The cloud computing space is growing at a dizzying rate with the public vs. private cloud debate spawning a whole new cloud option – the hybrid cloud. Proponents of hybrid claim it’s the best of both worlds and its popularity is growing with 22% of users going hybrid (IDC), with an expected 50% adoption rate of by 2017 (Gartner).
But like most things if life, there is no one size fits all solution to complex and dynamic problems.
To help navigate through all the cloud fluff, let’s take a quick look at these three models.
Private cloud – keeping the crown jewels safe and sound at home
One of the major arguments for the private cloud is enhanced security. The recent security debacle at Target whose data breach affected 40 million credit and debit cards, while not cloud related, is something that keeps CIOs nervous about their data security.
The general consensus among IT gurus is that the private cloud offers the highest level of security due to the fact that the information is kept on premises. As Dave Malcolm, Former CTO of Surgient (acquired by Quest Software), points out “organizations that deal in private and proprietary data (for example financial services, healthcare, and government institutions) simply cannot risk third-party access to sensitive data, and even face legal ramifications for breaches.”
Control, and customization are other areas that favor the private cloud. Pat Gelsinger, VMware’s CEO, made a strong argument for going with the private cloud when he said, “people who just say ‘put everything in the cloud’ have never visited regulated customers, who have real SLAs, real premise requirements, real governance requirements.”
Another major consideration is problem resolution. David Malcolm points out that with a public deployment, you’ll be dealing with both internal owners and likely multiple external owners to resolve the issue, which can result in confusion and resolution delays. With a private cloud, you own the cloud and can prioritize resolution based on the needs of your business, rather than someone else’s.
Public cloud – affordability, scalability suitable even for the CIA (kinda)
When it comes to cost-efficiency, the public cloud seems like the way to go with negligible setup costs and the pay-as-you-go pricing option. When contrasted with private cloud, which requires substantial initial investment to create an in-house data center, public options are definitely more attractive to start-ups and even for enterprises seeking massive computing power at low cost.
The flexibility of the public cloud is the answer to any enterprise that doesn’t yet know their computing needs. Adding resources as the need comes up allows you to experiment a little before you determine what is absolutely essential. Unfortunately, the private cloud requires you to know exactly what you need before you set it up.
Additionally, the scalability and enormous capacity that the public cloud offers, enables you to deal with spikes in traffic or other unexpected workloads. Whereas in the private cloud, you’d need to buy lots of hardware that typically goes unused, just to deal with possible surges in computing consumption.
The public cloud has an added advantage of easy accessibility from most locations, which can expand your customer base and enable your workforce to become mobile and increase their productivity.
Lastly, even in the realm of security, leading cloud vendors like Amazon and Google, certainly know a thing or two about security. Otherwise they would not be the giants they are. The fact that the CIA selected Amazon for their cloud computing needs should also reassure private sector customers that the public cloud providers can support their security requirements. AWS takes extreme measures to secure its cloud such as offering built-in firewalls, private subnets and advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 256. If that isn’t sufficient, AWS offers the Isolated GovCloud for customers who need to comply with US ITAR regulations.
Hybrid cloud – have your cloud cake and eat it too
If we take the advantages of the public cloud which are cost, accessibility, scalability and elasticity and couple it with the advantages of the private cloud which are security, customization and control (I purposely left out problem resolution), you have a new and improved cloud—THE HYBRID, a combination between the public and private cloud. In addition, the hybrid has a unique advantage—higher level of redundancy, no longer are all your eggs in one basket.
But not all is sweet — there are a couple of drawbacks that you should consider such as managing two separate clouds, fragmented customization and the challenge of achieving the correct balance between the private and public cloud.
But the biggest challenge is having both clouds work seamlessly together as one entity, as Shamus McGillicuddy, of TechTarget Networking Media, points out that it is a “struggle to stretch network services, like firewalling and load balancing, across disparate sets of resources.”
Bringing it all together – The Rise of Cloud Brokerages
All the choices and complexities in the space have led to the rise of cloud brokers –business consultants or system integrators who manage their clients’ entire cloud deployment. Guidance, expertise and know-how are what a cloud broker brings to the table.
These brokers can help you find the best providers, select and optimize pricing models, consolidate billing, and choose the best cloud infrastructure for your business. It’s a one-stop shop for cloud, where all the relevant options are presented to you without wasting precious time on research or legwork.
If the cloud is the key to success, the cloud broker can help you figure out which key fits the lock.
Take responsibility for your data – Do your homework!
The sudden closure of cloud provider, Nirvanix, was a LOUD wake up call. End users must take full responsibility for all data and be prepared for all eventualities. The wrong choice can put an enterprise at risk as well its your customers’ data.
So what should you do?
1. Figure out your current cloud expenses. It is impossible to compare providers until you have a complete handle on your bill. You need to be able to compare apples to apples, which is only possible if you know how much you are paying for what you are getting.
2. Prepare an exit plan before you commit your data. Get estimates for migration costs. You don’t want to be trapped in a bad marriage.
3. Research at least two established providers and their SLAs.
4. Now you are ready to team up with a cloud broker who can help you find the most cost effective and reliable provider that fits your enterprise.