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Interest in private clouds grows as market matures

Beth Pariseau

Interest in private clouds has grown over the past year and there is greater sophistication in the market with more mature platforms and capabilities among IT pros.

There was a significant increase in the number of respondents to TechTarget's Data Center and Readers' Choice Survey 2013 who said they plan to deploy a

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private cloud within the next 12 months: 15.5% of the 627 total respondents said they planned a private cloud deployment in 2013, as opposed to 8.2% in 2012. Public cloud interest rose only slightly, from 4.1% to 4.5%.

Forrester Research Inc. also saw an increase in private cloud interest in one of its annual surveys. Of 1,000 enterprises in North America and Europe, 36% were interested in private cloud in 2012, while in 2013 that number jumped to 46%. That was the biggest jump in all the cloud categories in the survey; by contrast, public cloud went from 31% to 35%.

Some enterprises find the private cloud to be the best of both worlds, offering the flexibility  of the public cloud as well as the perceived security of an environment kept behind a firewall.

The relative security of public clouds remains a hot debate in the market, but for Diebold Inc., a security systems and services provider, the public cloud was not a chance worth taking, even for Platform as a Service (PaaS) capabilities.

"One of the reasons for choosing private cloud is the nature of the customers we deal with," said Balaji Devarasetty, director of cloud services for Diebold, based in Canton, Ohio. "Most of our customers that we work with are financial institutions -- banks and credit unions. Security is definitely top of mind for them."

Instead, the firm deployed software from Apprenda Inc. to convert its virtualized infrastructure to an automatic-scaling PaaS for internal software developers to use. This provides a consistent environment for development teams around the world and offers metering, logging and high availability for developers' virtual machines (VMs).

This, in turn, has sped C# development and shortened Diebold's time to market withSoftware as a Service products for banks and credit unions.

Private cloud: What's in a name?

Many times, what people think is a private cloud actually isn't, according David Bartoletti, an analyst with Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research.

We're still in the adolescence of private clouds.

John Treadway, VP, Cloud Technology Partners

Forrester followed up its survey question about general private cloud interest with a question about whether respondents actually have automation or self-service and if they track usage by department or role, and found that by that definition, only 28% of those who say they have a private cloud actually have one.

Other consultants said they have seen this same confusion, but it is waning as the market matures.

Clients have long confused a highly virtualized environment with a private cloud, according to John Treadway, a vice president at the consultancy Cloud Technology Partners (CTP), a consulting firm based in Boston.

"Now, people are getting it," Treadway said. "Now they're saying, 'Well, if it can't give me a VM or service catalog item, fully automated, and delivered in five to ten minutes, it's really not a private cloud.'"

CTP has begun to see multiple generations of private cloud. First-generation private clouds as defined by Treadway are built on an infrastructure and software stack using traditional vendors' products, from VMware Inc.'s vSphere and vCloud Director to VCE's Vblock.

"That is the kind of cloud that will run their applications as they were architected five years ago, and that will run okay," Treadway said. "But people are looking to put a cloud in place that has the efficiency, the cost-effectiveness, the cost per VM-hour of an Amazon or as close as possible."

Private cloud hits adolescence

In conversations about IT plans for 2014, Treadway said he's heard more about what he calls a "commodity-style cloud" -- using OpenStack and other such components -- along with less-resilient commodity hardware at a fraction of the cost.

Ultimately, multiple clouds -- private and public -- with a management layer over them is where things are headed, Treadway said.

"We're still in the adolescence of private clouds -- not quite in the infancy, and we're certainly not full-grown adults, here," Treadway said.  

To even get to this stage, IT pros have simply had to wait for products to mature, according to Sean McDermott, CEO of Windward IT Solutions, an IT service management and systems engineering firm based in Herndon, Va.

Three years ago it was beyond the average enterprise to provide a complex self-service portal, automated provisioning, multi-tenant reservation management and so on. Meanwhile, Amazon and Google and other companies already at hyperscale built such things themselves from scratch.

Now there are products such as Vblock and FlexPod for converged infrastructure, as well as more advanced software tools for end-to-end automation, McDermott said.

"If you're going to spin up 300 servers and they're going to be available all the time, it does get kind of costly [to use the public cloud]," he pointed out.

Still, some consultants see this trend as just a transitional step to an ultimate future in the public cloud.

"Public cloud with a logical layer of security will eventually be the default choice, with private cloud more of a transitional step or a security blanket," said Jared Reimer, co-founder of Cascadeo Corp., an IT consulting firm located in Mercer Island, Wash. "It makes them feel good even if the odds are that their internal security staff isn't better than the big cloud providers -- it's hard to explain that to the CEO."

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for SearchCloudComputing.com. Write to her at bpariseau@techtarget.com or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.