cloud infrastructure - deciding what to put in the public and private components

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Public, private, and hybrid are the three primary forms of cloud in use by organizations. As its name suggests, hybrid is a blend of the private and public models. A company with a hybrid cloud is able to choose the public or private setting for each given scenario. Michael Moore notes that companies will typically use private cloud when they need the strongest security and public cloud for any systems that they want to be as mobile and scalable as possible. 

Hybrid cloud: it’s about choice

Anyone who is paying much attention to business IT knows that adoption of cloud is widespread. The extent to which cloud has become standard is mind-boggling, with infrastructure that incorporates numerous public and private clouds implemented in almost 95% of organizations in 31 nations, per IDC. This multicloud scenario is complicated, with Kentik reporting that more than a third of firms say cloud is the technology responsible for the greatest network complexity.

Given this challenge, organizations are increasingly turning to the hybrid cloud model to better manage the complexity. A hybrid cloud makes it possible for organizations to improve the agility of their systems, quickly develop and release apps, and run workloads in the settings that are best for specific situations.

Often organization will choose to run some of their less sensitive systems externally while keeping their more critical data within their own data center, noted Nick Ismail, concurring with Moore. Using a hybrid cloud also allows an organization, based on analysis of cost and capacity, to shift workloads between public and private systems. 

Deciding what to store in your private cloud

It is a matter of trust, really, that organizations want to handle certain data in their own private clouds. Oliver Rist and Juan Martinez noted that choosing to run systems yourself or to use the systems of an external provider is similar, in a way, to deciding whether you want your cash to be in your pocket or held by another person.

Rist and Martinez said that this idea of money being held by you or someone else is overly simplistic, though, since decisions to move data outside an organization often have to do with the resources available to the organization. To extend the analogy, if you have a sack of money, you might not have a secure location to store it. A credible person you know might work at Fort Knox and be able to store the cash there for you while allowing you access to it as needed. Going back to the issue of trust, it would certainly make sense to store the money in Fort Knox if you trust your friend who works there.

Most small and midsize businesses lack capital to be able to create a high-grade security system for themselves in-house, so public cloud is attractive even for more sensitive data. After all, public cloud has much better security than many people think, as discussed below. 

Deciding on your public cloud partner

Using an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) company (i.e., a public cloud server provider) gives you access to their physical hardware, storage devices, and switches for the management of your data. The beauty of this setup is that you are not in charge of figuring out how and where to move your workloads if a server goes down.

Clouds that are set up in-house also do not give you the same in-the-moment flexibility as a public cloud. For instance, when you think that you will get a spike in hits to your site during a certain period (think the holidays), you can launch a public cloud machine just for that period of time, then shift off it once traffic is back at a normal level.

If you do use public cloud, you only need to fund the resources you use. If you use your own data center instead, it is necessary to buy additional servers so that your capacity meets demand during that short period. When the rush is over, suddenly you are grossly underutilizing your hardware.

Finding a public cloud provider is not as simple as looking at a list of technical parameters and determining the host that best meets them. Keep in mind that you should be on the same page as your provider, advised Rist and Martinez, who added that “[y]ou’ll truly be partnering with your vendor to ensure the performance and security of your business data.” 

Considering the security of public cloud

Hybrid cloud is essentially about dividing your workloads into public and private sides, and, as indicated above, security is often the primary consideration for these decisions. The basic notion is that your data center is secure, so the important data should go there; only unimportant systems should go to cloud. While that may seem reasonable, it really is not, as suggested by the Fort Knox analogy above and by various cloud thought-leaders.

Public cloud is a setting in which many infrastructure and data security experts are on staff, which leads to better all-around protection than is typically available through an on-premise datacenter. David Linthicum noted that IT professionals tend to think they are more adept at security than outsiders would be. However, he stressed that “public cloud is more secure than the typical data center.”

Linthicum argued that public cloud vendors have stronger security tools installed and pay more attention to vulnerabilities within their ecosystems than is true of most organizations. Consider that public cloud providers are exciting entities for hackers to attack since the data they hold and process is so extensive. The solutions that are deployed system-wide by IaaS vendors are typically cutting-edge, featuring artificial intelligence and pattern matching capabilities.

It only makes sense that cybercriminals would opt for simpler projects than cloud providers, which is why they instead go after on-premise data centers. That is backed up by an October 2016 analysis at the Infosec Institute, which found that most successful attacks on enterprises that have been covered in the news have been of in-house rather than cloud systems.

Quentin Hardy, deputy technology editor for the New York Times, agreed with that assessment, noting that the majority of headline-grabbing cyberattacks were not of public cloud but of traditional server setups. To go back to Fort Knox again, Hardy also compared data to money in these considerations, saying that a bank vault (an external location in which money from numerous people is held) is a better place to store money than within your dresser – because the former, said Hardy, has “got more protection from bad guys.”

Setting up the entire hybrid cloud with a hosting service

Given the protections that are standardly built into public cloud, many businesses decide to go “all-in” with public and skip private cloud entirely. That is true of many SMBs and startups, but it is also true of some major enterprises. The most prominent example is probably General Electric, which announced in 2014 that it was eliminating 90 percent of its internal data centers, moving the systems they supported to public cloud.

However, there is another option that gets the data out of your own data centers without having to place complete confidence in the public setting: third-party-hosted hybrid cloud. That scenario charges the web host with creating an architecture that couples their current public cloud with a private cloud (one for your exclusive use) on your behalf.

Your hybrid cloud partner

Whether it makes more sense to your organization to look to an outside environment for an entire hybrid deployment or just its public portion, it is critical to work with a company that you can trust. At Total Server Solutions, our infrastructure meets American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) standards, and our cloud hosting boasts the highest levels of performance in the industry. See how we make our cloud so fast.