Forrester surveys show that enterprise infrastructure and operations (I&O) teams that are well down the virtualization path are shifting their priorities to deploying a private cloud. While you can certainly build your own, you don’t have to anymore. There’s an abundance of vendor solutions that can make this easier. In response to Forrester client requests for help in selecting the right vendor for their needs, we've published our first market overview of private cloud solutions. Through this research we found that there are a variety of offerings suited to different client needs, giving you a good landscape to choose from. There are essentially five solution types emerging: 1) enterprise systems management vendors; 2) OS/hypervisor vendors; 3) converged infrastructure solutions; 4) pure-play cloud solutions; and 5) grid-derived solutions. Each brings the core IaaS features as well as unique differentiating value.

How should you choose which one is right for you? That very much depends on which vendors you already have relationships with, what type of cloud you want to deploy, where you want to start from, and what you hope to get out of the cloud once it's deployed.

A lot of enterprise I&O shops told us they want their private cloud to use as many of the same tools they already use in their virtualization and system management portfolio today. This makes sense if you want to link these environments together. Others find it easier and more applicable to be as similar to their internal HPC environment as possible.

Still others said they want to fully isolate their private cloud from the rest of their traditional deployments so they ensure they get cloud right and satisfy their developers that are currently going around IT to use public clouds. For them prioritizing developer engagement trumps legacy integration.

Whatever your bent, there’s a solution that’s likely right for you either on the market today or on its way to market. We included 15 vendors in our analysis, limiting the selection to solutions in market as of last quarter and with existing enterprise customer references they could provide. Another doubling of this number will be in market by late this year.

As was also noted in this research and prior reports, these are early days for private clouds – both for enterprises and vendors. So it’s best for I&O pros to view private cloud as a work in progress. One key takeaway must be considered when crafting your private cloud plan: Your virtualization environment is not your cloud. There’s a stark difference in that clouds are meant to be much more standardized, automated, and shared than traditional deployments and you must enable self-service and metering of use.

Our report attempts to lay out the landscape of private cloud solutions and provide a series of criteria I&O pros told us matter and thus can be used to determine which types of vendors to shortlist. Despite some media reports drawing their own conclusions from our research, the market overview does not rank the participating vendors. In fact, doing so using our analysis would be illogical, as some of the criteria used distinguish one type of solution from another. For example, we examine whether a solution includes or can include hardware, or is purely software. Whether hardware is included has no bearing on how good a solution is; it simply distinguishes a type of solution. If you plan to build your private cloud atop your own hardware, you wouldn’t want to consider one that requires its own.

Another core part of our research was to provide a means of apples to apples comparison of the solutions. To achieve this we asked all vendors to conduct a demo, going through a series of compulsory steps. These videos were recorded, and with the permission of the participants, will be made available exclusively to Forrester Leadership Board clients in the FLB community in the coming weeks. This is yet another way Forrester provides greater transparency to our research so you can make better decisions that make you successful every day.

We hope you find this research valuable and encourage your participation and discussion about private cloud solutions in our member community.