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Private cloud refers to a model of cloud computing where IT services are provisioned over private IT infrastructure for the dedicated use of a single organization. A private cloud is usually managed via internal resources.
The terms private cloud and virtual private cloud (VPC) are often used interchangeably. Technically speaking, a VPC is a private cloud using a third-party cloud provider's infrastructure, while a private cloud is implemented over internal infrastructure.
Private clouds may also be referred to as enterprise clouds.
There is some controversy around the very idea of a private cloud. The central idea of cloud computing is an organization should not need to build out and manage computing infrastructure itself. By utilizing cloud vendors, an organization should lower costs while receiving services and applications that are on par or better than what could be done in-house. Given this, a private cloud would seem to be going backwards. An organization would still need to build out and manage the private cloud infrastructure and not get any benefits from the economies of scale that should come with cloud computing.
The flip side of this argument is that not all organizations can give up control to third-party vendors. A proponent of private clouds would argue there are still significant benefits to private clouds in the sense that a private cloud is a way to centralize large installations of IT infrastructure in a highly virtualized manner while avoiding exposure to the unknowns of an outside cloud vendor.