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Private cloud vendors send mixed message

Large IT vendors have shown up at Interop to discuss "the cloud," but IT administrators are over that debate and looking for real products and services to suit their cloud needs.

LAS VEGAS -- IT shops are on the hunt for practical uses for cloud computing, both private and public, while vendors are stuck on rehashing old debates about the meaning of and the business case for cloud computing.

I guess we'll all find some kind of Kool-Aid to drink.

Dot Davis, head of IT technical support operations for a scientific equipment maker

A panel on private cloud at Interop this week saw representatives from Novell, IBM, NEC and Intel deliver a confusing mixed message. John Stetic, VP of product management at Novell, said private cloud was essentially a second step after virtualization and, at its core, mostly about automation and ease of provisioning for users. Rich Lechner, VP of cloud marketing for IBM, said it was great for delivering desktop information services.

"We have 100,000 in sales and marketing using business analytics in our private cloud," Lechner said. He added that IBM also had 15,000 to 20,000 developers in India and China who were using what he called a "more traditional" cloud model for virtual machines and test and development.

Cloud computing has been broadly defined by NIST since 2009 as online, self-service, pay-as-you-go access to computing power and IT services. The panel agreed that moving to private cloud meant installing tools and platforms in the data center to gain the kind of flexibility and capabilities demonstrated by public cloud providers, like Amazon, and that installing appropriate mechanisms for chargeback and accounting was vital. Some users took umbrage at this idea.

IT pros offer their two cents on cloud
"If anyone in the room is considering a cloud project and starting with charging mechanisms, don't do it," said Christian Reilly, speaking from the audience to the panel. "It'll fail and you'll go down all the [wrong] rabbit holes, so that's a piece of free advice."

Reilly is an IT architect with a large multinational and considers his firm to have built a private cloud. He said the focus on accounting and infrastructure was a snooze, and what ended up being really important was delivering entire application stacks and services instead of focusing on infrastructure automation.

Also speaking from the floor, Randy Bias, CEO of consulting firm Cloudscaling, complained that it simply wasn't realistic to expect enterprises to try and ape Google or Amazon, since the enterprise data center has a completely different set of purposes and needs than that of a technology provider. He said it wasn't enough to want technology, there had to be specific, actionable uses for cloud computing techniques.

"Why are they going to adopt cloud?" he asked.

Novell's Stetic responded that it was necessary to take a long view, adding that cloud, like virtualization, would be adopted incrementally as users discovered it could actually be operationally more efficient. He said companies like Google and Facebook provided a "leading edge."

Despite the ambush from the audience, no one disagreed that cloud is here to stay and that enterprises are turning to it in various forms. It was also clear that enterprises are most interested in a hybrid, pastiche approach to cloud computing, picking and choosing from public, hosted cloud services where appropriate and revamping for private cloud-style operations over time.

"The reality is we're going to be hybrid cloud," said Dot Davis, who runs technical support operations for a large scientific equipment maker. She said her firm's IT was already a complicated web of services, applications, operations and products, and cloud computing wasn't likely to change her life.

Davis said despite the never-ending marketing noise around cloud, it was really just about finding and implementing the appropriate solution for a problem.

"I guess we'll all find some kind of Kool-Aid to drink," she said.

Carl Brooks is the Senior Technology Writer at Contact him at

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