The brouhaha surrounding private cloud computing

At the same time that some purists argue that the phrase is an oxymoron, other IT professionals are coming up with new meanings for the phrase. Read on to find out what we think about all of this as we continue our efforts to define what cloud computing really means.

There are people who spend endless hours arguing over how many angels can dance on the head of a needle. One positive aspect of these trying economic times is it results in fewer such arguments. An exception to that statement is the brouhaha surrounding the use of phrase private cloud computing. At the same time that some purists argue that the phrase is an oxymoron, other IT professionals are coming up with new meanings for the phrase. .

A lot of what we think about cloud private cloud computing was shaped by a very important article in Network World. In that article Carolyn Duffy Marsan interviewed Geir Ramleth, the CIO of Bechtel. Marsan described how Ramleth had benchmarked Bechtel's IT operation against leading Internet companies such as, Google, and YouTube. The results of that benchmarking were phenomenal. Relative to WAN bandwidth, Bechtel estimated that YouTube spends $10 to  $15 per megabit/second/month for bandwidth, while Bechtel spends $500 per megabit/second/month for its Internet-based VPN. Relative to storage, Bechtel identified the fact that was offering storage for 10 cents per gigabyte per month while Bechtel's internal U.S. rate was $3.75 per gigabyte per month. In round numbers, Bechtel was paying roughly 40 times more for a unit of WAN bandwidth or a unit of storage than the Internet companies were paying. We will definitely come back to this topic in a future newsletter.

When faced with these dramatic cost differences, Ramleth didn’t decide to bite the bullet and hand over Bechtel's IT function to cloud computing service providers (CCSP). Rather, he decided to embark on a multi-year initiative to apply technologies and processes inside of Bechtel's IT organization that are similar to those used by the leading Internet companies. 

Many IT professionals refer to this approach as implementing a private cloud. They also refer to a company that has a private cloud and which also uses one or more cloud computing service providers as having a hybrid cloud. Some purists, however, insist that cloud computing refers exclusively to the use of services from CCSPs. Hence, to them the phrase private cloud computing is an oxymoron. While that debate simmers, vendors such as Cisco and EMC have started to use the phrase internal cloud for what we just defined as public cloud. They also use the phrase private cloud for what others refer to as a hybrid cloud.

We think that all of this is getting to the point that it is becoming difficult, if not impossible to have an intelligent conversation about cloud computing. In our next newsletter we will continue our quixotic search for a working definition of cloud computing. In the mean time, tell us what you think about cloud computing. Is it entirely overblown or are you using cloud services today and getting value from them?

Learn more about this topic

Part 2: What cloud computing is not

Part 1 of cloud computing series

5 cloud computing research projects

Securing the cloud

Is cloud computing the answer?

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.