Recently, for example, Gartner analyst Thomas Bittman blogged that 95 percent of enterprise IT types he surveyed found something lacking in their own private clouds. Of course Bittman loaded the gun for them, distilling the reasons "your enterprise public cloud is failing" into six key categories and then polling an audience about them at an event.

Identifying issues

Part of the problem may be in definitions. Private cloud is not merely a highly virtualized data center. It needs to deliver on-demand services easily and offer the sort of scale-up-and-down-as-needed elasticity that is the hallmark of public clouds. In a response to one comment on his post Bittman defined private cloud as the cloud computing style delivered with isolation.

"I do believe that the cloud is not the magic wand for everything that troubles us. Using the cloud wisely with good planning can be very successful."

“Fully private would be fully isolated. It doesn’t need to be owned and managed on-premises, but today it often is (I’d say, 90-95 percent of the time).”

The wrong focus

Of the 140 companies Bittman surveyed, the most common reason for dissatisfaction (noted by 31 percent of respondents) is that too much emphasis was placed on cost-cutting, not on providing agility in creating, spinning up and down capabilities as needed. The second most-cited complaint, for 19 percent of respondents, was that their private cloud doesn't do enough. But check out the whole post, along with the comments.

Philip Bertolini, CIO of Oakland County, Michigan, said to term private clouds as failures because there is not 100 percent satisfaction is unrealistic and unfair. In the Gartner blog post, he noted, Bittman discusses how 95 percent of the users have had problems but that doesn't mean their efforts failed.

Managing expectations

"Moving to the cloud is difficult and has to be planned out carefully. Any IT project requires good planning or the results can be less than desirable. I do believe that it is not the magic wand for everything that troubles us. Using the cloud wisely with good planning can be very successful," Bertolini noted by email.

There is some merit to the private-cloud-doesn't-meet-expectations argument. Vendors have fed into that by overselling the technology, for one thing. But, the notion that a small number of public cloud vendors (even vendors as huge as Amazon, Google and Microsoft) can fill every need is a stretch.

As more than a dozen vendors, many of them pitching OpenStack-based private clouds, duke it out, they need to counter this perception that public cloud is becoming the inevitable destination for many, many workloads going forward.