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Private Cloud Computing Madness Darkens My Soul

At Its Heart, The Notion of Private Cloud Seems Unclear on the Concept

"Ever any madness in your family?," asked the Belgian doctor of the Englishman Marlow in the native Pole Josef Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Marlow was on an ostensible search for a missing Col. Kurtz, who had himself reportedly descended into madness in the heart of the African jungle. Updated, Marlon Brando's character descended into same in the Apocalypse Now Vietnam of the 70s (as did filmmaker Francis Coppola in real life while making the film in the Philippines).

Marlow was put off by the question, but it plays a critical role in the novel. For his search was not really for a specific individual, up a specific river, but was in truth a search for the darkness inherent in the human soul.

I ponder all this as I spend another day in the blazing Philippine sun, writing about Cloud Computing and researching how it might benefit developing countries such as this one. I haven't encountered any horror personally, but it lives in abundance here. Recent headlines confirm this.

Another Hijack in Progress
But it is with some horror, or at least anguish, that I read of recent and current dark efforts to hijack the potential of Cloud, and make it refract whatever worldview matches a company's vision for Cloud. One story talks about how a major hardware company is going to create a "private cloud" for Sir Paul McCartney. I doubt it. I do believe it will create a nice data center with a very good firewall. It will virtualize resources, so as to be smarter and less costly in using whatever resources are installed.

As I understand it, this vendor's perception of private cloud still means, "buy our stuff and install it on-site." As an example, a company white paper shows a typical scenario in which the capital expenditure has been reduced from about $1.8 million to $1.1 million. I doubt Sir Paul will be forking out for his "private cloud," even though he could afford it; high-profile customer wins like this often carry a generous complimentary provisioning of resources.

Furthermore, a new, customized (read "proprietary") content management system will be built as part of this effort, which makes me think Sir Paul won't be accessing all his stuff through the browser.

Then what happens when Sir Paul needs more IT resources? What happens when fans get to take a peek at all this stuff? Sure, the onsite resources can, in theory, be provisioned very quickly by traditional standards. But the resources there are going to be finite, very finite. Will the platform vendor then be happy simply to have someone snap their fingers and purchase vast new (true Cloud) resources from one of the big providers?

To me, the essence of Cloud is its ability to provide virtually infinite resources to users. A private Cloud, ie, an onsite Cloud, is an oxymoron. It might be a nice data center, it might be virtualized, it might be quite green and efficient, you can even monitor usage, but it won't be Cloud.

Virtual=Cloud, Except When It Doesn't
Before, I've written that there is no Cloud without virtualization. Conversely, there is not necessarily Cloud with virtualization. And I don't mean to pick on this particular vendor and its rockstar customer. But it seems that many people are being, oh, the least bit cynical--somewhat dark, deep down in their blessed souls--about appropriating this marvelous term Cloud Computing to describe something that is anything but.

This sort of Cloud does nothing to make Cloud Computing accessible to customers in developing countries, or to small- and medium-size businesses anywhere. Even a trifling million dollars is still a lot of money in a lot of places. If people insist on their vision of Cloud Computing match their earlier vision of selling big hardware and software, then the concept will lose meaning, and vanish as quickly as those little cirrus wisps that vanish in the mid-morning  heat. This is making me mad.

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Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040) is Executive Director of the Tau Institute for Global ICT Research, with offices in Illinois and Manila. He is Conference Chair of @CloudExpo & @ThingsExpo, and Editor of SYS-CON Media's CloudComputing BigData & IoT Journals. He holds a BA from Knox College & conducted MBA studies at CSU-East Bay.

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