When the Private Cloud Doesn’t Cut It

By Alex Smith

Many businesses assume that private cloud holds all the answers to cloud security. They think it’s the way to get all of the benefits of cloud computing without worrying about data breaches. What they don’t realize is that although the private cloud segregates a company’s resources, it’s tough to scale a private cloud to accommodate big spikes in demand.

To get the peace of mind that comes with data isolation alongside the scalability of the public cloud, many organizations try hybrid cloud deployment. It’s a challenge, though, to create a private cloud that’s capable of both running existing assets and shifting excess workloads to the public cloud. To build a better hybrid, some organizations have turned to Eucalyptus, a company that offers an AWS-compatible private cloud. Others assume that they don’t need AWS, and they look to providers like Mirantis, HP, or Red Hat for some kind of OpenStack solution.

Ultimately, the private cloud concept isn’t sustainable unless an enterprise is large enough to achieve the kind of economy of scale that the public cloud provides within its private cloud. For most businesses, the struggle to build a private cloud isn’t worth it when the public cloud is ready and waiting.

The Private Cloud Problem

One of the chief reasons that companies reach out to public cloud providers is that they can’t provision enough data center capacity to run everything on their own. When businesses create a private cloud deployment, the capacity problem still remains. The private cloud simply can’t scale to periods of heavy demand. What companies gain in control, they sacrifice in flexibility.

Private clouds rely heavily on virtualization, which keeps deployment costs lower. The OpenStack project has the best of intentions, but its sprawl and lack of focus have almost made it impractical for the enterprise private cloud. Companies that want their private cloud to be as automated as possible choose tight, proprietary systems like VMware.

When the private cloud has already been heavily virtualized using Hyper-V or VMware, it’s not feasible to rip everything out and rebuild it in OpenStack. Unfortunately, Hyper-V and VMware never integrate perfectly with AWS or other public clouds, which makes it challenging to truly scale.

Businesses that choose an offsite private cloud provider think that they get the supposed benefits of private cloud security without big investments in data center infrastructure. Even so, they still face the problem of having insufficient data center capacity. A company small enough not to need much capacity for its private cloud is a company that could operate much more cheaply in the public cloud.

Although private clouds sound more secure, and they feel more secure if companies run them within their own data centers, they’re only as secure as the company or cloud provider’s ability to protect them. Realistically, Amazon might be better at protecting a company’s data than the company’s IT department, and public cloud providers like Amazon are getting better at regulatory compliance. For most companies, even those in healthcare or financial services, it’s not worth it to trade the elasticity of the public cloud for a false feeling of security.

Most Companies Will Choose Hybrid

Ultimately, pure private clouds only make sense if you run a huge organization, like an enormous company or perhaps a state or federal government.

FedEx, for example, successfully built a private cloud-supporting data center in Colorado, but it had the funds and the user base to achieve the public cloud’s economy of scale.

Even so, to manage peak demand and to operate globally, FedEx has to offload some of its workload to public cloud providers. To build its private cloud, the company also had to rewrite every application to use the same software stack. Few businesses have that kind of internal IT capacity.

Although Eucalyptus has struggled next to its behemoth competitors, its ability to provide an AWS-integrated private cloud signifies that the company’s moment might have come. Although Amazon has always claimed that private clouds make no sense, customer demand has made it more open to hybrid cloud deployments. Unless an enterprise has the GDP of a small country, private cloud isn’t going to be a long-term winner. When the private cloud hits its capacity limit, sending customers elsewhere, it becomes an unqualified loser.

Alex Smith is a freelance writer who touches on various niches that relate to his everyday life. In addition to contributing great content he also enjoys traveling and getting to know the world around him while continuing his education. Over the years he has built up many strong relationships within the blogging community and loves sharing his useful tips with others.