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Are you considering a hosted private cloud? Read this first

When evaluating hosted private cloud providers, be ready for substantial variability in the offerings, a Forrester Wave report says.

Vendors in this emerging and growing market tend to align with one of two tracks of thinking, said Lauren Nelson, Forrester analyst and coauthor of the report.

“Some hosted private cloud vendors are highly customized and view hosted private as an outsourced private cloud. And then there’s a whole other set of vendors in this evaluation that view hosted private as a more dedicated public cloud,” Nelson said. “With those two different approaches to the same space you have drastically different products and what to expect from them is very different.”

Here are the four basic areas in which hosted cloud providers vary, according to the report:

  • Inconsistent management of solution layers. With infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), according to NIST, the “consumer does not manage or control the underlying infrastructure but has control over operating systems, storage, and deployed applications.” But it’s common for cloud providers — a traditional cloud provider or the cloud administrator in an internal private environment — to manage layers above the infrastructure layer. This varies greatly within the hosted private cloud market today.
  • Inconsistent tenancy of infrastructure components. Supposedly, hosted private and virtual private clouds primarily differentiate themselves by complete isolation versus virtual separation of the underlying infrastructure components (e.g., compute is most common, followed by storage, then network). When evaluating providers, make sure you understand how resources are separated so that the security, compliance, and licensing implications are clear from the start.
  • Inconsistent nomenclature. Today there are many names for the same or similar products. You’re probably working through the long list of terms already. Forrester has thus far seen the following referred to as hosted private solutions: private cloud, dedicated public cloud, dedicated enterprise cloud, enterprise cloud, private-cloud-as-a-service, managed private cloud, and virtual private cloud. Many of these same terms translate to entirely different products for other vendors. Don’t take the name at face value; you’ll need to do some vetting.
  • Inconsistent customization. Cloud by definition should be a standardized set of IT resources. Although public clouds standardize resources across all customers, this is not a safe assumption for hosted private. Some hosted private cloud providers center their business on creating private cloud environments built on custom hardware with custom contracts for their users, thus becoming more of a private cloud that is managed and hosted by a third party, rather than a standardized cloud service with segmentation between users. Pricing, contract length, and time to delivery are largely tied to the level of customization available for customers. Customers that view hosted private as an alternative to private cloud like additional customizations, whereas those focused on a more secure public cloud option should look to the more standardized offerings.”

The Wave evaluated vendors based on the strength of each vendor’s offering, their go-to-market strategy, and their market presence.

The result was that Virtustream and Datapipe led the pack due to their “strong services supporting customer experience, top security and monitoring capabilities, and an intuitive self-services portal.”

Following closely behind are the hosted private cloud solutions provided by CSC, HP, Dell, Blue Box, and Joyent. The latter group, the report said, are “composed of existing hosting providers looking to extend their services” that are “no stranger to the cloud world but [are] still working on refining how best to target this space.”

Let us know what you think about the story; email Kristen Lee, features writer, or find her on Twitter @Kristen_Lee_34.