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When Does a Private Cloud Make Sense?

Posted 26 Mar, 2019

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Global enterprise spend on the public cloud is soaring as big business takes advantage of the scalability, accessibility and cost savings it offers. But not all IT network needs are best served by the public cloud.

For mission critical systems where performance, continuity and security are paramount, and for the biggest, most resource intensive applications when only a bespoke solution will do, a dedicated private cloud solution makes the most sense.

Key Differences to Consider

Public cloud services offer excellent flexibility on a pay as you go subscription. But for mission critical IT systems when you absolutely have to guarantee continuity and performance, private cloud can offer greater protection and control.

The public cloud relies on internet connectivity to access applications, platforms and data resources. For the biggest IT assets, latency can be an issue. Dedicated private cloud solutions eliminate this issue by typically using private connectivity with dedicated bandwidth.

When you want to consolidate on-premise infrastructure but still want full control over your IT assets, private cloud is the right option.

Public cloud services allow businesses to piece their digital resources together module by module for highly flexible, highly scalable deployments. But if you want a fully bespoke solution built from the ground up to meet the specific needs of your business, with room to grow, look to the private cloud.

Migrating systems and data from legacy platforms to the public cloud can be a complex and costly task. Private cloud solutions can be built to integrate existing assets, providing continuity and protecting investment.

However, public or private cloud does not have to be an either/or choice

By most relevant metrics, cloud computing has come of age. The once-disruptive upstart that handed forward-thinking, tech-savvy businesses shared access to powerful data centre resources they couldn’t dream of replicating on premises is now part of the enterprise mainstream.

According to RightScale’s 2018 State of the Cloud report, more than half of enterprises now spend in excess of $1m on the public cloud. A fifth said they planned to double that investment.

Yet it is important to clarify terms here. These figures are specifically for the public cloud, ‘as-a-service’ third-party hosted solutions available as plug-and-play online subscriptions. It should be remembered that, for all the rapid expansion in enterprise spend on the public cloud, cloud computing exists in other flavours as well. Most notable of these is private cloud.

The key difference between public and private cloud is architecture. Unlike their public cousins, private cloud solutions do not share server resources with other customers. Private cloud is instead built around a single-tenant, a dedicated platform that operates all applications and services.

Private vs Public Benefits

So, what are the advantages of one type of cloud architecture over the other? The public cloud is widely acknowledged to have radically reduced IT network costs and improved consumer access to computing. Sharing server resources in massive, third-party operated data centres offer great economies of scale, eliminating the need for businesses to buy, stage and maintain their own server infrastructure. All they need to make use of a public cloud service is an internet connection.

Similarly, the ‘as-a-service’ model has helped to slash software and platform prices, doing away with expensive licensing for applications and replacing it with affordable subscriptions. Hosted public cloud services also offer enormous scalability – there is virtually no physical limit on how many applications or services you can run, or where those systems have to be based. If you want to add new users or a new branch office or expand a particular application or service, you simply change your subscription details, log in and go.

Yet there are times when scalability, affordability and ease of access are not enough when enterprises still baulk at the idea of trusting their IT capabilities to a multi-tenant server. One of these circumstances is if your organisation runs particularly resource-intensive applications. The heavy load these place on a shared server combined with data package transfer speeds over internet can lead to latency issues. With a private, bare metal server, you get all of its processing resources to yourself, minimising this risk.

Private clouds also offer their own form of flexibility and scalability, in that they can be built and configured to match your exact needs. If your application, network and data requirements are too much for a single server to handle, you can bundle multiple machines together. IT teams that still want the sense of control they got from running infrastructure on premises, that want to optimise compute power as closely as possible to match their requirements, can still build private cloud solutions from scratch.

Security and compliance are also important factors in feeling in control of your IT systems. Some organisations are just not comfortable with the idea of their data being stored in shared silos, or they have a complex web of regulations to comply with across multinational jurisdictions and want absolute clarity on data management. Also, for mission critical applications, there is an added reassurance in controlling your own organisations security posture. The major public cloud providers, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure, operate to stringent security and redundancy standards, but things do occasionally go wrong.

Another consequence of private clouds offering bespoke customisation is that they can be built to incorporate legacy on-premises systems, giving you the ability to consolidate your estate into a single manageable platform without attempting a challenging full migration into the public cloud. It might also be the case that existing servers or certain applications still work just fine for your company’s needs, and you want a solution that allows you to modernise while still maximising previous investments.

The Right Cloud for the Right Reason

What is perhaps most revealing from studies into cloud usage trends like the RightScale survey is that enterprises increasingly do not view public and private cloud as an either/or decision. Indeed, the key trend RightScale identified last year was enterprises pursuing multi-cloud solutions, i.e. adopting whatever blend of public and private and whatever mix of platforms best suits their needs.

As we have seen, public and private cloud each have their own strengths, with public cloud offering broad benefits in terms of cost, accessibility and scalability, while private cloud suits particular use cases related to performance, reliability, security and backwards compatibility. For businesses to make the most of the cloud, it makes sense to enjoy both flavours where they work best.

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