There is a raging debate in the enterprise on what is better: the private cloud, which offers more data security and performance tweaking, or the public cloud, which offers ease of use and cost optimization.
But now, this debate is more or less confined to specific applications or functions. According to the Flexera 2020 State of the Cloud report, just 7% of enterprise organizations have a single public or private cloud environment.
The rest have a hybrid, multi-cloud environment in place, comprising various SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS architectures that work together in a converged, software-defined model.
Where the actual debate lies is… in the deployment of an application related to a specific operational process. There are so many uncertainties and requirements that IT teams have to deal with that it becomes difficult for them to select a particular cloud provider or service.
In this article, I examine the characteristics and benefits of public and private cloud systems in the market today in an attempt to help enterprise companies choose a cloud architecture that would best suit a given business function. For any given workload, only either of a public or private cloud service – and that too, from a specific vendor – would be better. On the other hand, there is no one type of cloud implementation that is right for companies across the industry, given the huge transactional volumes and variety in the enterprise.
Further, for all practical purposes, your selection of a private or public cloud system has to be made in the context of the hybrid, multi-cloud environment that your enterprise operates according to your data and application needs, as well as other IT infrastructure you already have in place.
Revisiting Public Cloud for the Enterprise
The public cloud model involves services managed by a single vendor or provider who delivers freemium or subscription-based services directly over the internet. They allocate application services, computing power, or storage from their central pool of resources to multiple clients as and when needed, with a minimum usage threshold.
In a public cloud, a single server runs multiple instances of an application or controls multiple virtual machines (VMs) using various protocols or middleware. You are allocated a web-based interface to set up, access, and use the infrastructure or applications you’ve signed up for.
Scalability is the defining characteristic of a public cloud. Another is flexibility. Public cloud platforms such as Google Cloud, Amazon AWS, and Microsoft Azure offer pay-as-you-go services without long term contracts where you can set up, extend, scale, and tear down servers based on your compute or storage requirements for a time period of your choosing.
Advantages of the Public Cloud
Public cloud services have steadily increased in versatility and the breadth of their offerings over the last few years, as giant tech players have consolidated their market share and solutions. At the same time, costs have come down drastically, making the public cloud the default option for many organizations. Here are its biggest advantages:
Easily the biggest benefit of a public cloud. You don’t need to spend a single penny upfront on deployment – hardware costs are practically zero because the public cloud does away with the need for data centers in most cases. Instead, pay as you go models ensure the enterprise has the huge infrastructure resources it needs without the danger of over-provisioning. If you need to set up a testing environment or a pilot project, it can be easily budgeted for and purchased separately.
In enterprise-speak, CAPEX (capital expenditure) is cut down to almost nothing while real-time OPEX (operational expenditure) enables better budget allocation.
Better Qualified IT Personnel
The behemoth public cloud vendors such as Amazon, Microsoft, and Google have skilled, more experienced staff manning their platforms. Technology standardization at these providers provides better career opportunities as well as monetary compensation for technical experts that non-IT enterprises can rarely match.
This simply means the sysadmins managing your public cloud setup are on the whole more knowledgeable, competent, and better equipped to troubleshoot, maintain, upgrade, and protect your IT infrastructure and applications. In the event of a problem, you can rest assured an experienced set of hands is constantly working on the solution.
Usage spikes are a common feature in business-critical applications in the enterprise. If you need storage or compute resources on-demand, the addition of these is a simple matter of whipping out your credit card and ticking a few boxes if you use a public cloud solution. There is no need to plan in-house for the provisioning of resources. Plus, it is unlikely your cloud provider will not have the additional capacity you require at any point in time.
Revisiting Private Cloud for the Enterprise
The private cloud ensures the seamless availability of applications by separating services and software interfaces from the underlying physical infrastructure. This is ideal if your company is bound by compliance regulations or standards in data access, security, or storage.
Private cloud systems offer the highest level of user-level and access-level security. Further, the physical or virtual resources aren’t being shared with other clients (this is called single-tenancy).
Lastly, if you have an existing data center, you can set up a private cloud on-premises. It gives you the ideal environment to implement virtualization in-house.
Advantages of the Private Cloud
Notwithstanding its giant technology leaps of late, the public cloud is simply inadequate when it comes to offering compliance, control, and performance tuning. This is where the private cloud steps in.
Adaptability and Integration
Private clouds involve applications, VMs, or storage systems that can be configured and reconfigured on demand. Your teams can rewrite software or tweak application code to meet changing or immediate requirements of your organization because nobody else is using these at any point in time.
What’s more, if you have a data center, you need cloud-native apps and services that are custom built to run on your specific infrastructure. Your developers can build private cloud applications that use protocols and APIs that offer better access to your datacenter’s physical hardware.
Granular Access Control and Security
The private cloud gives admins the ability to set access control rules for each individual user or application. You can also segregate users or groups based on the resource pools they use, in order to physically separate their roles.
For organizations that need to meet industry standards or regulations on data security – in industries such as finance (Sarbanes Oxley) and healthcare (HIPAA) – private cloud systems offer isolated, location-specific data management and governance options, along with full visibility and control over user authentication and identity management.
Public cloud apps might not necessarily follow development practices that may suit the requirements of your workload. In a private cloud environment, your developers can extend legacy or existing apps for custom functionality without rewriting them from scratch. These can then get low-latency access directly to your data center hardware.
Private cloud systems also offer better application portability – cloud-native apps built for private clouds can be reused across your multi-cloud or hybrid cloud environment without affecting security compliance.
Strategic and Smart Cloud Adoption
Private and public cloud providers are in a perpetual race to outdo each other in performance, scale, and flexibility while eating away at each other’s traditional strengths. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the enterprise, where seemingly small concerns in compliance, tech mobility, or staff productivity, might blow up into major issues affecting business continuity.
As a result, the public vs. private vs. hybrid cloud battle is being fought in three areas: costs, complexity, and security. Every enterprise needs a smart cloud adoption strategy to overcome these perennial hurdles and minimize risk.
Does your organization have a defined and documented cloud implementation strategy? What functions could use further automation? How do you calculate operational costs and monitor resource consumption? Please discuss in the comments!