Private and public thoughts

I must live a sheltered life. Until about a year or so ago, I’d never heard the term “private cloud”. Perhaps I wasn’t looking for it, perhaps I’d inadvertently masked and glossed over every instance of it I’d come across. One way or the other, I hadn’t come across the term.

Which was a good thing. Because it would have confused me no end. For some years now, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the “cloud’, planning for it, preparing for it. For a variety of reasons, reasons I will come to in a later post.

But first, let me share what I think about private and public clouds. And let me start by using terms other than “private” and “public”: instead, I shall use the terms “shared” and “not shared”.

Public is shared. And private is not-shared. It’s as simple as that.

Which means, at the very least, there is an economic distinction to be made here. Let’s take planes as an example:

We have “shared” planes:

And then we have “not-shared” planes:

I’m not here to draw any moral or judgmental difference between shared planes and not-shared planes. What I am here to do is to emphasise the fact that shared planes are fundamentally different from not-shared planes, particularly when it comes to pricing and economics.

It’s not just the economics. There’s a strong sustainability angle at work here. You can share things sustainably and responsibly, but that’s not always the case. Let’s look at shared transportation as an example:

Here the shared state of the transportation is sustainable, and compares well with the not-shared lanes visible:

Here too, the transportation is shared, but somewhat less sustainably, less safely:


The economics, sustainability and safety of shared things don’t happen by accident: they are a function of design. You have to design to share effectively. Let’s look at food in this context:

Here’s some food designed to be shared. Lamb stew. In a cooking pot. Ladled out in heterogeneous servings. More people? No problem, just peel a few more potatoes, boil some carrots, add some stock. Stews are designed to be extensible.

And here’s food designed to be not-shared: Lamb again. But this time it’s lamb chops with vegetables, everything counted out precisely, just so much of every dish and no more. Not easy to extend.


So where are we? Things that are shared are fundamentally different from things that are not-shared: different from an economics perspective (far cheaper), different from a sustainability perspective (kinder to the environment, safer), even different from a design perspective (more flexible, easier to expand or contract). But all this doesn’t matter if people don’t actually want to share in the first place.

And this is where the new generations come in. They have a different attitude to sharing. They rent their films, their music, their books, their homes, even their bicycles.


Shared. Cheaper. More sustainable. Safer. More flexible. And consistent with the values and ethics of a generation less hung up about “owning” things.

When I see the terms “private cloud” and “public cloud” I translate them.

The “public cloud” is the cloud I know: Fundamentally based on sharing, with the economic, environmental, ecological and ethical benefits of sharing.

The “private cloud” is the cloud I don’t know. Fundamentally based on not-sharing, and therefore not-cloud.

Shared and not-shared.

The cloud is about sharing and is shared in concept and design.

The not-cloud is just what it says. Not cloud.

[My thanks go to Floydian for the HOV lane shot; Rosa Jackson for the Navarin d’Agneau; Private Jet Charter for the Learjet interior; Broadway Bistro for the lamb chops; and The Independent/AFP Photo/Geoff Caddick for the London cycles.]