Private clouds can be expensive, large scale projects that are carried out over a number of years. They’re designed to offer customers near-limitless capacity and a cost-effective way of consolidating their physical server footprint. However, the future of the private cloud is a bit hazy with many large enterprises choosing to keep a large proportion of their IT services in-house so that they can retain more control, but more importantly to meet regulatory requirements. The costs involved have meant that many businesses have been taking a staggered approach to cloud migration, instead choosing to move as old hardware reaches the end of its useful life rather than moving everything over in one go.
Big companies moving aggressively towards the public cloud
With a private cloud, a business will purchase an environment of a pre-agreed capacity; this capacity can be assigned to virtual machines so that a tailored infrastructure can be created. However, the drawback of this are that the capacity could at some point become limiting, or the customer may fail to utilise the capacity effectively and could be left with a large amount of redundant resources.
The public cloud on the other hand provides an abundance of resources that customers can access in the same way that they’d be able to in the private cloud, the difference being that they’re only paying for their usage and not a pre-defined infrastructure that may not completely engage with their requirements in the long-term.
Hosted solutions represent cost-effective support strategy
Hosted solutions are private cloud products that are sold by web hosting companies; customers are provided with their own private cloud infrastructure, but the underlying hardware is owned and supported by the hosting company. Whilst these solutions require only a small initial outlay, in the long-term they can prove to be the most costly option as you will be paying the same price every month for as long as you utilise the service, whereas if you invest in your own hardware then whether you pay for the equipment outright or get it on finance, once the balance is paid off the hardware will still have a residual value. However, for many the attraction of hosted services is the level of support that accompanies these packages.
IT support can be a major expense for businesses of any size, and a hosted solution is one way in which this cost can be cut since the expense of support will be included in the price for the private cloud, reducing the need for private cloud customers to retain their own internal IT departments. The issue with retaining an internal IT department for such purposes is that you will have to pay them even when there may not necessarily be any work for them to do, whereas for a lower cost you can call on the cloud provider’s support team to offer assistance whenever you need them. Outsourced support also has the benefit of being 24 hours, whilst if you were to maintain an IT department internally on such hours then the cost would likely be very prohibitive.
Hosted solutions may represent the most cost-effective solution for businesses looking for a package that combines support with the service, but a hosted solution can be prohibitive for some, citing the lack of control over what hardware is used and there being no physical access to the servers.
Mixing the clouds
There is very few companies that have a need to migrate their entire infrastructure to the cloud, in scenarios where existing hardware is not yet at the end of its useful life or particular applications are better suited to dedicated hardware, businesses are likely to stall the migration in favour of moving things over at a time that will be least disruptive and most financially sensible. Hybrid cloud products let businesses utilise a bit of everything; public cloud servers can be integrated with a private cloud infrastructure, whilst all of this can be configured to work with a business’s existing dedicated hardware infrastructure – even if this hardware is hosted internally or at a remote location.
Such an approach to the cloud enables business to tailor a platform that is complimentary of all of their requirements; some view the cloud as trying to provide a ‘one size fits all’ solution when there’s some aspects that may be better off hosted in-house or on dedicated hardware, and hybrid cloud products let businesses utilise their existing platforms and make use of new technologies concurrently.
The hybrid cloud could be a catalyst for utilising the private cloud in the future. Rather than businesses purchasing and maintaining a single private cloud environment, the hybrid connector will enable them to pick and choose the cloud elements that they use.
The impact of regulatory requirements
Most businesses have to work to regulatory requirements dictating how the personal information of their customers can be handled and these requirements have in some cases been restricting the level to which an organisation can engage with the private cloud. Using banks and financial institutions as an example, regulations prevent them from holding any personally identifiable information and details in a cloud environment; whilst anonymised data can be held in the cloud, any identifiable information has to be hosted on their own internal systems. It is for this reason that such establishments have been utilising a hybrid approach since this enables them to cut their IT costs and tap into the latest technologies without breaking the rules the govern their industry.
I would say that the private cloud does have a sustainable future, primarily with larger enterprises for which it isn’t possible to share a hosting environment with any other users. Whilst I don’t expect to see too many standalone private cloud environments, a private cloud as part of a hybrid solution will enable customers to choose where they host which services and a mix of public, private and dedicated means that there will always be a platform available for whatever a specific applications requirements may be. It won’t disappear completely, but its use will decline slightly as customers realise the cost benefits of the public cloud and the private benefits of retaining a certain proportion of services in-house.