What Really is a Private Cloud?

Not long ago an attendee came up to me at a conference and asked, “Isn’t Private Cloud just a fancy term for my existing data center?” I had no ready answer for him as it would depend on multiple factors, most of which would require detailed discussion about his IT infrastructure and service delivery model. The Private Cloud term itself is confusing and subject to broad interpretation, leading to lots of confusion among IT professionals, hardware vendors, and software providers.

Related: The Private Cloud Explained

A Private Cloud is, at its heart, a set of functionality that provides services to the end user and efficiency to IT. Both of these deliver value to the business. Although most of us understand the variety of demands and value of end users, we don’t always agree on what IT does. A friend and virtualization expert, Greg Shields, defines the primary mission of IT as:

IT is responsible for the assured and secured delivery of applications and data with an acceptable user experience. 

To provide this kind of service delivery in the modern workplace requires some key features. The two mentioned in the definition - assurance and security - are difficult enough. Compounding these needs with the requirement for an acceptable user experience means that IT must remain flexible and responsive to the needs of the end users. When processing demand increases, IT must provide it. When storage needs grow, IT must remain in front of those growing needs to provide an acceptable user experience.

Related: Top 10 FAQs for the Private Cloud

So how does IT keep up with these demands? With the use of a Private Cloud. The concept of the Private Cloud is, at the core, a service delivery platform. The platform is based on an environment in which resources are abstracted from the user and modularized by IT. Each element required for service delivery, as well as the service itself, becomes scalable, available, and flexible. When one component fails, another seamlessly takes its place. When storage space runs low, additional storage is allocated without downtime. When processor or memory utilization grow due to new applications or increased workload, those components can be individually added to the Private Cloud. This enables IT to right-size the solution – that is, add only the components that are in demand. Most of these services are provided by a combination of virtualization technologies and dynamic hardware that supports the model. I’ll explore all of these aspects in later blog posts.

Now you can see why I couldn’t answer the attendee’s question. His data center and services might already be architected in a way that provides part or all of these features. Since he looked well-rested, I can assume he actually does use a Private Cloud.

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