Panel: Private Cloud Will Melt, Like the Wicked Witch, in Public

When we discuss the cloud, we aren’t talking about one entity but a technology that creates computing environments using broadly distributed resources for more sophisticated levels of energy efficiency, performance, and reliability. The various categories of cloud – public, private, and hybrid – grew from competing business interests: simply put, saving money vs. having the strongest possible security in place. Public is cheap, private allows for greater security by isolating the data, and hybrid combines public and private into one integrated package.

Many companies are grappling with the various types of cloud, figuring out the situation that best meet their needs. The growing consensus is that hybrid is entering a boom, with Gartner predicting that half of large enterprises will have active hybrid clouds by 2017. Since hybrid is a combination of public and private, the Gartner fortune-telling implies that the three basic types of cloud are here to stay.

Strangely enough, some cloud experts argue that the private cloud will go the way of the Wicked Witch, screaming, “I’m melting,” as it disappears into the public cloud. Joe McKendrick of Forbes recently reported on a panel sponsored by BrightTalk that was organized to help businesses compare the public, private, and hybrid models. The most noteworthy comment, a point of consensus among the panelists, was that the private cloud will gradually become irrelevant.

Were the Panelists Drunk?

At present, there is no indication that the panelists – one of them an executive for Hewlett-Packard – were intoxicated during the webinar. It’s more likely that they are simply diverging from the confident hosting industry mantra that if it’s cloud-related, the only direction is up. Albeit, the panel perspective seems to disagree with many industry analyses, such as a July 2014 report from Sharon Gaudin for Computerworld.

Gaudin spoke with Allan Krans of Technology Business Research (TBR), an industry analysis firm that conducted a study to measure the adoption rates of private and public clouds. After surveying more than 2000 enterprise IT decision-makers, TBR revealed its findings that while the overall amount invested in the public cloud has risen 20% since the same time last year, the private cloud appears likely to expand between 40 and 50% annually for a few years.

Between 2010 and 2013, the private cloud market exploded 300%, from $8 billion to $32 billion. The TBR survey suggests that it will continue to expand rapidly over the next five years (although at a less breakneck pace), more than doubling to $69 billion by 2018. Krans emphasized that the private cloud should experience stronger growth than its public cousin “at least for the next five years.”

The Computerworld report and the Forbes report, both from the last 60 days, seem to be at odds.

Is Fear Turning Into Strategy?

As it turns out, the perspective of the panelists may not be that outlandish, at least as a general long-range trend (following a few years of continued growth). Chris Nolan, in a September article for Data Center Knowledge, argues that the privacy and security of the public cloud are much more advanced than they were a few years ago, citing a Gartner study on Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) that reports “public cloud has come a long way.”

Nolan remarks that both public and private clouds are gaining wider acceptance at the enterprise level. He mentions that many enterprises use both types of cloud (either separately or in a hybrid architecture), but that almost 3 out of 10 companies were only using the cloud in its public formulation. The flexibility and cost-effectiveness of the public cloud, says Nolan, give it major sway over CIO budgets.

Nolan comments that although security is a key consideration for any large organization, CIOs are becoming more comfortable with the cloud: “The debate has shifted from fear to strategy.” He also notes that IT executives may be embracing the cloud, but they aren’t doing so passively. They are incorporating apps from outside parties that allow them to manage their clouds appropriately, while maintaining a strategic focus.

Wait, is the Cloud Melting or Not?

Peter Mansell of Hewlett-Packard, one of the BrightTalk panelists, clarified his argument that the private cloud will one day be obsolete: it’s not a trend that will be immediately noticeable. Mansell said that over the next two years, the private cloud will continue to grow due to a lack of standard protocols and expectations: “you can’t get that structure at the moment.” Currently, Mansell notes, there are still major disparities between the private and public cloud models, disparities that will likely evaporate in the future.

Concurring with Mansell, Jessica Twentyman said that the parameters of public and private clouds are starting to intersect and overlap in “quite confusing ways.” She stressed that the development and maintenance of open standards “remains paramount” to data migration from one cloud environment to another.

As it turns out, the private cloud is really not going anywhere, at least not for many years. Since the fully standardized public cloud does not yet exist, private clouds and hybrid clouds will continue to gain ground (as indicated by Gartner and Technology Business Research). The future may be confusing, but the cloud doesn’t have to be: claim your performance guarantee cloud now.

By Kent Roberts

Image Credit: FunTV