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Private cloud adoption dwindles in the enterprise

Private clouds are trailing public clouds when it comes to enterprise adoption. And the cost of private cloud deployments could be partially to blame.

Cloud adoption statistics vary from survey to survey, especially when it comes to public versus private cloud....

While hybrid cloud adoption is on the rise, the mix of public and private clouds within those hybrids is rather, well, cloudy.

But despite this murkiness, a few things are clear. Private cloud adoption numbers for services such as OpenStack and CloudStack are lower than expected. In a recent survey by software as a service provider Rightscale, 13% of respondents said they use OpenStack private cloud, while 8% said they use CloudStack.

Initially, there was a great deal of interest in these services. However, over the last few years, the focus has shifted to public cloud providers, such as Amazon Web Services, Google and Microsoft. By comparison, 57% of the same survey respondents said they use AWS public cloud.

In general, Rightscale's survey results suggested private cloud adoption is lagging -- at least for now. Sixty-three percent of respondents said they use private cloud, compared to the 88% that use public cloud. Meanwhile, 82% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy, up from 74% in 2014.

Private cloud confusion

Some enterprises wrongly assume that virtualization is private cloud. And while virtualization can certainly be a private cloud component, it's not a private cloud. A private cloud includes the notion of self-provisioning and auto-provisioning, as well as auto scaling. Virtualization does not. Therefore, some private cloud adoption numbers may also include virtualized servers, which aren't private clouds.

Cloud washing, or vendors renaming and marketing enterprise hardware and software bundles as private clouds, is another issue. These providers hope enterprises purchasing these "private clouds" don't notice because, if they do, they will realize it's simply rebranded and repackaged old technology -- not a true cloud.

But this doesn't mean that true private cloud applications don't exist. Private clouds offer a sound architecture pattern that mimics public cloud functions. The main difference, however, is that private clouds use on-premises servers that an organization owns and can touch.

Calculating private cloud's cost efficiency

When IT initially coined the phrase "private cloud," cloud advocates pushed back, arguing that these environments aren't as cost effective as public clouds.

Cost is a fundamental issue with private clouds because users have to purchase hardware and software, as well as data center space. Therefore, they look, feel and cost approximately the same as traditional systems. On the other hand, vendors sell public clouds more as utilities, and these environments are easy to turn on and off, as needed.

Until a few years ago, private and public clouds basically provided the same core services. But today, public cloud providers are leaping ahead. Public clouds provide many more features and functions than private clouds, including better security and governance tools and technology.

The rise in public cloud adoption, in addition to recent public cloud advancements, is leaving many private clouds in the dust. And this will continue for several years. While private clouds won't become completely extinct, they will be used more for niche use cases rather than mainstream application processing and data storage.

About the author:
David "Dave" S. Linthicum is senior vice president of Cloud Technology Partners and an internationally recognized cloud industry expert and thought leader. He is the author or co-author of 13 books on computing, including the best-selling Enterprise Application Integration. Linthicum keynotes at many leading technology conferences on cloud computing, SOA, enterprise application integration and enterprise architecture.

His latest book is Cloud Computing and SOA Convergence in Your Enterprise: A Step-by-Step Guide. His industry experience includes tenures as chief technology officer and CEO of several successful software companies and upper-level management positions in Fortune 100 companies. In addition, he was an associate professor of computer science for eight years and continues to lecture at major technical colleges and universities, including the University of Virginia, Arizona State University and the University of Wisconsin.

Next Steps

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This was last published in March 2015

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What would convince you to adopt private cloud technology?
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I would require an iron-clad guarantee of safe operations and that my data is securely stored. I need to see multi-layer authentication at the least.
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Our organization looked at the private cloud version of their public cloud, and the costs were ridiculous, way more than we were willing to spend.
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We’ve partnered with one of the larger cloud providers to complete a total cost of ownership analysis to help us better understand which situations would be more cost effective to implement in-house as opposed to a hybrid or external solution. There were some surprising cases in which it was more cost effective to implement a solution via internal cloud, despite the higher initial startup costs. Other solutions showed that it was better to implement the solution externally, and then bring it in-house later on when it reached a certain size.
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