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“In the past three years, private cloud computing has moved from an aspiration to a tentative reality for nearly half of large enterprises.”

This is a quote from a Gartner report covering private and hybrid cloud computing.

Depending on which analysts you talk to, you may also hear claims that private cloud adoption is outpacing public cloud adoption at a rate close to 2-to-1 in the enterprise.

Unfortunately, most of the reports and analysts use private data that is hard to corroborate, so we wanted to do our own analysis on the numbers using publicly available data to check if they were accurate, or at least to see if the trends aligned.

For the purpose of collecting the data, we used Google Trends to try and identify general trends in cloud computing based on common search terms. Google Trends is great for this type of analysis because the volume of data is large, the results are easily reproducible, and they’re already presented in beautiful graphs. One caveat though: We’re not trying to claim the results will be scientifically accurate, but we do believe they represent the general trends.

We started our search with two of the simplest terms we could think of: ‘public cloud’ and ‘private cloud’:

These results were surprising. Although we expected a growing trend of search queries for ‘private cloud’, we did not expect that the search volume would eclipse interest in the ‘public cloud’ as early as 2009.

Much as we would love to use this as a claim that interest in the private cloud has been eclipsing interest in the public cloud since 2009, that’s rather unlikely. Instead, we hypothesize that while people interested in private deployments may indeed be searching for ‘private cloud’, those who are simply interested in the “traditional” public cloud are likely not searching for ‘public cloud’ but rather specific applications of the cloud.

To account for this discrepancy, we checked search queries for keywords one would use if they were implementing a public cloud strategy or a private cloud strategy: ‘EC2’ and ‘OpenStack’, respectively. The results are presented below:

These results are significantly more in line with what analysts have been stating, although the explosive growth of OpenStack still surprised us. While interest in EC2 has been increasingly steadily over the last three years, interest in OpenStack (which was essentially non-existent three years ago) has been exploding. In fact, it looks like interest in OpenStack is about to eclipse EC2 this year.

We suspect that this trend will continue at an ever-accelerating pace, at least for the foreseeable future. Over the last few months we’ve seen the barrier to deploying private clouds erode at an unprecedented rate: Larger computer manufacturers like HP are jumping on the bandwagon in support of private clouds, and smaller startups like Mirantis are now allowing you to deploy On-Demand OpenStack Private Clouds, so you can get your feet wet without having to make a capital expenditure commitment to infrastructure. Private Cloud as a Service anyone?

Regardless, what’s becoming clear is that ignoring the private cloud may actually be dangerous for companies looking to sell software to the enterprise. As more of these companies become aware of the private cloud as a viable and mature strategy, they will begin to expect applications to work not only in the public cloud, but also in the private cloud.

— Yuri

p.s. A quick note in case Private Cloud as a Service (PCaaS) becomes a thing: I’m sorry.