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What is a the "Private Cloud"?

When WWT uses the term "Private Cloud" (with a capital P and C), we are referring to a Cloud Computing Model that combines the elasticity, scalability and efficiency of cloud computing with the control and security of on-premise IT infrastructure. It's not merely about having dedicated hardware; it's about adopting a cloud operating model that includes self-service access, automation, orchestration and the ability to provision and manage resources dynamically. This type of "Private Cloud" also enables a shared responsibility model that can be implemented between the teams responsible for the infrastructure underpinning the environment and consumers (application stakeholders).

In short, a proper, "Private Cloud" is attempting to create a scaled down version of what we have available in the public cloud (AWS, Azure, GCP, etc.).

Characteristics of the "Private Cloud"

Self-service and automation: Users can deploy and manage resources through self-service portals, reducing the need for manual intervention and speeding up service delivery.  Further, automated delivery reduces the need for re-work and lowers the load on infrastructure teams to perform remediation.

Scalability and elasticity: Resources can be scaled up or down as needed, allowing businesses to adapt to demand fluctuations rapidly and reliably.  This often involves the development of "pods" that can be deployed rapidly and predictably integrated into the platform.  This pre-planned scaling also allows for a clearer understanding of the costs and those can be often be transparently shown to the consumer of the service.

Application-centric: A lot of care and consideration is put into the application stakeholder's consumption of the infrastructure.  A platform built to enable the automation required by pipelines is necessary to be successful. The balance of responsibility is weighed between application owners and infrastructure teams to ensure cost is appropriately reasoned.

Multi-tenancy: Ensures predictable performance and security by dedicating resources to a single tenant within the organization. This is done via multi-tenancy constructs designed to enable disparate parts of an organization to share the overall cost burden while remaining isolated from security and operational perspectives.

Greenfield: Because of the tremendous amount of transformation required, the "Private Cloud" requires a dedicated platform that has been purpose built. It isn't an outcome that can be easily retrofitted onto years of legacy processes and purchasing that was originally project based.

What is a private cloud?

On the other hand, the term "private cloud" is often used to refer to the practice of virtualizing compute resources within an organization's data center. Unlike a proper cloud outcome, this usage typically implies a more basic level of virtualization without necessarily incorporating the full spectrum of cloud operating model features.

This shorthand practice of referring to on-prem datacenters as a "private cloud" goes back to the early days of public cloud when the benefits of the cloud were not yet well understood. We would propose that "virtual infrastructure" is a more appropriate term to use but we'll stick to a "private cloud" in this blog.

Characteristics of a private cloud

Compute virtualization: The primary focus is on virtualizing servers to consolidate workloads and improve resource utilization. By focusing on virtualization, a lower TCO and higher ROI can be achieved when compared to other solutions.

Limited self-service and automation: While some level of automation and self-service may be present, it's typically more limited compared to a fully realized private cloud model. The automation is typically focused on meeting the needs of the various infrastructure teams instead of service delivery.

Infrastructure-centric: The approach is often more focused on infrastructure management rather than delivering end-to-end cloud services. This has implications for things like application availability. In this model, the infrastructure team is often relied upon to perform DR and to make the applications available during an event which interrupts the availability of the datacenter(s).

IT team silos: This model works well within existing IT silos. It doesn't require the creation of a dedicated team to support the platform and each group can continue to support their individual focus area (network, storage, compute, security, etc.) without understanding its relationship to things like application delivery.  

Bridging the gap

The distinction between this use of the "Private Cloud" vs a "private cloud" underscores the importance of not just the technology itself, but how it's implemented and managed. A true private cloud model involves a strategic approach to cloud computing that emphasizes automation, flexibility and user empowerment. In contrast, a "private cloud" might simply denote virtualized compute resources without the broader context of cloud services.

For organizations embarking on the journey towards digital transformation, understanding this distinction is crucial. Adopting a Private Cloud model means embracing the cloud not just as a set of technologies, but as a fundamental shift in how IT services are delivered and consumed.

In conclusion, while "private cloud" can serve as a stepping stone towards more advanced cloud adoption, "Private Cloud" represents a mature realization of cloud computing's full potential. By appreciating the differences, businesses can better align their IT strategies with their broader operational goals, ensuring they fully leverage the benefits of cloud computing.