All too often, I’m asked should I go cloud, should I stay on-premise, should I go public or private cloud? This is not a new question in today’s technology decision-making process, its just more people in an organization are becoming aware of the cloud as it invades our personal lives and provides some fresh products, services, features and convenience to our private lives. For example, I have iCloud which is Apple’s Cloud Services. I take a photo with my iPhone, within 10 seconds, that photo is on my iPad, Macbook Pro, Macbook Air, iMac, and even my PC. It’s also available on any device with a web browser and Internet access. If I create a document and place it on my desktop on my MacBook Pro, it’s automatically available on my other desktops within seconds. My perception of the cloud is changing subconsciously because of how this technology is assisting me behind the scenes making decisions that make my life more convenient. Microsoft and Amazon are the big players among thousands out there that offer cloud services. You can spin up a Windows, or even Unix machine, by clicking a few buttons and then the software goes to work accomplishing the task for you. This automation makes cloud-based services look cool.
What is Cloud?
Let’s start off by breaking down what lies under the hood of this word Cloud. Cloud is a buzzword, a subliminal message, a very successful marketing ploy that the world fell in love with. The illusion and magic that has been created with this word draw’s people into the idea or subconscious belief, their data is floating above their heads safe, secure, and available anytime. Well, let me tell you something that may diminish your excitement or fantasy about the cloud. The Cloud is a building or buildings with rows of racks, full of servers, serving up applications, storing files, providing email, sync your contacts, folders, and files. The Cloud has been around for a very very very long time. The marketing people just repackaged the product they are selling and gave it a cool name. The world over time adopted it. The cloud is not without its flaws, risks, and even rewards. But the idea it’s something new or a game changer, it’s not. Cloud Providers buy servers from the same places you can buy servers, put them in data centers, and provide you a service over those computers.
Why Use Cloud?
The next question I am asked: “should I use the cloud or should I have servers onsite? Well, that’s a loaded question that requires some thought, discussions, review or risks vs. reward, cost, etc. There is also two cloud offerings out there that need a review when looking at Cloud Solutions. Most people are unaware of this. They are Public Cloud and Private Cloud.
Public cloud in its simplest terms is sharing space on a server that several others use at the same time. Think of it as a rental car that you pay to use for a particular amount of time when you were done, you drop it off, and someone else uses that car for a specific amount of time, then drops it off. So the Public Cloud is NOT dedicated to you, and all consumers share the resources on that cloud There could be hundreds of other companies using that machine, and each has to share the resources.
Private cloud in its simplest terms is a dedicated server or servers in a rack at a data center/colocation facility that is set up, configured, and dedicated to your organization. These servers are yours, and you can use them in almost anyway you like. This is like leasing a car for a term, and at the conclusion of the lease, you turn the car in and walk away after removing your personal items from the car. The advantage here is, this car is yours, and no one else can schedule to rent it out. You are in control the server and how its resources are allocated. Furthermore, your data, applications and Intellectual Property is not sitting on a server shared by several others.
NOTE: FBI/Police subpoenas could take your infrastructure offline in a shared environment or open you up to being part of an investigation, or lawsuit, that you did not sign up for simply by sharing the virtual real-estate. It’s no different to being subject to search if you’re in a vehicle and the police find probable cause to search that vehicle you become an unfortunate victim of circumstance.
On Premise in its simplest terms is a server or servers located onsite at your place of business, you install the operating system, applications, etc. Some people build what I call OnPremise Private Cloud. They take the servers and add a HyperVisor to the server allowing them to run several Virtual Machines on a single piece of equipment. There are several HyperVisors out there. A couple of popular ones are VMWARE ESX and Microsoft Hyper-V. OnPremise solution doesn’t always mean the servers are onsite at your facility. You can also purchase or lease servers; they arrive, you then rent rack space from a DataCenter/Colocation facility, and install these machines yourselves, sometimes they can be located in a facility serving up Private and Public Cloud solutions.
What I’m generally not asked, but I offer up as an option is looking at a Hybrid Solution where you use a combination of Cloud and OnPremise options based on what’s best for the business.
So what we have learned so far is Cloud is merely a buzz word for servers in a datacenter that some intelligent marketing people conjured up, repackaged, and sold to the world. There are a few different types of cloud options primarily a private cloud where you are leasing the servers. It’s dedicated to you, and, you maintain some control over them. A public cloud is a server that is sharing its resources with several subscribers at the same time, and you have no control over how the allocation takes place.
Pro’s vs. Con’s:
As with each solution, there are Pro’s and Con’s that need to be considered as we move through the checklist to determine the best option. Here are just a few of the Pro’s and Con’s that were on the top of my mind while writing this article. This is not a complete list and should only be used as a guide to building a list. Let’s start out with the Pro’s of a Public Cloud Solution
Pro’s of a Public Cloud Solution:
- Easy signup
- Quickly order the resources needed and spin them up fast
- Inexpensive initially
- No commitment can turn on and off anytime (most of the time)
- Adequate support for the basics
- Basic level of backup typically included
- No need to manage and maintain physical hardware
- No colocation or data center type responsibilities or expenses
Con’s of a Public Cloud Solution:
- Shared resources can become unreliable, slow, inaccessible
- You are not in control
- Someone else maintains and has access to your data
- Costly support beyond the basic support needs
- Backup limited. Restores for other users could impact your data unexpectedly.
- Risk of potential search and seizure
- The danger of being hacked or attacked simply by being a neighbor of another client that shares the same resource you are on.
Pro’s of a Private Cloud Solution:
- Hardware dedicated to you
- Resources in some cases can be added relatively quickly in some instances within 24hrs
- You’re not sharing the space with others, so security and privacy and intrusion protections are in your favor.
- Backup data on your terms your way and restore on your terms your way
- Participate in hardware choice, configuration, deployment procedures
- Lease or Own the hardware
- Gain console access to the physical hardware
- Move physical hardware from one cloud provider to another or even bring on-premise
- Control the length you use, retire, replace the hardware.
Con’s of a Private Cloud Solution:
- You now are in the business or owning or leasing hardware
- Hardware can fail, and you may be responsible
- The need for extended support contracts with hardware vendors such as 4x24x7 (4-hour response 24hours a day, seven days a week) which cost up front but save your bacon in a hardware failure scenario.
- The need to have multiple physical machines and use high availability or fault tolerance technologies to minimize or eliminate your downtime.
- Backup is now your responsibility. Procuring, managing, and maintain a backup strategy is part of having a private cloud. (Some providers that offer private cloud solutions will do this for you for a fee.)
- The need to go onsite depending on the need for physical console connection or lack of an IP-based KVM that allows for remote management of console.
These are just some of the things to think about. Obviously, each scenario has its pro’s and con’s and every situation in a disaster isn’t going to happen, it’s just a possible scenario. We haven’t even dived into the pro’s and con’s of having an on-premise solution. There is merit for this type of situation however given the availability of high-speed Internet pipes; I usually recommend people look at renting colo and moving those physical machines into a data center. Data centers are many-time referred to as physical cloud facilities or just plain old cloud. If you think about it, the word cloud as I mentioned previously is merely a marketing buzz word. Calling a data-center or collocation facility a cloud facility makes complete sense.
Many data centers offer collocation space and also have a À la carte menu of options for other services that you can select from to maximize your investment in IT Infrastructure. It’s good to talk to them and see what they can offer. I will say, many of them want you to sign up for their Public or Leased Private Cloud solutions. This is where they make the most margins for their services. If you’re looking at owning your infrastructure and leasing a rack from the facility, just let them know that’s your intention. If they are respectful and care about what’s best for you and your decision process, they will focus on your vision and not their bottom line.
I feel like I have only glossed over this topic. I believe an entire mini book could be written about this topic and even then there is much to be considered. If you have questions, need guidance, or recommendations, don’t hesitate to post a comment or even reach out to me directly.
I wish you the best in your endeavor and future success.