Private Clouds: Moving from Hype to Reality (Really!)

Back in 2008, the term “cloud computing” was barely a glint in the eye of most technology companies.  Perhaps they used and Gmail, but tossing around the “cloud” terminology wasn’t really de rigueur.

Now it’s hard to imagine tech discussions without some reference to it at least once in conversation.  Seems like it’s everywhere – or at least the terminology is.

In 2009, Esri hitched its geo-wagon to Amazon Web Services (AWS) as our primary cloud provider.  But the general consumer audience was much more familiar with shopping experiences through rather than cloud hosted services off of AWS.  Fast forward less than three years, and things certainly have changed.  AWS has established itself as separate and different from, with a brand synonymous with “cloud” as a globally-known public cloud infrastructure service provider.   And in 2010, Esri announced the availability of ArcGIS Online, initially supported by AWS infrastructure under-the-hood, to bring the ubiquity of a public cloud platform to the geospatial community.

At the same time that public clouds were moving into mainstream business, a parallel current of a cloud trend was emerging: Private Clouds.  Initially, there was (and still is) a lot of back-and-forthing on the definition of “private cloud”, and arguments around the private cloud notion as simply a re-branding of an organization’s existing data center – infrastructure hosted on-premises behind the firewall.   But with the advent of cloud computing, organizations are now exposed to some of the technologies that enable the core characteristics and benefits of cloud computing: The idea of a self-service portal for their customers or staff; and the virtualization of servers – that is, the ability to create multiple “virtual machines” from one physical server – affording increased optimization of underutilized infrastructure, ratcheting up server optimization to 75% or more, from an average of 25%.

In fact, for many businesses and agencies, the private cloud may be the only choice when attempting to leverage [at least some of] the benefits of the cloud computing “skyscape”.   Hosting data and applications off-premises in a cloud provider’s data center, potentially out of the country or in a seemingly unknown location, might be legally prohibited, or verboten by organization requirements and politics.  This growing interest in leveraging the private cloud has not gone unnoticed by Esri and we are moving quickly to provide solutions for this demand.

Portal for ArcGIS allows any organization to stand-up their own customized ArcGIS Online, to create their unique geographic content system, on-premises within privately-owned data centers, or managed by Esri, behind configured firewalls, to have more control over security concerns or to meet regulated restrictions.

Available in Q2 2012, ArcGIS Online for organizations carves out a private community cloud for any company, business, group, organization or agency. Although hosted in public off-premises infrastructure, the services and data are specific, secure, and isolated to only the members of the organizational account, but with access to public services, hybridizing the public and private cloud, seamlessly.

The Cloud Computing Adoption Trend

The Cloud Adoption Trend

Most recently, Esri paired up with VCE — a  coalition of EMC, Cisco, and VMware – to successfully test and certifyArcGIS on their private cloud infrastructure appliance.  Vblock, as it is known, provides the storage, network switches, virtualization layer, and compute capacity that many organizations will find attractive as a bundled private cloud platform, in a nearly plug-and-play capacity.

Esri is dedicating significant investment, research and development into public and private cloud offerings and providers – and we will continue to do so, going forward.  It is without question that cloud computing has the potential to be a disrupting trend upsetting traditional technology models, and yet simultaneously demonstrating the potential for a promising boon.  And what about you?  Where do you and your organization stand “in the cloud”?  Private, Public, Hybrid or ‘None of the Above’?!

Victoria Kouyoumjian

About Victoria Kouyoumjian

Victoria Kouyoumjian has more than 15 years of experience working in the field of geospatial at Esri, and witness to many changes in high-tech and GIS during this time. After several years as a Product Manager for a suite of developer-focused software solutions, she now works as a Senior Business and Technologies Strategist, focusing on emerging technology trends, as well as business and marketing strategies. She works with global independent research organizations, Gartner and Forrester, and others leaders in information technology. Victoria holds an MBA, as well as a BS in Geography from the University of Wyoming, and a BA in English from Mt. Holyoke College in western Massachusetts. She co-authored The Business Benefits of GIS: An ROI Approach; has written several articles on cloud computing; and presents frequently, as burgeoning trends move into mainstream.
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  1. Ewan says:

    Great post, as a user of AWS for some time and also GIS i have seen this as a real game changer. I have also been using AWC VPC as a great environment for serving customer both internal and external. I think this is all about options and being able to have all the options covered and supported that it becomes less about the platform and more about the solution. VBlock looks really interesting.

    • Victoria Kouyoumjian Victoria Kouyoumjian says:

      Your comment about “options” is spot-on, Ewan. As cloud becomes more pervasive, the number of cloud providers will indeed grow. In fact, Esri will be broadening its choices for our community as well, with growing cloud partnerships — VCE is an example. The prediction, however, is that hundreds of cloud providers will most likely emerge from the fog, with specialties and focus industries (i.e. Public, Private, Defense/Intel, Consumer, Enterprise, etc.). But the most interesting time will be when they are all put to the test, and only the most robust providers will emerge.

  2. Stu Mitchell says:


    Interesting ideas here and it’s certain we are all moving in this direction. I’m particularly interested in ESRI’s view of the VCE initiative. Are there any sites where this partnership has been put into practice? It clearly offers a great many advantages, notably where organisations are able to pool resources across departments or geographic boundaries with sufficient infrastructure.


    • Victoria Kouyoumjian Victoria Kouyoumjian says:

      Hi Stu,
      Thanks for the comment. Yes, Esri has over a half-dozen customers who have implemented Vblock. Although at the moment, I’m not at liberty to broadcast who they are, as soon as they harden their solutions, we’ll be certain to get the messaging out for reference sites and use cases.

  3. mkhqureshi says:

    Is there any plans of ESRI thru its partners to release combined private cloud hardware together with ESRI? Please elucidate on future? ThanksMohammed

    • Victoria Kouyoumjian Victoria Kouyoumjian says:

      Hello Mohammed,
      As I mentioned in the article, Esri has been collaborating with VCE — a coalition of EMC, Cisco, and VMware – to successfully test and certify ArcGIS on their private cloud infrastructure appliance, Vblock. Vblock is an infrastructure platform intended for leverage within a private cloud. Here is the link to the latest whitepaper:
      However, beyond this, Esri is not currently pursuing private cloud hardware complete with Esri software. Esri does offer Portal for ArcGIS, however, this is an on-premise version of a SaaS-based offering of ArcGIS Online, intended to run in your private cloud infrastructure.
      All the best,