I’ve participated in cloud events in four different countries over the past two weeks. Attendees were primarily senior and mid-level IT decision-makers seeking guidance and best practices for implementing private clouds within their organizations. Regardless of the country of origin, industry focus or level of cloud-related experience, one common theme stood out above all others during both formal and informal discussions – the importance of effective communication.

The key takeaway – don’t get dogmatic about terminology. In fact, when it comes to cloud-related initiatives, choose your words carefully and be prepared for the reaction you’re likely to get.

‘Cloud computing’ as a term remains over-hyped, over-used, and still often poorly understood – because of this, typical reactions to the term are likely to range from cynicism and doubt to defensiveness and derision and all the way to outright hostility. Ironically, the fact that it’s not a technical term actually creates more confusion in many instances since its meaning is so general as to apply to practically anything (or nothing, depending on your point of view or perhaps your level of cynicism).

At all four events over the past two weeks – and in fact in nearly all discussions of IT priorities I’ve had over the past six months – CIOs and other senior IT decision-makers have consistently made clear that ‘cloud computing’ as a general objective or direction isn’t a top priority per se. However, they are unanimous in their belief that data center transformation is essential to supporting business requirements and expectations.

Instead of referring to cloud computing itself, (including private clouds, virtual private clouds, hybrid clouds, or any other description that implies leveraging internal data center resources), these decision-makers remain focused on supporting business needs by enabling what they generally refer to as ‘virtual data centers’ for their organizations. While the exact terminology used varies, key characteristics are remarkably consistent:

  • Support for fully virtual data center(s) – not just virtualized
  • Dynamically reconfigurable resources based on changing workloads and requirements
  • Location independence from the user perspective,  application and service centric, model and policy driven

And the justification for these initiatives? Also consistent:

  • Improved service delivery and responsiveness to the business
  • Increased efficiency and resource utilization for IT operational improvements
  • Better business continuity and disaster recovery capabilities

Yes, I’m aware that both the characteristics and justifications outlined above essentially represent the very definition of private clouds. However, pointing this out during internal project discussions and meetings won’t necessarily help your cause, far better to pragmatically communicate the goal and approach for delivering improved capabilities to the business. If you do that successfully, you can call it whatever you want.