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The true private cloud debate: Do labels matter?

The debate around authentic private clouds continues as more organizations adopt the model, but labels might not matter in the end.

The private cloud provides organizations with single-tenant architecture and direct control of underlying cloud infrastructure, and many organizations adopt the computing model to realize these benefits. But, as the private cloud increases in popularity, many organizations realize they only require parts of the computing model, which further confuses the distinction between a true private cloud and advanced infrastructure.

For a long time, private cloud was just a buzzword. Not everyone knew what it meant, but many had to have it. The idea of a private cloud had a lot of appeal because it enabled organizations to quickly adjust to changing business demands.

Foundational elements of a true private cloud

Generally, an organization can distinguish its operating model as a true private cloud only if it can provide these five services: on-demand service, broad network access, resource pooling, rapid elasticity and a pay-per-use model.

But some organizations might not have or even require these services. Some organizations find that the cloud and automation stack are critical to internal operations, while other parts, such as internal cost accounting, don't have the same value if the organization doesn't do internal billing.

Another wrinkle is that cloud elasticity can be expensive, and if the organization isn't a service provider or IT-focused, cloud adoption might not make business sense. As a result, many organizations adopted parts of the private cloud model. This doesn't necessarily mean they adopted a hybrid cloud infrastructure. A hybrid cloud still requires both a public and private cloud.

True private cloud vs. advanced infrastructure

As organizations adopt only parts of the private cloud, it begs the question of how those in the IT industry can distinguish a true private cloud from advanced infrastructure. But does it matter?

Generally, an organization can distinguish its operating model as a true private cloud only if it can provide these five services: on-demand service, broad network access, resource pooling, rapid elasticity and a pay-per-use model.

Ultimately, the cloud isn't a technology or product. Rather, the cloud is an operating model. When organizations look at it in this light, it can change the way they look at their internal environment and the tools they use to manage it. Even if an organization hasn't adopted a cloud model, it can use many of the tools made for the cloud in other environments.

For example, vRealize Suite helps organizations move toward more of what they require when it comes to the cloud and the services it provides. VMware vRealize Operations provides organizations with operations management across physical, virtual and cloud environments.

VMware vRealize Business for Cloud provides cost tracking to identify high-cost workloads, and internal billing isn't required for this to be of value. Organizations can also use this tool to rein in problematic or runaway workloads. In addition, organizations can use vRealize Automation to provision VMs and services from on-premises data centers to cloud environments.

With all these cloud services and products, organizations might claim that they have a true private cloud. On the surface, it's hard to say otherwise. Products such as VMware's vRealize Suite make it difficult not to distinguish an operating model as a private cloud. But self-service can be an uncertain path, and true elasticity and scalability are challenging for most organizations.

However, when an organization combines the vSphere stack with vRealize Suite, it's more than just infrastructure. Combining the vSphere stack with vRealize enables organizations to move and manage workloads from on premises to the cloud with the agility they require to be successful. So, maybe it's the cloud definition that is causing the issue of distinguishing between true private cloud and advanced infrastructure.

Looking beyond the private cloud label

Although an organization might not have every aspect of a private cloud, it's unlikely that many truly do. This doesn't mean that organizations should rebrand or change. Eventually, every organization must embrace automation to stay competitive. As Kubernetes and other container and orchestration systems continue to grow, automation will soon become a requirement.

Having a cloud is more important from the operating model mindset rather than in name. For example, having a software-defined data center doesn't mean an organization discards hardware. It means that the organization is taking the VMware stack to the next level with software-defined networking and storage, and the same goes for the cloud.

People might argue over the term cloud and how it applies to them, but what is most important is having the ability to automate and monitor a business case and model. If organizations are still stuck on self-service and the private cloud, they must remember there are different levels of self-service, and there are various ways in which they work with the cloud.

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