Last week’s introduction of Virtual Private Clouds by Amazon provoked, as you might expect, quite a bit of discussion in many places where the cloudisti congregate.
While much of the energy expended was more or less Brownian in nature (in the sense of lots of movement in all sorts of directions, not necessarily all that useful), there were a couple of points that were made by a few that are worth mentioning, if only because they are so persistently mentioned.
Haven’t We Heard This Before?
Some folks have a view that cloud computing = public cloud computing. For some “if you own it, it’s not cloud”. While ownership is a significant consideration, and the idea of instant access to at least the possibility of vast infrastructure with only a modest credit card is a cool option, to then conclude that all clouds must be public is simply a non sequitur.
Even less defensible is the related notion that “if it’s on your premise, it’s not cloud”. While that may seem obvious to the startup, with everything that you own (or hope to own!) within arm’s reach, it doesn’t even begin to make sense in the case of a global enterprise, with facilities scattered – well, all over the globe – here and there, even everywhere. Of course, some stuff is bought, some leased, some fully out-sourced and so forth.
Those who are in this “all clouds are public” camp often say that nothing on premise could ever compete economically. Unfortunately, this is usually an emotional argument, almost never backed up with any meaningful analysis. Look no farther than the McKinsey study earlier this year which did look at the numbers and concluded that cloud computing didn’t really make economic sense (I don’t agree with that conclusion either, but that will have to be a post for another day).
In any case, to say that an on premise cloud will a priori always result in less economic benefits is simply not true – it may or may not be true, depending upon the total cost of operations (power, facilities, salaries, etc.) vs. the total cost of the public (or virtual private cloud).
Private Clouds are Real
Of course, while there are many more considerations than simply cost, it is enough for taking a look at what is happening in cloud computing.
While public clouds providers (in many respects, though not all) have made many notable innovations (some technical, some biz models, some cultural, etc.), for the past couple of years there has been tremendous innovation in private clouds as well … those innovations are now beginning to deliver some real benefits.
While it is true that some so-called private cloud offerings may be nothing more than re-branded legacy products, after a bit of market confusion they’ll simply be forgotten as the market develops.
Real private clouds that offer the desirable characteristics of a public cloud – scalability, elasticity, commodity infrastructure, cheap operations – are certainly possible now. Possible and a reality for real enterprises. Real production instances exist today, with many more are in progress.
Yet even the most ardent private cloud advocates absolutely know that these are not the only solution for all cases. That just wouldn’t make sense.
What Will Happen
In reality, what is happening is the development of hybrid clouds – that is, clouds that are a mix of public, private, and everything in between.
Hybrid clouds are the reality that most enterprises will go to by default. That is, they’ll take a look at all their options, including public, private (on premise), and “virtual private” (off premise, but segmented in some manner) from a variety of vendors, and pick the right mix for them.
Of course, that mix will change over time, perhaps even moment to moment.
This is where the cloud application platforms come in, particularly those that enable hybrid clouds. That is, a software, operations, and architectural approach that allows all of these options to be selected precisely for when they make the most sense, in any combination that makes the most sense for that enterprise. at that particular point in time, and for that particular set of work; it is that approach that truly enables hybrid clouds for the enterprise.
It’s about giving control over these costs and capabilities back to the enterprise customers, and letting them decide.
That is a hybrid cloud, and that is the future of cloud computing.