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Why Public Clouds Are Looking Hot (Again)

Public clouds have all the benefits that have been written about extensively

Seems like it was only yesterday when industry pundits were backing away from public clouds in favor of the safer, more big-vendor-compliant “private clouds.” After Amazon shook things up with its new paradigm for computing and storage clouds in 2007, and started to gain traction (along with Rackspace and other cloud providers) in 2008 and 2009 – 2010 so far has been in many ways a retreat from the forces of innovation and the emergence of much fear, uncertainty and doubt about the perils of the public cloud. But lately, I’m seeing the pendulum start to swing back in favor of public clouds, albeit with a twist.

Not surprisingly, private clouds look more familiar and comfortable to IT managers, big vendors and consulting/SI/service providers. They involve purchases of hardware, software and services through traditional enterprise procurement processes. They allow resources to stay behind the firewall under enterprise control. They fall within the existing legal, compliance and audit structures. With the addition of many flavors of “cloud in a box” offerings, they start to address the main issues that drove developers to the public clouds to begin with: self-service, provisioning on demand and the ability to get access to more scalable resources without requiring large upfront cap ex.

Public clouds have all the benefits that have been written about extensively (horizontal scaling, true on-demand capabilities, pure op ex, etc.). But for much of this year, the debate in the industry has been all about how worried everyone is about using public clouds (security, control, etc. etc.), and how uncertain they are about whether IaaS will really take off.

But there are some recent indications that the public cloud is hot again. A great study by Appirio speaks to growing industry comfort with public clouds and the likelihood that these will have a dominant place in IT infrastructure. At the Up2010 cloud event this week in San Francisco, Doug Hauger, GM of Microsoft’s Azure cloud, referred to this study extensively to make the point that public clouds are gaining credibility. James Staten of Forrester recently blogged about his predictions for 2011, including: “You will build a private cloud and it will fail.” His point is not to discredit private clouds as an approach but to remind companies beginning this process how incredibly hard it is to build a large, scalable, on-demand, multi-tenant cloud – even just for internal users.

Staten’s predictions make the case for how the cloud market has evolved in 2010, as enterprises planned their cloud strategies, implemented their pilots and defined their cloud architectures. Rather than seeing public clouds as “the other alternative” to private ones, enterprises and vendors have begun to view these as compatible strategies in a more sophisticated hybrid cloud model.

We’re huge fans of the hybrid model at CloudSwitch, and it’s great to see customers embracing public clouds as extensions of their private ones (as well as of their traditional virtualized data centers). The critical point about public clouds is that they allow testing, innovation and quick success or failure to happen in a low-cost way. This learning is imperative for the hybrid model, and public clouds are here now, today, working well and allowing enterprises to gain experience and log cloud mileage as they build out the rest of their cloud infrastructures. With CloudSwitch, these companies are now able to view the public cloud as a safe and seamless extension of their internal environment, in effect turning the public cloud into a “private” cloud as well.

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More Stories By Ellen Rubin

Ellen Rubin is the CEO and co-founder of ClearSky Data, an enterprise storage company that recently raised $27 million in a Series B investment round. She is an experienced entrepreneur with a record in leading strategy, market positioning and go-to- market efforts for fast-growing companies. Most recently, she was co-founder of CloudSwitch, a cloud enablement software company, acquired by Verizon in 2011. Prior to founding CloudSwitch, Ellen was the vice president of marketing at Netezza, where as a member of the early management team, she helped grow the company to more than $130 million in revenues and a successful IPO in 2007. Ellen holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and an undergraduate degree magna cum laude from Harvard University.

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