be that your article makes no sense.

    The cloud is definitely a big part of the future of IT. Small entities will use the public cloud but large entities will develop their own.
    • I think small business could like private clouds as well

      [i]The cloud is definitely a big part of the future of IT. Small entities will use the public cloud but large entities will develop their own.[/i]

      If companies like Dell could offer the SMB market private clouds with all or most of the advantages of big clouds (but with additional benefits such as inherently better security and privacy advantages, non-susceptibility to weak for failed Internet connections, etc.) I think these companies could compete very well with public clouds.
      P. Douglas
  • Private cloud, started with SBS 2003 and expanded with 2008

    SBS 2003 has Sharepoint included. It also includes OWA as part of the Exchange offering. SBS 2003 included Outlook licenses as part of its offering.

    SBS 2008 took it a step further. Now we have very good application templates for Sharepoint, and Microsoft did away with the included Outlook licenses because, well, let's just face it, Outlook Web Access in Exchange 2007 is very mature and very much capable of handling even most of the heavy tasks that Outlook-on-the-desktop has offered.

    Workers still need Word and Excel, but Office 2010 will have web app versions of those programs, along with OneNote and Powerpoint. I can see very soon that small businesses will be able to have a very secure closed intranet with their own private cloud-based platform that doesn't require desktop apps for productivity. SBS 2008 R2 will be that platform.
  • "on-premise"

    A premise is an assumption that is used to form a logical argument, or to draw a conlusion.

    Premises are land and all of the buildings on it.

    The headline should be [i]'Private cloud' = just another buzzword for on-premises datacenter?[/i]. And I believe the answer to that question is, "No." The servers hosting a private cloud might reside in an on-premises datacenter, but that doesn't mean that all servers in a datacenter are part of a cloud.
    • Expecting good English...

      What a concept. Next you'll want a pony and life-time supply of pie. I
      noticed that no one has bothered to edit the piece. Perhaps someone
      thinks "premise" is correct?
      For the record, as just stated, a premise is an assumption in a logical
      argument. The word for buildings plus property is premises, from the
      Latin "prae-missus, for "placed previously," in the plural form. It is
      always in the plural form. It originated from less-than-educated
      property owners who would see that term on their deeds of sale, where
      it was used to mean "the stuff we just wrote," but misinterpreted it to
      mean "the thing you just bought."
  • Scaling private clouds

    I think companies should have the option of placing work that needs to scale, into public clouds permanently or temporarily. I believe when the data is sensitive and needs to scale seasonally or unexpectedly throughout the year, private cloud vendors could rent modules which could easily plug into companies' private clouds, and support the increased workload in a metered way.
    P. Douglas
  • RE: 'Private cloud' = just another buzzword for on-premise datacenter?

    Nice article. What we are really seeing in the private cloud
    is paradigm extension. That means co-opting some great
    aspects of cloud computing to serve the needs of a 20th
    century data center model thereby extending the data
    center paradigm. It's a great way to future proof your
    customers but with that comes the inability to fully access
    ecosystem services, to collaborate etc. The power of cloud
    computing is that it supports what I call WebNecessary
    applications which cannot be easily replicated behind a
    proprietary company's firewall. Imagine Twitter behind a
    known company's firewall, how would it be received?
    Would it likely be the center of a collaborative effort that
    merges corporate data with public data to provide
    additional value to the company and the merged
    application's users? maybe not. The same could be said
    for Facebook or any of the other sites that depend on
    sharing and, more importantly, the new generation of
    applications that depend on collaboration.

    "Private cloud" is destined to be one of the great
    oxymorons of all time along with jumbo shrimp. Where is
    George Carlin when you need him?
    • but

      but cloud per se is a oxymoron.

      Cloud is some sort of Macburger, where you have the macburger ("housing") plus other (optional) services such french fried (database), coca-pepsi-mountainpee (support) and a dessert (ready made application). Expansion? i can ask later for another macburger or even a big macburger

      but "Cloud" services existed even before the world was invented.
  • Clouds in their eyes

    Just like Web 2, SOA and whatever else gets invented to further the lives and profiles of bloggers, the cloud is just the same old data center moved a little further down the road. Sure it can do a little more than the in-house mainframe or server cluster (but not much) but it's essentially just the same.

    It's even the same when it comes to the cloud priests who are the same people who made your life hell when they were internal IT staff. However, now they get to ignore thousands of companies instead of just you. Aaaaah lack of control of your applications and data is a wonderful thing - or so all the cloud enthusiasts tell us.

    Essentially the IT guys moved their premises and are no longer answerable to you (same as it ever was)
  • RE: 'Private cloud' = just another buzzword for on-premise datacenter?

    Microsoft today announced its cloud computing offering. It is designed to offer the best and most complete cloud experience ever, and comes from a company with a cast-iron, copper-bottomed and gold plated reputation. Requiring only a modest hardware update (1Thz and 16TB) it will outperform any other offering including Apple?s Mist. It is to be launched in the second quarter of 2017.

    While Redmond is not entirely sure what cloud computing is a complete business model has been designed which will not attract more than a modest premium on a top-of-the-range Windows 7 installation. The marketing strategy is at a very advanced stage and the new offering is to be called FOG.

    Fog is the meteorological term for cloud that is lying on the ground.
    Charles Norrie
  • RE: 'Private cloud' = just another buzzword for on-premise datacenter?

    The short answer: Absolutely not.

    The longer answer: http://www.rationalsurvivability.com/blog/?p=806


  • RE: 'Private cloud' = just another buzzword for on-premise datacenter?

    Assuming you really want ?cloud computing?, however you define it, and that you know why you want it, then the question to ask is: What is the total cost of ownership over time. If outsourcing is economically advantageous, then ask if the cost savings are worth letting someone else have your business by the cojones?

    Private means you are in control. Non-private means that to some degree you are not in control.

    Where the infrastructure is located is infinately less important than the business imperatives driving having it in the first place. Satisfy those imperative the the best way you can, everything else is a by-product of how well you do this.
  • return of the dumb client

    The real heart of the 'cloud' is the elimination of fat client support costs and dangers. A recent project I was on had a 10 year cost for a windows desktop at $12,000. Moving them to a virtualized windows desktop cut the 10 year cost in half. The ability to run their applications on Linux allowed the cost to be halved again to $3,000 for a ten year life-cycle.
  • RE: 'Private cloud' = just another buzzword for on-premise datacenter?

    What's the need for private cloud other than perceived security needs? Everybody who has more than one connected computer system has their own private cloud (didn't we used to call this a network?).
    It seems to me that Cloud is a justifiable concept for adding and managing applications that were beyond the scope of the in-house IT team, or, which individually required large storage and remote access, but other enterprise applications were easily manageable with in-house configurations. I think it's relatively easy to envision widely applicable Cloud/virtual application scenarios that call for cloud utilization for enterprise applications that require massive real-time input data streams from multiple locations, even across extended time zones, but which allow other applications, HR, research, marketing to be in-house. As Cloud Commuting become widely prevalent, and security cooncerns are addressed, the economic potential for distributed access and the Millennium Workplace will drive this process more and more.

  • RE: 'Private cloud' = just another buzzword for on-premise datacenter?

    Call it what you will, but cloud, smoke, fog or haze are all nefarious terms with little meaning to most users. And where did the term "cloud computing " originate? My guess is in MSville so we should not be surprised it is so lacking definition and substance.
  • RE: 'Private cloud' = just another buzzword for on-premise datacenter?

    Buzzword my ass... as much buzz as watching grass grow. Never ceases to amaze me: not so much the marketeers penny-in-the-slot enthousiasm over something that is so-o-o obvious, but the industry hacks going all swoony just to fill column inches.
  • Public cloud is disruptive, "private cloud" is incremental

    The private cloud is the current data center vendors' attempt to marginalize a disruptive movement - cloud computing & SaaS.

    At best, a private cloud is an incremental improvement to today's corporate data center - IT will still select & buy hardware and infrastructure software, install application software and figure out how to knit it into their curren environment, perform upgrades every five years or so, etc. The only thing that improves is capacity management.

    Cloud computing and SaaS are entirely different (and better) models for enterprise software that fundamentally changes IT's role (eliminating all of the above activities and adding vendor diligence/management, service coordination/integration, and data control/management).

    More importantly, with (public) cloud and SaaS offerings, end-users gain much faster access to new needed systems, and ongoing free improvements in software capability and capacity (from SaaS's ongoing free upgrades).

    To sum, cloud/SaaS=disruptive and better approach, and "private cloud" is a sad attempt to repackage incremental data center efficiencies under the cloud banner.

    - John Martin, http://www.buildingsaas.com
    John F. Martin
  • RE: 'Private cloud' = just another buzzword for on-premise datacenter?

    What I want to understand is if there are any gotchas with respect to integration. For example does Business Productivity Online services allow you to add 3rd party integration for a PBX or is this Micrsoft's attempt at locking everyone else out? Can you integrate at the server level with things like Exchange, OCS etc? If you then move to Office Live services does that then lock you out even more?
  • The question is: Will you be a provider or a customer?

    Private cloud lacks the cost benefits of large-scale resource sharing, but if companies made their datacenter resources available to other small businesses ala Amazon's EC^2, major advances could be achievable. Why give the database company more cash when you can tap into local bigco's stream?
  • Could someone pls explain...

    Could someone please explain the difference between:

    1)the shiny new "cloud computing"
    (coming soon to a future near you...)


    2)a Hosted site with a sql server database
    which we can do today)