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Don't Step in the FUD: The Real World Demands Private Cloud
by Bart Copeland

Bart Copeland, January 18, 2012

Private PaaS - Protect Your Sensitive Corporate DataThis article originally appeared January 17, 2012 at VMBlog.com. You can read it here.

Last week, SD Times contributor Alex Handy published an interesting article titled The PaaS market accelerates. The piece was noteworthy not just for its insight into the burgeoning PaaS market space and introduction to the major players, but for some bizarrely unfounded assertions made by one of the article's subjects.

Really, Adam?

In his January 6th SD Times article, Handy writes (emphases mine):

... Adam Wiggins, CTO of Heroku, said that PaaS is about the public cloud only. Although he used harsher language to describe the private cloud and PaaS market, he indicated that he and Heroku believe the private cloud to be entirely vapor.

"My opinion—and this is not a widely held opinion—is that private cloud is total BS. If you make it private it is no longer cloud. You destroy all the value you get from cloud by making it something you have to run yourself. Anyone pursuing that path is advocating a false trail," said Wiggins.

(At this point, the Enterprise IT Leads all do a spit take. I'm just curious to know what the unmentioned "harsher language" was.)

Really, Adam? "BS"? "Vapor"? Really? Is that the best you can do for FUD? Your comments are at best puerile, and at worst naïve. Let's focus on the naïve...

Save me, public cloud!

What Heroku's Wiggins is desperately trying to obscure is that in the real world, the enterprise demands private cloud and Private PaaS. Fortunately, he is correct in observing that his is "not a widely held opinion."

Wiggins suggests that customers derive value from the self-service nature of the public cloud, and that making the cloud "something that you have to run yourself" defeats its purpose. Hmm. Do I really want control over my own platform? My data is probably safe, I mean, it's in the cloud. And do I really want to deal with all that pesky provisioning and applications management and infrastructure administration and oh, I'm overwhelmed-Save me, simple public cloud!

If only it were that simple. As my colleague ActiveState VP of Engineering Jeff Hobbs noted in Handy's article, Public PaaS can lift the burden of cloud-management responsibility, lightening IT load. And public clouds also deliver benefits like shared-resource efficiencies, utility computing, and scalability. But let's be honest here: Every Public-PaaS developer promotes those same supposed advantages, and whee! The race towards commoditization is on. Indistinguishable public-cloud services foster desperate competition, which drives down price, which ultimately benefits the consumer...at least the one looking for the cheap solution.

Public PaaS: Slumlord of the cloud's low-rent district

In contrast with Private PaaS, the very nature of the Public PaaS' shared-services model enforces a lowest-common-denominator architectural approach. You're entering the low-rent district: You get what you pay for with public cloud ("First month free!"), and that means the same setup as the tenant sharing your virtual apartment building. ("Matching floor plans!") Does your company have unique data needs? Public PaaS may impose restrictive limitations on the way you manage your data. ("No pets!") Prefer a cookie-cutter approach, okay with limiting application portability, and don't mind sharing a multi-tenant virtual hallway? ("It's just like a hostel!") Then Public PaaS-at least as Adam Wiggins envisions it-might be right for you.

The real world demands Private PaaS

Recall those Enterprise IT leads? (I hope they've regained their composure.) They are the ones who are investing in private cloud and Private PaaS because it provides better security, better control, and-believe it or not, Adam-greater flexibility than public-cloud alternatives. Oh, and with the right technology, those Enterprise IT Leads can also realize those public-cloudy benefits like shared-resource efficiencies, utility computing, scalability, and even multi-tenancy.

But don't take my word for it. The U.S. Army recently invested a quarter billion dollars in private-cloud technology. Sure, you could argue that the military has special security needs that would never be well served by a public cloud. But so do very-much-not-like-the-military companies such as Federal Express. The package-delivery logistics giant has leveraged a private-cloud architecture in its newest data center, and even retrofitted an old data center to match. Even SD Times contributor Alex Handy noted in a November 2011 blog post that-despite Heroku's contention that private cloud is just "a myth and snake oil"-he could "entirely understand the need for an internal private cloud inside the major retailers [on Black Friday and Cyber Monday]."

Thanks Adam!

Don't get me wrong-I have long admired Heroku's accomplishments (particularly its carefully cultivated developer community), and Wiggins and team have produced some great technology. Let's face it, there will always be market segments that can settle for implementing a public-cloud solution. (Small business and municipal public sector are just two that immediately come to mind.) But ultimately, Wiggins' comments ignore (and even denigrate) the needs and priorities of the vast majority of the enterprise cloud market.

But you know what, the more I think about it, maybe that's not so bad. Who knows? Maybe Wiggins is right. Not that Heroku and Wiggins need my validation, but it's okay with me if they want to believe there's no future in private cloud and Private PaaS. Adam, you and Heroku can go play in your public-cloud-only sandbox. The rest of us will be just fine over here providing solutions for the real world.

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About the Author

As President & CEO of ActiveState Software, Bart Copeland brings more than twenty years of management, finance, and technology business experience to his role. With a passion for technologies that help people lead more productive and enjoyable lives, Bart is currently focused on ActiveState’s private platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offering, Stackato. With his vision for PaaS as an enabler to accelerate cloud adoption and value in enterprises, Bart is actively involved in the strategy, roadmap, business development and evangelism of Stackato. Bart is also an active angel investor and serves as a director on a number of other tech companies. He holds an MBA in Technology Management from the University of Phoenix and a Mechanical Engineering degree from the University of British Columbia.

Originally published Tuesday, January 17, 2012 7:16 AM by David Marshallon VMBlog.

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Bart Copeland is our CEO and president. He's passionate about ensuring that everyone at ActiveState has a lot of fun while solving complex problems with applications that provide real benefit to our customers. He holds an MBA in Technology Management from the University of Phoenix and a Mechanical Engineering degree from the University of British Columbia.