What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet

   - Juliet

What's in a name? If we call it a private cloud
Or a virtualized environment, it's still pretty sweet!

   - Julie in IT


So, that private cloud you just set up might not actually be a cloud, after all. At least that's what Network World is now reporting: apparently, Forrester Research is telling us that what most of us might have been considering to be a private cloud is not really much more than blowing smoke:

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% 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." [source]

The rub is in how a "private cloud" is distinguished from a run-of-the-mill "virtualized environment". The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)—the group that gives the internet the time 2.6 billion times a day—tells us how to tell the difference:

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. [source]

One expert quoted in the article gives an edge to the confusion, calling it "cloud-washing". The article provides a few more juicy bits, too, including this zinger, suggesting that IT Joes and Juliets are engaged in some fear-based obfuscation on the point:

So where does all this cloud-washing come from? Staten says fundamentally IT administrators are scared of the cloud. Virtualization experts within the enterprise used to be the top-dogs; when resources were needed, they provisioned the capacity. Cloud is seen as threatening that model by giving users self-service and dynamically scalable resources. What's left for the virtualization expert to do? [source]

We here at SolarWinds know what all you virtualization experts out there do: you try to give your users the best network experience you can. Of course, a superior network management platform that includes network performance, device configuration, IP control, and network traffic management capabilities is an indispensable tool in your real, live, IT shop.


What do you think? Do you have a private cloud or do you have a virtual environment? Does the semantic distinction matter? Let us know in the comments.