To go private or not to go private; is that really the question?
A few weeks ago, I posted some thoughts on the public vs. private vs. hybrid debate, concluding that it won’t really make much difference in the long run because both public and private infrastructure is becoming less costly and more easily manageable, and the rise of software-defined architectures will shift the focus to the services that are provided, not the infrastructure they sit upon.
Since then, the news for the private cloud seems to only have gotten worse. As ActiveState Software’s VP Bernard Golden pointed out to cio.com this week, Amazon and Microsoft are eating the IT world while OpenStack struggles to find itself, and all the while Google is forging ahead with advanced machine learning and streamlined frameworks to make its cloud easier and more capable of meeting emerging enterprise needs than anything they can hope to do on their own. In Golden’s view, this will lead to a long, slow but inevitable death for the private cloud.
The saving grace for private clouds, however, is that they are necessary to build the hybrid cloud – and who doesn’t want one of those? But as InfoWorld Editor-in-Chief Eric Knorr notes, if this is the plan then the enterprise is already way behind the curve. To be successful, a hybrid cloud needs private infrastructure that can scale and is governed by a high degree of automation. Of the three leading hybrid developers – Microsoft, VMware and OpenStack – only Microsoft has a compelling strategy to implement a private cloud, and it is daunting. An Azure stack integrated into Dell, HPE or Lenovo hardware requires a minimum of 12 physical cores with 96 GB of RAM, and preferably 16 cores with 128 GB. This kind of system lends itself more to scale-up architectures than scale-out, and will very likely be undermined by Microsoft’s own Operations Management Suite that delivers full cloud control in a low-cost SaaS package.
As with most things infrastructure-related these days, the type of cloud you deploy depends upon the use case, says TechBlocks Marketing Director Annie Bustos. A private cloud is more customizable and offers greater oversight of the entire stack, from hardware to the service layer. That makes it more amenable to extremely sensitive data and applications, particularly those in highly regulated environments with stringent compliance standards, such as finance and health care. And it should be noted that the difference between public and private has more to do with the shared, multi-tenant nature of the infrastructure, not its location. So increasingly, firms are turning to the hosted private model when warranted, allowing them to launch services quickly and maintain access to cutting-edge technologies while still keeping budgets in check.
So is the private cloud doomed to failure? Not entirely, and not anytime soon. Organizations of all sizes still have a wealth of valuable hardware at their disposal, so rather than simply chuck it all and migrate the entire data footprint to the cloud, it makes more sense to leverage it as long as possible by enhancing it with greater efficiency, flexibility and ease of use – that is, make it more cloud-like. In the meantime, emerging applications of the kind that are disrupting markets will likely be more at home on public resources, either shared or single-tenant.
So when all is said and done, it appears that the enterprise will get to have its private cloud and use it too. The only remaining question is whether the boxes that support it are in the office, across town, or on the other side of the world.