If an enterprise data center has a highly virtualized environment, a Web portal for business users to request and access virtual machines, and a method for tracking how many of those resources are being used... that's not quite a private cloud.
If there is enough capacity to supply employees with almost any amount of compute resources they need, and scale that capacity up and down dynamically, but it requires IT workers to provision the systems, then sorry, that's not a private cloud either.
[ In the data center today, the action is in the private cloud. InfoWorld's experts take you through what you need to know to do it right in our "Private Cloud Deep Dive" PDF special report. | Also check out our "Cloud Security Deep Dive," our "Cloud Storage Deep Dive," and our "Cloud Services Deep Dive." ]
The line between virtualization and a private cloud can be a fuzzy one, and according to a new report by Forrester Research, up to 70 percent of what IT administrators claim are private clouds are not. "It's a huge problem," says Forrester cloud expert James Staten. "It's cloud-washing."
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Why's it such a big deal? Staten says if you call a highly virtualized environment a cloud, but it doesn't have one or more of the key characteristics of a private cloud, then the IT department is setting an unrealistic expectation for users. If users are disappointed when they find out the environment doesn't have self-provisioning, or an elastic resources pool, they can get discouraged. The next time they need a VM on the fly, where will they turn? The pseudo-private cloud IT has set up, or Amazon Web Services, which IT could have no control over.
Most cloud experts have settled on a generally-agreed upon definition of cloud computing -- be it public or private -- as having the five characteristics outlined by the National Institutes for Standards in Technology. These include:
- On-demand, self-service for users
- Broad network access
- Shared resource pool
- Ability to elastically scale resources
- Having measured service
Without those five bullets, it's not technically a cloud. Contrary to some people's beliefs, virtualization is not a private cloud; it's an essential ingredient to powering clouds, but in and of itself it does not create one. Mike Adams, marketing manager for VMware, says a private cloud incorporates more sophisticated management capabilities on top of a virtualized environment, giving it the qualities outlined in the NIST definition.