Last year, my colleague, James Staten, and I published evaluations of the (internal) private cloud and public cloud markets — this year we’re going to fill in the remaining gap in the IaaS space, by publishing a Forrester Wave evaluation on Hosted Private Cloud Solutions. Vendors participating in this report will be evaluated on key criteria, a demo following a mandatory script, and customer references for validation of the solution. Throughout the research process I’ll be providing some updates and interesting findings before it goes live in early Q4 2012.

So, what is hosted private cloud? Like almost every product in the cloud space, there’s a lot of ambiguity about what you’ll be getting if you sign on to use a hosted private cloud solution. Today, NIST defines private cloud as:

The cloud infrastructure is provisioned for exclusive use by a single organization comprising multiple consumers (e.g., business units). It may be owned, managed, and operated by the organization, a third party, or some combination of them, and it may exist on or off premises.

Hosted private cloud refers to a variation of this where the solution lives off-premises in a hosted environment while still incorporating NIST's IaaS service definition, particularly where “[t]he consumer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure but has control over operating systems, storage, and deployed applications.” But there’s a great deal of variation in today’s hosted private cloud arena. Usually solutions differ in the following ways:

  • Cloudwashed traditional outsourcing. Within the market there’s a ton of solutions that are renamed traditional hosting services that relabeled the solution “cloud” to pull in more potential customers. Typically these solutions will have long contract terms, VM deployment times that require days not minutes, ticket-based requests for VM provisioning, and pricing that doesn’t reflect a pay-per-use model. These solutions will soon fall behind in the market but in the meantime, don’t put any of your eggs in cloudwashed baskets.
  • Managed hosted private cloud. IaaS, by definition, only includes vendor management of the infrastructure layer, and everything above it up to the end user. But many providers offer or require the management of OS, middleware, and/or application layers.
  • Virtual private cloud. Rather than committing to dedicate resources segregated from other customer resources physically, some solutions within the market virtually isolate resources. The majority of this isolation focuses on networking.
  • Partially dedicated resources. For some enterprises, it’s all about a dedicated network and the remaining resources can be shared. For others, it’s about the storage or compute. There’s a variety of solutions today that deliver partially dedicated variations to help customers optimize on cost while meeting its security requests.

Ultimately, you may end up deciding that these other variations meet your needs better. Just make sure you’re asking the important question to start weeding out the cloudwashers when discussing the solution with a cloud vendor: How is this solution different from traditional hosting? If they identify virtualization as the unique characteristic — run!