Recent Forrester inquiries from enterprise infrastructure and operations (I&O) professionals show that there's still significant confusion between infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) private clouds and server virtualization environments. As a result, there are a lot of misperceptions about what it takes to get your private cloud investments right and drive adoption by your developers. The answers may surprise you; they may even be the opposite of what you're thinking.

From speaking with Forrester clients who have deployed successful private clouds, we've found that your cloud should be smaller than you think, priced cheaper than the ROI math would justify and actively marketed internally – no, private clouds are not a Field of Dreams. Our latest report, "Q&A: How to Get Private Cloud Right," details this unconventional thinking, and you may find that internal clouds are much easier than you think.

First and foremost, if you think the way you operate your server virtualization environment today is good enough to call a cloud, you are probably lying to yourself. Per the Forrester definition of cloud computing, your internal cloud must be:

  1. Highly standardized – meaning that the key operational procedures of your internal IaaS environment (provisioning, placement, patching, migration, parking and destroying) should all be documented and conducted the same way every time.
  2. Highly automated – and to make sure the above standardized procedures are done the same time every time, you need to take these tasks out of human error and hand them over to automation software.
  3. Self-service to developers – We've found that many I&O pros are very much against this concept for fear that it will lead to chaos in the data center. But the reality is just the opposite because of 1 and 2. When you standardize what can be deployed into the cloud and how, you eliminate the risk of chaos. 
  4. Shared and metered – for your internal cloud to be cost effective and have a strong ROI you need it to be highly utilized — much more so than your traditional virtualization environment. And the way to get there is to share a single cloud among all departments inside your company. And the way to cost-justify the cloud is to at least track everyone's consumption, if not to charge back for it.

Our survey data and discussions with clients show that only 6 percent of enterprise I&O shops operate their virtualized environments at this level of sophistication. So if you aren't here yet, you aren't alone.

There's much more to getting a private cloud right that is covered in the report. And I and Forrester researcher Lauren Nelson will be leading a discussion on this important topic on June 9 at Forrester's IT Forum EMEA in Barcelona. We hope you will join us.

Forrester ForrSights surveys show that 29 percent of I&O shops have put a high or critical priority on building a private cloud this year. You can successfully deploy and operate a private cloud, whether you start with a cloud solution or build one yourself, but ignoring these truths about IaaS environments will keep success at bay.