Public/Private Cloud? Not really…

I’ve been hearing it more and more.  The labels “public” and “private” are losing their effectiveness in the circles of cloud computing researchers.  These words are ambiguous to the point they typically must be accompanied by clarifying phrases to help make their meaning clear.  Does “private” mean 1) on-premises? 2) owned by the user? 3) single-tenant?  And does “public” mean 1) off-premises? 2) not owned by the user? 3) multi-tenant? Cases could be made for off-premises single-tenant clouds that are owned, but not necessarily managed, by the user.  What are they? Public? Private? Something else?

And don’t even get me started on “hybrid…”

Ultimately, I think what has in the past been poorly conveyed by “public” and “private” adjectives are in the future going to be explicitly defined by four attributes:

  1. Proximity – Is it on or off premises?
  2. Ownership – Does the user own it, or do they pay for it as a service?
  3. Management – Does the user manage it, or pay someone else to do so?
  4. Tenancy – Does the user share it with others, or have it to themselves?

Before you dismiss some combinations as unlikely or even impossible, consider that things like a user-owned off-premises outsourced-managed multi-tenant cloud could certainly be built, and may even have use cases not yet considered.  The important thing is that as technologies for cloud computing evolve, that they do not preclude creating such things if the need arises.

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