When developing your cloud servers strategy there are several factors to consider such as the workloads to be migrated and the service provider who will host your systems. But first, there is a fundamental choice to be made that will influence every other decision – will you use private cloud solutions or public cloud infrastructure?
To decide, you must first understand ‘what is private cloud’?
With private cloud solutions, your servers are virtualized; they are migrated to a remote hosted data center and stored on dedicated cloud servers, meaning they aren't shared with other customers. The private cloud is scalable, allowing you to spin up and down, according to your needs and demand.
Because private cloud solutions are designed specifically for individual customers, private cloud providers bill according to each customer’s resource demands, meaning you only pay for what you need.
Public cloud is based on the same virtualization concepts for cloud servers, but the underlying infrastructure exists as a massive pool of resources that are shared among customers, providing on-demand scalability. Every subscriber can draw resources from the pool as and when required, making infrastructure available on-demand.
This multi-tenancy arrangement means that public cloud is best suited to small businesses or non-mission critical applications, since you may experience some performance bottlenecks caused by too many clients trying to scale simultaneously.
Private cloud solutions tend to have a few more overheads than public – but they also have some distinct benefits that can offset the investment in private cloud services. The hardware resources allocated to your business are dedicated to your needs alone, making it ideal for mission-critical applications – they won’t be affected by ‘noisy neighbors’ and the activities of other users. You also have greater control over your environment, with the ability to add virtual machines, virtual cloud servers and even physical hardware via your private cloud provider as your requirements change.
The single-tenancy design of private cloud services also increases fault tolerance, leading to less downtime. In the event something does go wrong, you can quickly move virtualized machines to another physical host, resuming operations almost instantly.
Private cloud services may be the ultimate choice, but sometimes it only makes sense at scale, for organizations that have large resource requirements. This is where virtual private cloud (VPC) comes into play.
VPC technology combines the benefits and features of both private cloud and public cloud infrastructure. For example, VPCs are hosted on a multi-tenant public cloud platform but virtualized in such a way that it operates like an isolated, private environment.
A VPC also employs advanced networking configurations to ensure that the environment can’t be accessed by other tenants. Operating on its own IP subnet, a VPC’s resources cannot be accessed from the public internet either, making it more secure than public cloud solutions.
Subnets are then backed by virtual local area networks (VLANs) that logically partition networks to make resources look like they are located on the same physical network – even when separated by thousands of miles. VLANs also allow for the application of familiar network security controls to restrict access and resource usage, keeping hackers and unauthorized users out of your virtual private cloud.
Finally, virtual private network (VPN) connections are used to encrypt incoming and outgoing traffic. The VPN tunnels ensure that hackers can’t intercept or hijack connections to the VPC.
These additional security controls protect the integrity of the VPC and address many of the concerns IT managers have about cloud security and performance. Since computing resources aren’t shared, you gain additional peace of mind in terms of protection and performance of applications, workloads and data.
A VPC can also take advantage of the instant scalability of public cloud, so the underlying infrastructure resources can be scaled up and down as demand changes – in a matter of seconds.
Enhanced environment control isn’t simply a security benefit either. With effective solution design, you can improve redundancy and availability too. For example, you can implement fail-over mechanisms that move virtual machines automatically between physical cloud servers to improve availability and fault tolerance – something that may not be available as standard in a vanilla public cloud offering.
So what are the negatives of choosing VPCs? Well, they can be tricky to set up correctly and may cost a little more to run than public cloud environments. However, VPCs can offer private cloud-like control and security, when your budgets won’t stretch to ‘true’ private cloud computing.
Many businesses have adopted ‘cloud-first’ strategies that outline their intention to migrate all of their workloads to cloud-based platforms and applications. The reality is that most currently operate according to a hybrid cloud model.
If your business uses hybrid cloud, some of your workload has already been migrated to the cloud, often with the assistance of SaaS (software as a service) subscriptions that replace traditional on-premise applications like CRM, ERP, finance or even email. You may also have developed some new software to run on a public/private cloud platform, while also hosting some of your IT operations on-premises or in the local data center.
Your business is not alone. Hybrid cloud is a very popular operating model for most organizations, especially when they can’t yet commit to full cloud-native operations. There are a few reasons for this in/out approach.
First, concerns about application performance, network latency, data security or confusion about how to apply data protection regulations in the cloud, mean that mission-critical applications are often kept in-house. Until these questions can be answered, it is unlikely you will be ready to migrate these workloads.
Second, the cost of ‘cloudifying’ and migrating legacy applications may be prohibitive – or not technically impossible. You’ll need to retain these functions on-premise or on dedicated servers until funding can be sourced for the relevant remedial work – or you could identify and deploy an alternative application.
If part of your application stack requires multiple physical cloud servers to host, but scalability is of minimal importance, you may find bare metal servers are most cost effective.
If another set of systems require enhanced fault tolerance and security (but scale is still a lesser concern), private cloud services with disaster recovery features are the smarter choice. In addition, you might experience seasonal peaks that cause significant traffic spikes; when this is a possibility, the instant, infinite scalability of the public cloud might be the best option.
The hybrid cloud works with either public or private cloud services – or even a combination of the two. As such, the ‘hosted’ element of the hybrid cloud model is subject to the same challenges and limitations as already discussed above.
However, hybrid cloud can offer the best of both worlds between public and private cloud. Particularly if your business is well-established, but doesn’t have the luxury of building IT infrastructure and apps from scratch, and you still need the scalability potential of the cloud to support future growth plans.
Migrating to the cloud offers several well-known benefits – increased agility, flexibility, scalability and the opportunity to switch from capital expenditure to operational expenditure, helping to drive down costs. But that’s not all you gain from cloud migration. Here are four more you probably haven’t considered fully:
1. You can establish any time, any place operations
The global shutdowns of 2020 and 2021 changed the way we work forever as many people were able to try remote working for the very first time. For many information-based roles, the trial was a significant success – so long as employers had access to the right tools and platforms.
Migrating to the cloud can support and improve the shift towards remote working by making it easier to access corporate networks, systems and applications outside the office. The potential for simple scalability ensures that cloud systems can grow (or shrink) in line with changing workforce demands.
2. Reduced management overheads
The IT department already has a full workload, so any solution that can help reduce their admin overheads will be welcome. By migrating on-premise workloads to SaaS applications or managed cloud platforms, you can make that reduction a reality.
As well as freeing up resources that would otherwise be invested in maintaining aging hardware, you can also outsource much of the responsibility for maintaining physical cloud servers that support your cloud-based operations. Not to mention the fact that private cloud providers can typically implement and maintain many of the security safeguards required to meet your data protection obligations.
3. You can meet your sustainability goals
Around 1.8% of total US energy consumption is by data centers. According to research by global consultancy Accenture, consolidating data centers by migrating to cloud-hosted alternatives will help to reduce carbon (CO2) emissions by up to 59 million tons – a 5.9% reduction overall.
Using cloud-based services addresses other common environmental concerns too, such as disposal of surplus hardware. Cloud providers also typically refresh hardware more regularly, purchasing more energy efficient replacements that draw less power, further reducing their carbon footprint. Combine this with efforts to obtain electricity for power and cooling from renewables (solar, wind, hydro etc) and even hyperscaling private cloud providers can help your business towards truly sustainable IT operations.
4. The IT department can become a driving force for business success
The flexible, scalable nature of the cloud makes it an ideal platform for your digital transformation efforts. Your development teams will have easy access to infinite scalability and cutting-edge technologies that allow them to build all-new applications to support the changing needs of your business and customers.
Private cloud offers an opportunity to one-up your competitors, as you’ll have access to the latest technologies and a platform that supports DevOps and agile working as standard. When done right, you’ll gain an infrastructure that supports innovation, new ways of working and a reliable platform from which to deliver consistently excellent customer experiences.
So, could private cloud solutions be right for your business? That depends on a number of factors.
Many businesses choose private cloud services as it’s the closest infrastructure model to their existing on-premise set up. But public cloud resources, (or VPC solutions) might suffice for certain requirements.
Owing to the higher costs associated with dedicated hardware, private cloud services often make more sense for larger companies who can take advantage of economies of scale. It’s worth considering whether hosting secondary applications and data in the public cloud would offer a better return on investment. This will entirely depend, however, on what your goals and (importantly) security and performance needs are.
It might cost you more in the long run in reputational damage and internal resources, if you opt out of private cloud solutions simply owing to direct costs and maintenance. If in doubt, speak to private cloud providers who will be able to assist you.
It’s also worth noting that although scalable, some private cloud services may be slightly slower in terms of adding capacity, simply because additional physical hardware needs to be deployed. This could create similar resource bottlenecks to those you already experience in the on-premise data center, making private cloud a better choice for applications where resource usage remains relatively constant. As you consider private cloud providers, make sure your chosen vendor offers some instantaneous provisioning to handle spikes in demand.
If your organization expects to host mission-critical applications, private cloud solutions are the only way to guarantee dedicated access to compute resources and tight security. There is no risk of other users in a multi-tenant environment ‘stealing’ resources that your applications need. The same is true if your security team has any concerns about the multi-tenancy design of public cloud platforms; there is zero chance of data leakage caused by misconfigured multitenancy systems because there are no other users in your private cloud.
Finally, it’s worth remembering that virtual private cloud (VPC) offers an effective alternative to true private cloud solutions. Although hosted on public cloud infrastructure, advanced networking configurations help to isolate VPC computing resources from other tenants, offering many of the same safeguards and features enjoyed by private cloud users. However, the underlying infrastructure is still shared and therefore may be vulnerable to other tenants.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution. In reality, your business will almost certainly end up with a hybrid cloud solution – at least until you manage to address all of the factors that prevent complete migration to the cloud.
The beauty of cloud servers is their flexibility. There’s a solution for every requirement – if you know what you’re looking for.
We offer a selection of private cloud services that can get you up and running quickly. For more information, to discuss the available options or for assistance with specific requirements, contact our team.
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