The hidden gaps in public and private clouds

By: Greg Pierce

Despite ample marketing hype, there is no panacea when it comes to cloud computing. No silver bullets, no one-size-fits-all. As with any technology, there are merely strengths, weaknesses, and tradeoffs. And all cloud decisions should be grounded in your business priorities and technical requirements in order to meet those priorities.

That said, there are several gaps in public and private cloud models that are often overlooked. Many of them come down to visibility, control, and flexibility. Sometimes those qualities are desired, other times they aren’t necessary.

Let’s take a look at some of the gaps and tradeoffs as you strive to make your own strategic decisions around cloud-centric IT:

Public cloud: Sacrificing control for simplicity

The public cloud is easy to adopt, offers unlimited scalability, and you only pay for what you use. Continuous updates and innovation deliver the latest tools and capabilities. And public cloud environments are fairly hands off, removing the burden of hardware and software maintenance.

But there are so many public cloud options, choosing the right provider-let alone the right service, applications, and features-can be overwhelming. Interfacing with a computer screen instead of a human, you receive little to no assistance in making these decisions. And if you have questions or run into problems, you are often left to your own devices.

There are also misconceptions about the public cloud.

Many people think each provider delivers a single, massive environment. In reality, they typically offer several disparate cloud environments delivered from independent data centers. It’s a dirty little secret that many of these environments aren’t standardized, and creating failover connections can be daunting.

That means public cloud performance, security, and resiliency can vary from region to region-even when those clouds are delivered from a single provider. And their redundancy and failover capabilities aren’t always as robust as many perceive. If one data center goes down, there’s a good chance it does not fail over to other data centers and clouds operated by the same provider. It’s often up to the customer to create their own availability zones.

Those utilizing public cloud services have limited visibility and control of what’s under the hood, of course. You have little to no understanding of hardware and network resiliency, and no ability to supercharge the underlying engine or add layers of security. With seven layers of control in a cloud stack, your organization can, in fact, only control two of those layers (L6-7, the presentation and application layers).

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Unexpected cost and lock-in are also common issues with public cloud services. Often inexpensive at first, public cloud costs grow over time as you utilize more compute and storage resources. And while it’s easy to put data and workloads into the public cloud, it’s not always easy to get them out.

We call this the Hotel California effect: You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

Private cloud: Sacrificing simplicity for control

In many ways, private clouds are the antithesis of public clouds. They offer complete visibility and control of all seven layers of the stack, giving you the ability to increase performance, security, and resiliency as needed. If something goes wrong, you have better insight into what is happening and why. And if the environment isn’t performing as expected, you have the ability to fix or augment it accordingly.

But many IT groups don’t want or need that level of visibility or control-especially for low-priority data sets and workloads. Building and maintaining a full cloud stack is costly and time-consuming. And it is difficult to keep up with the pace of change and continually update a private cloud with the latest tools and technologies.

In addition, companies operating their own private cloud sometimes run into scaling and financial limitations. Nobody can scale like public cloud providers, and budgetary constraints can lead to performance, security, and availability tradeoffs. It’s never fun to ask the CFO for additional money.

Unlike public cloud services, you pay for private cloud resources-even when you’re not using them.

Choosing the right mix

There are gaps and tradeoffs in both public and private cloud models. Most companies need a hybrid mix of both.

It comes down to control, and how much is needed for each application and workload. As such, these decisions need to be made on a case-by-case basis, and must be scale appropriate.

Fortunately, help and guidance are available. Managed cloud service providers have experience with both models, and can help you determine what to put where, how to get it there, and how to manage it over time. They can also help connect virtual private cloud and public cloud environments for management efficiency and workload portability.

The best providers don’t push you one way or the other, and look beyond the cloud to consider all IT strategies, options, and dependencies. They help you determine the right mix for your specific needs, and help optimize that mix as needs and priorities change. It’s all about comparing the options and tradeoffs-not only for the cost, performance, compliance, and resiliency of each cloud environment, but for the business criticality and technical requirements of each application and workload.

After all, it’s a multi-cloud world. And there is no panacea.

About Greg Pierce

A 20-year technology consultant, Greg Pierce is considered one of the foremost experts on cloud computing trends, systems integration and deployment strategies. Greg develops the strategic direction, vision and product offerings for Concerto and manages sales, service and delivery for all customers.

Greg specializes in helping businesses understand, select and deploy innovative cloud solutions that leverage on-premise, hosted, third party and hybrid models. He was influential in the formation of Concerto Cloud Services and its virtual private cloud infrastructure, and under his leadership, Concerto has become one of the leading cloud services providers in the country, including recognition from Microsoft as the U.S. Independent Software Vendor (ISV) of the Year for Cloud Solutions.