Though the debate is not as old, nor as embattled as say, the Operating System wars, the public vs. private cloud controversy still rages.
Just listen to the conversations at any local tech gathering or meetup and you’ll catch snatches of conversation that pit one group firmly against the other.
The benefits of cloud computing as a whole are not in question. At the heart of the matter is the issue of control. While IT professionals may be loathe to give up control of their beloved servers and data, the bean counters are all but salivating over the perceived cost benefits of outsourcing these services.
Benefits – on both sides – do come with their own sets of risks. An organization must consider and weigh both sides before making a decision. However, the case for maintaining control of one’s own infrastructure is a strong one.
Before we can begin to make the case for the private cloud, we need to ensure a baseline understanding of each of the cloud computing concepts. To begin, let’s examine the three different types of cloud offerings:
The first and probably most well known type of cloud service is the public cloud. This is based on the model that dictates the service provider supply resources and functionality – such as applications, data storage and infrastructure – available to business as well as the general public over the Internet.
For public cloud, think a service like Dropbox, which provides file storage to the public - files that can be stored locally but also accessible from the web. They, like many providers, have free and paid versions of their services.
In terms of public cloud offerings, there are three services: IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service) and SaaS (Software as a Service).
IaaS: The Infrastructure as a service model refers to the outsourcing of equipment that supports operations. This includes virtual or physical servers, storage, computers, and other network infrastructure.
The vendor owns this equipment and handles purchasing, operating and maintenance. Rackspace Cloud and Amazon EC2 are service providers in this space.
SaaS: Under the Software as a service model, software or applications are hosted by the vendor and provided to customers over an Internet connection. Think Google Docs or Gmail, for example.
This is an area where the benefits may indeed outweigh the disadvantages. Applications are no longer tied to the desktop - and can be accessed by employees from a variety of locations, using multiple hardware platforms. SaaS also presents a cost savings via its pay-as-you-go model. Salesforce.com and Microsoft Office 365 are popular SaaS vendors.
PaaS: Platform as a service leverages hardware, operating systems, network capacity, and storage over the Internet. Customers can then rent virtualized servers in order to run applications. Where PaaS really shines is for testing and development.
Heroku and Microsoft Azure are examples of PaaS providers. They offer a wide range of platforms and operating systems, where settings changes and upgrades can be easily and quickly implemented.
The second type of cloud service is popular among business - the private cloud. Under this model, an organization’s IT department effectively acts as the service provider for internal corporate customers. Everything is stored or managed in-house, likely with only data backups stored off-site.
This scenario appeals to organizations that want more control over their infrastructure and inherently have more trust and confidence in their internal IT departments than an outside entity.