Contributed by: Mike Gluck, CTO on January 7, 2020.

C-Level executives and IT organizations are often asked about their “cloud strategy” or how they determine which type of cloud to use. Developing a cloud strategy is a complex undertaking that requires a careful examination of several determining factors. To help your enterprise choose the right cloud, we’re breaking down what you need to consider. We’ll also break down the differences between private, public, hybrid, and multi-cloud options.

Considerations Involved in Enterprise Cloud Solutions

Before choosing a cloud solution, it’s important to narrow down your selection by taking into account technical, financial, and operational considerations:

Technical considerations:

  • Environments are getting more complex; microservice-based architectures with multiple discrete interoperating elements significantly increase management points.
  • Data density and capacity requirements are increasing.
  • Artificial intelligence/machine learning advancements drive increased demand for more data processing resources.
  • Constantly changing workloads, i.e. revisiting massive datasets to extract new value due to methodological enhancements, or reconfiguring resources to service other projects with less overhead and fewer errors.

Financial considerations:

  • Flat staffing budgets.
  • Shifting bias to OpEx “pay-as-you-go” consumption models vs. CapEx.
  • Requirement to better align costs to projects.
  • Difficulties in budgeting for dedicated on-premise environments flexible enough to meet constantly changing workload demands.

Operational considerations:

  • Enabling the IT team to focus on the company mission versus repetitive tasks and “keeping the lights on.”
  • Responsiveness to technology consumers with just-in-time resource delivery, self-service portals, broader portfolio of capabilities, and the business need to be more agile and faster.
  • Shadow IT issues where digital natives and instant gratification are a thing, and people are electrons.
  • Not everything will be compatible with the underlying technology (e.g. mainframes).
  • Different skillset may be required for the team (including new programming skills or frameworks such as Agile and Dev/Ops).
  • Existing technologies may not be a fit (i.e. monitoring tools, security vendors and requirements, compliance/regulations, etc.).

All of this will advise your decision to invest in a cloud solution, but it may also be a foreign concept to you. So, what exactly is “the cloud”?

Defining the Cloud (and How It Helps Your Enterprise)

Before getting into the details of private vs. public vs. hybrid vs. multi-cloud solutions, it’s important to understand what “the cloud” and cloud computing are. Here at Sanity Solutions, we define cloud computing as “the on-demand availability of computer system resources, especially data storage and computing power, without direct active management by the user.”

It is useful to look at the cloud through 3 different lenses:

  1. It’s an architectural and operational methodology that does the following:
    1. Decouples and abstracts workloads from the underlying physical infrastructure resources.
    1. Employs high levels of automation, primarily by moving to a “software-defined everything” model.
  2. It’s a software development and delivery model for application workloads.
  3. It’s a financial instrument, allowing users a “pay-as-you-go” model of consuming resources with usage-based billing and an ability to burst capacity on-demand.

Now that you have a better idea of what “the cloud” is, it’s time to explore the different types of cloud solutions available to your enterprise.

The Differences Between Private, Public, Hybrid & Multi-Cloud

To successfully adopt a cloud-based system, first, it’s important to understand the difference between private, public, hybrid, and multi-cloud solutions. Then, it can be determined which one is right for the organization. The rest of this guide will explore the differences between private, public, hybrid and multi-clouds, as well as their benefits and drawbacks and how to determine which option is the best fit.

What is the private cloud?

Private clouds are services and software provided through an enterprise’s owned infrastructure for its dedicated use. In other terms, a private cloud is an internal enterprise cloud — only the enterprise that owns it can access it. A private cloud lives on a company’s intranet or hosted data center, and all data sent to the cloud is protected behind a firewall. This sort of infrastructure can be built on-premises or outsourced to a third-party service provider.

Private cloud options may be an excellent fit for enterprises that already have expansive data centers and want to build upon their current infrastructure, as well as those that prefer a more individualized set-up that cooperates with custom software, applications, or systems. Cost is also an appealing factor for larger enterprises with extensive cloud requirements, as some calculations suggest that the total cost of ownership (TCO) for a private cloud is lower than Amazon Web Services (AWS) and/or other public cloud providers, depending on needs, applications, and consumption.

Regardless of size or infrastructure, there are several other reasons why an enterprise may choose a private cloud.

Benefits of a private cloud

With a private cloud comes benefits often associated with privacy: control, customization, and security. Private cloud enterprises have more control over how their data is stored, accessed, and protected. With a private cloud, it’s also possible to select servers and management teams that fit the enterprise’s needs and preferences and to have more control over who can access the cloud and when. Private cloud owners also have a say in the infrastructure, including hardware and software components that allow the enterprise (and its members) to take advantage of the cloud. Customization is also a key feature with a private cloud, as it can be adapted to provide features or tap into platforms unique to each enterprise.

There is also a security component. With a private cloud, security is in the enterprise’s hands — not the cloud provider, as seen with public options. The ability to connect the private cloud to an enterprise’s current infrastructure may allow IT teams more oversight and access to the cloud’s privacy, as well as more overall control. IT teams can choose security protocols that align with the enterprise’s current standard operating procedures, as well as an update when and how they see fit. In the event of a breach or other security concern, an IT team will also be able to access logs and relevant information immediately and directly.

Drawbacks of a private cloud

Despite many benefits, a private cloud may not be right for every enterprise. For many enterprises, the biggest downside to a private cloud is that all management, maintenance, and updating must be maintained “in-house.” Companies with small IT teams may struggle to properly address the increased complexity, resources, and costs needed to prevent security breaches due to lack of employee awareness, as well as the rise of sophisticated phishing scams, malware, and other threat actors.

Separate from security and complexity issues, another consideration is the risk (and cost) of downtime should there be a problem the team is not equipped to handle. Even larger IT teams are facing increased costs due to security concerns or the need to invest resources in digital transformation, which may take precedence in both time and money, rather than investing in on-premise IT infrastructure needed just to “keep the lights on.” In these cases, both the upfront and ongoing costs may be higher than with public cloud, as enterprises will need proper infrastructure and maintenance to support their private cloud system fully. 

Lastly, data location may become a compliance or regulatory issue; storing data in a specific location raises questions about which government or rules apply to an enterprise’s data. This debate is still forming, and any updates to regulations could mean big changes to private cloud owners. To abide by regulations and adapt to changing global data compliance, it may be less maintenance (and expense) for an enterprise to choose a public cloud option. But what is the public cloud?

What is the public cloud?

A public cloud is a cloud-computing infrastructure offered by third-party providers over public internet (rather than a private intranet). The most common public cloud providers, also called infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) or software-as-a-service (SaaS), include companies like:

IaaS:

  • Amazon Web Services (AWS)
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Google Cloud Platform (GCP)
  • Oracle
  • IBM Cloud

SaaS:

  • Salesforce
  • Dropbox
  • Service Now
  • Office365

There are many more IaaS and SaaS providers out there, of course, but the above are some of the best known and rated. There are also other “x”-as-a-service public cloud providers — for example, platform-as-a-service (PaaS). VMWare created the VMware Cloud Foundation platform with over 70 authorized VCF providers, including Dell Technologies, that utilize VCF as the platform for their hybrid cloud offering. While unique to each organization, there are several reasons why many choose this direction for their cloud strategy.

Benefits of a public cloud

When a company chooses a public cloud, they essentially choose a plug-n-play option; they’re not responsible for setting up complex infrastructure, nor do they have to maintain or manage a data center. That level of cloud collateral can require IT teams, maintenance, attention to changing compliance requirements, and more. As a result, choosing a public cloud can also mean lower upfront costs (there’s usually no infrastructure, IT employees, or other investment needed). A public cloud option also reduces lead time on utilizing new products or tools, making it easier and faster to change or add services.

In addition, there are no long-term contracts or extensive investments; many public cloud providers offer affordable yearly or monthly subscriptions (and even hourly options in the case of AWS). It may also be easier to “go global” as a public cloud-using enterprise, as these services invest a lot of money and time into ensuring compliance with data policies in different countries. And because of the sheer size of public cloud infrastructure, server failure is almost impossible thanks to innumerable backup servers (although when it does happen, it can have some far-reaching effects).

In many cases, public cloud systems may also be more secure, particularly for small IT teams that can’t afford a 24/7 security operations center. The Gartner Group recommends a minimum of 6 to 9 full-time security specialist for 24/7 “eyes-on-glass,” but due to the extreme shortage of security specialists, this can be difficult. Even if a small company could find the staff, it often requires significant budget resources to fund. Public providers are incredibly successful and reliable because they re-invest in their teams, hiring the best engineers, security specialists, and compliance experts. But of course, the public cloud has its downsides, too.

Drawbacks to a public cloud

As with anything shared with others, a public cloud is not “yours” — an enterprise does not have complete control over it, nor can they change much about how it works with internal infrastructure. There’s also always the risk that an IaaS or public cloud provider will stop offering a service, go out of business entirely, increase prices, or no longer scale to a company’s needs. In that vein, if an enterprise needs to migrate to another public cloud, the process can be quite labor-intensive and expensive. And if an enterprise improperly estimates their public cloud needs, cost based on consumption could be a real blow to IT budgets.

Because the public cloud provider controls what can be seen and accessed, visibility is also not universal. Things like logins, breach attempts, or even data logs may not be as easily accessible as with a private cloud. And while many public cloud options are considered “plug-n-play,” customizations are not as easy to implement — and in some cases not possible at all. If an enterprise has complex needs that require extensive accommodations, a public cloud option may not check all their boxes.

What is the hybrid cloud?

A hybrid cloud strategy is the combination of a private and public cloud that provides more flexibility by maintaining control over critical operations and assets, as well as improves cost efficiency. A hybrid cloud architecture enables companies to take advantage of the public cloud when necessary due to their ease of workload migration while also allowing oversight for more sensitive data in a private cloud. For instance, a business can use the public could for running high-volume applications like emails, and utilize private clouds for select assets like financials, data recovery, during scheduled maintenance, and a rise in demand.

What is the multi-cloud?

A multi-cloud strategy is the use of two or more cloud computing services. While a multi-cloud deployment can refer to any implementation of multiple software-as-a-service (SaaS) or platform-as-a-service (PaaS) cloud offerings, it generally refers to a mix of public infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) environments, such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.

Which Cloud Solution is Best for My Company?

There is no “one-size fits all” and, as with any comparison, there’s always some gray area: one option may be great for one person or enterprise, while another may benefit an entirely different group. At the end of the day, the decision between the many cloud strategy options depends on your enterprise’s needs. Your budget, your industry, your regulation and compliance standards, and your in-house resources will all advise which option is best for you. Of course, evaluating the full scope of your options and choosing the right one can be overwhelming and taxing on already strained resources. Once a decision is made, you’ll also need to manage the transition and ramp-up phase.

But you don’t have to do it all by yourself. Sanity Solutions has expertise in private, public, hybrid, and multi-clouds, and we can help you make an unbiased and well-advised decision. We are well versed in the digital transformation journey and the steps it takes to get where you want to go through assessments, solutions recommendations, and implementation services. Learn more about Sanity Solution’s cloud services to see how we can support your enterprise cloud strategy.

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