Who is pushing the private cloud: Users or vendors?

Who is pushing the private cloud: Users or vendors?

Summary: No two pundits, partners or customers seem to be able to agree exactly what a "private cloud" is/isn't. But that's not the only cloudy party of the cloud. There's also disagreement as to who wants private cloud computing.

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No two pundits, partners or customers seem to be able to agree exactly what a "private cloud" is/isn't. But that's not the only cloudy party of the cloud. There's also disagreement as to who wants private cloud computing.

Salesforce and Amazon execs have taken to calling the virtual private cloud -- when that term is used to mean hosting data on-premises but making use of pay-as-you-go delivery -- the "false cloud." Their contention is Microsoft, IBM, HP and other traditional tech vendors are pushing customers to adopt private cloud solutions so they can keep selling lots of servers and software to them. Their highest-level message is everything can and should be in the cloud; there's no need for any software to be installed locally.

Microsoft, for its part, is positioning itself as offering business customers a choice: Public cloud, private cloud or a mix of the two. Increasingly, especially in the small- and mid-size markets, however, Microsoft is leading with public cloud offerings, not with its on-premises offerings (something which even some of the company's own product groups are still having trouble digesting). Microsoft is going to use its upcoming Worldwide Partner Conference in July to try to get its partners on the same page, so that they see the cloud as their friend and not their margin destroyer.

But all the focus on public cloud doesn't mean Microsoft is de-emphasizing the private cloud. In fact, earlier this month, Microsoft officials said that its enterprise customers are the ones pushing the company to accelerate its private cloud strategy.  A recent IDC study seemed to back Microsoft's play: Enterprise IT customers says they want a mix of public and private cloud computing.

Vendor bickering and rhetoric aside, what do business customers want? Do they want a hybrid public/on-premises model or are they ready to be "all in" with the cloud?

At a half-day event in New York City this week sponsored by Amazon.com, a panel of four business users had their chance to present their stories as to why they decided to go with Amazon Web Services (AWS). It was interesting to hear some of these customers say they were committed to the public cloud, but then actually acknowledge that they wanted private cloud and hybrid models.

Marc Dispensa, Chief Enterprise Architect of IPG Mediabrands Global Technology Group, one of those customers, said he and his org spent three months evaluating the different cloud platforms out there. They looked at Amazon's AWS, RackSpace and Microsoft's Azure, among others, he said. While Mediabrands is/was primarily a Microsoft shop, meaning Azure would be "an easy fit for our developers," Mediabrands opted against it because of the limited SQL Server storage available, as well as because of Microsoft's "hybrid model" approach, Dispensa said.

But as he went on to describe Mediabrands' evolving plan, Dispensa noted that the group is moving their SharePoint data into the AWS storage cloud, but is planning to keep SharePoint installed on-premises. (That sounds like a hybrid model to me.) Dispensa also said that Mediabrands still hasn't ruled out entirely going with SharePoint Online, the Microsoft-hosted version of its SharePoint solution.

Another AWS customer, Michael Miller, the head of high performance computing services for Pfizer Research & Development (the group that handles cloud computing there), talked up Pfizer's use of Amazon's Virtual Private Cloud service. (Yes, even though Amazon officials say they think private cloud computing is not real cloud computing, Amazon did create a protected public cloud offering which the company calls Virtual Private Cloud.)

Miller said Pfizer wanted to extend its out datacenter by putting some of its internally-facing applications in the cloud.  So far, the company has deemed two-thirds of those applications to have been able to meet the compliance and security criteria provided by Amazon's Virtual Private Cloud (VPC). Miller said that without a secure offering like VPC, doing this kind of expansion would have been a "nonstarter" for the company.

Miller said that Linux has been working well for his group at Pfizer. He called out the fact that Windows applications record information into the operating system registry, making it harder to port them to the cloud. That's a problem of which the Softies are quite aware, and the biggest reason the company is planning to make application virtualization available as part of Virtual Machine Manager in the second half of 2011.

My biggest take-aways from Amazon's event were that Amazon and Microsoft are more similar than different, in terms of wanting to get enterprise customers into the cloud at a pace at which those users feel comfortable. To me, the talk of a "false cloud" seems to be a lot like Salesforce's "end of software" argument -- it's more of a slogan than the real way that Salesforce's products work and how customers (who still largely want offline data access) actually operate.

Topics: Hardware, Software, Servers, Microsoft, Amazon, Enterprise Software, Collaboration, Cloud, Browser, Virtualization

About

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).

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16 comments
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    croberts
  • "Private Cloud"= Gimmick

    I'm with Amazon's CTO, Werner Vogels, that traditional IT vendors are trying to detract companies from moving to providers such as Amazon, Microsoft and Google with the notion of "private clouds".

    The reason is simple. The long term trend is the tear down of lots of infrastructure and the suppliers of traditional data centers (everything under the roof - from racks to server hardware to IT services) stand to see their markets shrink.

    That's because instead of 100 companies with 100 data centers, you're likely to see an exponential gain in efficiency and maybe only have 10 data centers (if that) hosted by the big cloud providers 10+ years down.

    Microsoft appears to be making some headway but their approach where you are required to re-implement "software as a service" and use Microsoft object models means that they are likely to pickup customers much later vs. sooner. Amazon's EC2 with its ability to pretty much run whatever you want on a LINUX image means legacy systems can be pushed there sooner vs. later.

    This also opens the door for Microsoft falling behind in market share. Then again, Apple's market capitalization just eclipsed MS' (moral of the story: Windows & Office are screwing MS' ability to innovate). While MS might have a compelling offering for completely new deployments of software systems, i.e. you architect your new software system embellishing the Azure.NET object model, this approach also locks you into Microsoft's system in a major way. Whereas if you're running 100 servers on Amazon's EC2 and you have some Ruby code on them, you can always move your software to Rackspace since your software isn't tied to deep abstractions (aka an object model). Said Ruby code would have worked just as well in a classic data center (not the case for the Microsoft path because Azure didn't exist in the past).
    betelgeuse68
    • WRONG in many ways

      So we are supposed to believe that putting all the eggs in a single nest controlled by unknown people, in an unknown location is better than many nests safely controlled by the owners??

      Your post is nothing more than a poorly written ad for Amazon EC2 services. What you are forgetting to tell people is how many times the service was down due to a DOS this year and how many times it has being broken into in the last month alone. ..... Ohhh wait, we are not supposed to know about that.
      wackoae
      • RE: Who is pushing the private cloud: Users or vendors?

        @wackoae And your business was specifically impacted by these outages? I suppose Amazon's Web Services profit of $200+ million is an illusion.

        Case in point:

        http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/19/technology/19cloud.html

        "Netflix is using Amazon?s network, freeing it to focus on its movie business."
        betelgeuse68
      • So because Amazon earned $200M it is OK to ignore security?

        @betelgeuse68,
        It is like claiming that Windows is the most secure OS in the world, because MS got $$ billions in licensing fees.
        wackoae
    • RE: Who is pushing the private cloud: Users or vendors?

      While I agree with you on the traditional on-premise data centers shrinking to make room for cloud usage, your notion of EC2's superior portability compared to Windows Azure is not entirely accurate for real applications. Every real application has highly portable core that is surrounded by runtime dependent outterlayer(s); the core will always be portable while the shell that depends on the runtime services like S3 requires refactoring to accommodate the latencies resulting from the migration of the application to another cloud provider.

      Ruby code running inside Windows Azure that doesn't depend on any Azure services is as portable as the same code running inside EC2 with no dependencies on Amazon services. Real applications don't run in silos; they do consume other services for delivering end user functionality. During this process of consumig management and monitoring, psersistence, integration and other run time services,the system takes design time as well as run time dependencies. Same is true for .NET, Java, PHP, Python or other code.
      Hanu Kommalapati (MSFT)
      • RE: Who is pushing the private cloud: Users or vendors?

        @Hanu Kommalapati (MSFT) But I can ship a disk image to Amazon and have it PXE booted. Can I do that with Azure? <b>Probably not</b>. That disk image might have nothing more than Apache running, some PHP, Ruby or PERL (whatever) and rely on local disk or S3 for storage. So while your arguments are generally valid, they apply more to situations were you aren't scaling horizontally. I may want "100 of something" not one or two "special systems". This is where EC2 excels and organizations such as Netflix and NYTimes are doing leveraging that fact.
        betelgeuse68
  • It is a transition for customers...

    As part of the leadership team for a cloud provider in Germany, we believe it is definitely the customer demand for private cloud solutions - both internal & VPDC/hosted - as a path of progression & acceptance of cloud solutions overall. It is a gradual step - especially in EU - where privacy & security topics are such massive legal & business cultural concerns. We offer all - public, private (internal & external) and hybrid solutions - and it are seeing an interesting mix of interest & use of the mix.
    kdykes
  • Wake up. Recurring costs.

    There are about 10 good reasons why the world is not ready for cloud computing on a large scale. First of all, its not necessary. Cut and dried, its simply not needed. That alone should make people wonder why its being pushed by some the way it is. Its a big step, and its a big step toward a solution that doesn't have any real serious problem to solve as of yet.

    And here all we have heard over the decades is how one of the big things that companies and private individuals alike should try and avoid; recurring monthly costs.

    Just one of the many many reasons why cloud computing is an idea dreamed up by someone who was only too clever by half.
    Cayble
  • Wake up. Recurring costs.

    There are about 10 good reasons why the world is not ready for cloud computing on a large scale. First of all, its not necessary. Cut and dried, its simply not needed. That alone should make people wonder why its being pushed by some the way it is. Its a big step, and its a big step toward a solution that doesn't have any real serious problem to solve as of yet.

    And here all we have heard over the decades is how one of the big things that companies and private individuals alike should try and avoid; recurring monthly costs.

    Just one of the many many reasons why cloud computing is an idea dreamed up by someone who was only too clever by half.
    Cayble
  • RE: Who is pushing the private cloud: Users or vendors?

    As kdykes pointed out, there are cultural, political and legal differences between the US and European countries that affect views of the cloud. While I can see some of the convenience benefits of the cloud, it's potentially a privacy nightmare, and something to be very cautious about.

    The usual US response to this seems to be "If you don't like what a company's doing with your data, switch to a different company". Too late, dude: the company you've decided you don't like any more have already got your data.

    Sure, most cloud companies may do a good job and be perfectly trustworthy, but really, can you adequately guarantee the privacy of your own and your employees' data when you don't control it yourself?
    ggreig
  • I think it is the industry itself

    Basically as it is configured right now "public clouds" are bad for business and bad for consumers but great for cloud vendors and companies and governments that require a lot of data to be accessible via the Internet.

    Putting sensitive financial data in the cloud means losing legal protection of that data. Putting sensitive product information in the cloud means losing control of that data. Business is built on secrets. Unless the cloud can guarantee those secrets a business moving to the cloud completely is out of the question.

    On the consumer side, consumers haven't been hit as hard as they might in the future. Basically a "Cloud Katrina" is brewing. People tend to trust Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft when they may be shouldn't. I give some info out on social sites but not my financial information, although it is also probably readily accessible as the people I do business with think security and privacy are things other planets should be worried about.

    So who is pushing the cloud, the people who think they will make money off it. The people harmed are not well educated in the harm it can do.

    Off shoring IT means less well paying jobs in the U.S.A. It also puts your data in a non-trusted third party. You have to worry about vendor lock in and proprietary formats.

    I predict that the cost benefits to cloud computing will disappear as soon as the market has a consumer/business lock in. It happened to physical manufacturing. All the productivity gains and cost savings never made it to the consumer in physical off shoring. It won't make it to the consumer of business consumer in cloud computing either.
    mr1972
    • RE: Who is pushing the private cloud: Users or vendors?

      @mr1972
      We completely concur with you!!
      To quote you, " People tend to trust Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft when they may be shouldn't."
      Why should we who have been around for more than five minutes?
      CustomComputers
  • Vendors, obviously, and telling the users they *need* the cloud.

    Users will believe it, since most of them are incapable of independent thought. And that's okay too.
    HypnoToad72
  • RE: Who is pushing the private cloud: Users or vendors?

    Public AND Private Cloud both have their place. Public Cloud?s appeal is in the cost model, and Private Cloud is simply a way for IT to gain some of the benefits like agility and maximized server utilization, without exposure to the security and data location risks. Cooperative Cloud from Logicalis is another example of a market offering that combines Private and Public, see details at http://www.ca.com/us/insights/collateral.aspx?cid=227646
    jonathan.price@...
  • RE: Who is pushing the private cloud: Users or vendors?

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