Types of Cloud Computing: Private, Public and Hybrid Clouds

A recent study conducted by KPMG found that 81% of businesses were either evaluating cloud services, planned a cloud implementation or had already implemented a cloud strategy. Fewer than one in 10 said they had no immediate plans to start using the cloud. No matter how businesses decide to move to the cloud, one thing's clear: they are moving to the cloud.

With cloud computing technology, large pools of resources can be connected through private or public networks. This technology simplifies infrastructure planning and provides dynamically scalable infrastructure for cloud based applications, data, and file storage. Businesses can choose to deploy applications on Public, Private, Hybrid clouds or the newer Community Cloud.

What are the differences between these types of cloud computing, and how can you determine the right cloud path for your organization? Here are some fundamentals of each to help with the decision-making process.

Public

Public clouds are made available to the general public by a service provider who hosts the cloud infrastructure. Generally, public cloud providers like Amazon AWS, Microsoft and Google own and operate the infrastructure and offer access over the Internet. With this model, customers have no visibility or control over where the infrastructure is located. It is important to note that all customers on public clouds share the same infrastructure pool with limited configuration, security protections and availability variances.

Public Cloud customers benefit from economies of scale, because infrastructure costs are spread across all users, allowing each individual client to operate on a low-cost, “pay-as-you-go” model. Another advantage of public cloud infrastructures is that they are typically larger in scale than an in-house enterprise cloud, which provides clients with seamless, on-demand scalability. These clouds offer the greatest level of efficiency in shared resources; however, they are also more vulnerable than private clouds.

A public cloud is the obvious choice when:

    • Your standardized workload for applications is used by lots of people, such as e-mail.
    • You need to test and develop application code.
    • You need incremental capacity (the ability to add compute resources for peak times).
    • You’re doing collaboration projects.

Private

Private cloud is cloud infrastructure dedicated to a particular organization. Private clouds allow businesses to host applications in the cloud, while addressing concerns regarding data security and control, which is often lacking in a public cloud environment.  It is not shared with other organizations, whether managed internally or by a third-party, and it can be hosted internally or externally.

There are two variations of private clouds:

  1. On-Premise Private Cloud: This type of cloud is hosted within an organization’s own facility. A businesses IT department would incur the capital and operational costs for the physical resources with this model. On-Premise Private Clouds are best used for applications that require complete control and configurability of the infrastructure and security.
  2. Externally Hosted Private Cloud:  Externally hosted private clouds are also exclusively used by one organization, but are hosted by a third party specializing in cloud infrastructure. The service provider facilitates an exclusive cloud environment with full guarantee of privacy. This format is recommended for organizations that prefer not to use a public cloud infrastructure due to the risks associated with the sharing of physical resources.

Undertaking a private cloud project requires a significant level and degree of engagement to virtualize the business environment, and it will require the organization to reevaluate decisions about existing resources. Private clouds are more expensive but also more secure when compared to public clouds. An Info-Tech survey shows that 76% of IT decision-makers will focus exclusively on the private cloud, as these clouds offer the greatest level of security and control.

When is a Private Cloud for you?

    • You need data sovereignty but want cloud efficiencies
    • You want consistency across services
    • You have more server capacity than your organization can use
    • Your data center must become more efficient
    • You want to provide private cloud services

Hybrid

Hybrid Clouds are a composition of two or more clouds (private, community or public) that remain unique entities but are bound together offering the advantages of multiple deployment models. In a hybrid cloud, you can leverage third party cloud providers in either a full or partial manner; increasing the flexibility of computing. Augmenting a traditional private cloud with the resources of a public cloud can be used to manage any unexpected surges in workload. 

Hybrid cloud architecture requires both on-premise resources and off-site server based cloud infrastructure. By spreading things out over a hybrid cloud, you keep each aspect of your business in the most efficient environment possible. The downside is that you have to keep track of multiple cloud security platforms and ensure that all aspects of your business can communicate with each other.

Here are a couple of situations where a hybrid environment is best:

    • Your company wants to use a SaaS application but is concerned about security.
    • Your company offers services that are tailored for different vertical markets. You can use a public cloud to interact with the clients but keep their data secured within a private cloud.
    • You can provide public cloud to your customers while using a private cloud for internal IT.

Community

A community cloud is a is a multi-tenant cloud service model that is shared among several or organizations and that is governed, managed and secured commonly by all the participating organizations or a third party managed service provider.

Community clouds are a hybrid form of private clouds built and operated specifically for a targeted group. These communities have similar cloud requirements and their ultimate goal is to work together to achieve their business objectives. 

The goal of community clouds is to have participating organizations realize the benefits of a public cloud with the added level of privacy, security, and policy compliance usually associated with a private cloud. Community clouds can be either on-premise or off-premise.

Here are a couple of situations where a community cloud environment is best:

    • Government organizations within a state that need to share resoures
    • A private HIPAA compliant cloud for a group of hospitals or clinics
    • Telco community cloud for telco DR to meet specific FCC regulations

Cloud computing is about shared IT infrastructure or the outsourcing of a company's technology.  It is essential to examine your current IT infrastructure, usage and needs to determine which type of cloud computing can help you best achieve your goals.  Simply, the cloud is not one concrete term, but rather a metaphor for a global network and how to best utilize its advantages depends on your individual cloud focus.

Image Credit: Ohio ERC