There is little functional difference between a public and private cloud platform. Each empowers users with the capability to launch virtual servers in minutes, each is inherently scalable, and each can be controlled, integrated, and automated via an API.
But from the perspective of an enterprise organization, public and private clouds platforms have meaningful cost, compliance, and complexity differences, and it’s up to each business to assess its particular needs before coming to a decision about which cloud platform is the best choice.
As Adam Stern puts it:
“When considering a move to the cloud, companies must evaluate these two functionally similar technologies and assess the appropriateness of each for their needs. They must look at the specific applications and processes they want to transition to a cloud-based infrastructure, and factor in security, compliance, cost and scalability before deciding which of the two options aligns most closely with their business strategies.”
In this article, I want to lay out some of the key differences between public and private clouds so that decision-makers can compare each modality to the needs of their business.
There’s no reason — broadly speaking — that a public cloud platform should be any less secure than a private cloud platform. A well-engineered public cloud platform presents more-or-less the same security risks as a private cloud platform; the true risk is in the details. Both public and private cloud platforms are likely to be more secure than any platform a company may build in-house.
However, some enterprise organizations prefer to keep sensitive data within systems over which they have control. Private clouds are an ideal choice for companies that want to make absolutely certain that no other organization has access to the physical infrastructure on which their data is hosted and processed.
While it certainly possible to achieve compliance with a range of industry regulatory frameworks on a public cloud platform, it’s often easier if a company can guarantee that the infrastructure isn’t shared. For companies that need to conform to PCI DSS, Sarbanes-Oxley, or HIPAA, a private cloud provides an isolated single-user infrastructure environment with greater insight into how security is implemented.
A key benefit of the public cloud is almost limitless scalability. At the level of the virtual environment, both public and private clouds are capable of quickly deploying virtual servers in-line with demand, but private clouds are limited to the physical hardware that an organization has available to it.
Public cloud users don’t have to worry about scaling the physical layer; that’s handled transparently by the cloud provider. Hosted private cloud users can also scale their platform, but the addition of new physical nodes is likely to take somewhat longer. In many cases that isn’t an issue because server utilization is predictable and manageable, and scaling the physical infrastructure layer can be done quickly and efficiently, but if an organization demands maximum elasticity from its platform, the public cloud may be the best option.
A private cloud puts the entirety of the platform’s resources, including IO, processing power, memory, and storage at the disposal of a single organization. That makes a private cloud the perfect choice for applications — including financial, scientific, and big data applications — that depend on the lowest possible latencies.
There is no one-size-fits-all cloud platform. Every organization should consider the specific needs of their business or project, and choose the modality that best suits their desired strategic outcome.
If you’d like to discuss the mix of cloud services that will help your organization make the most of its infrastructure investment, ServerMania’s cloud experts stand ready to help and advise.