Navigating the Cloud Conundrum – Public, Private or Hybrid?

While the concept of ‘computing as a service’ dates back to the 1960s, the explosion of cloud computing and hyperscale providers as we know it today is a more recent phenomenon. In recent years, particularly post-2020, a ‘cloud gold rush’ has swept across the business landscape. Driven by the pandemic, companies large and small have scrambled to transition their infrastructure applications to the cloud.

However, in their haste to benefit from its headline advantages, many organisations overlooked the full ramifications of their decisions. Now, questions are arising as to why cloud economics don’t always align with expectations, with many CIOs and IT directors finding that the promised savings are elusive, with hidden costs in bandwidth and overlooked payment plans complicating the picture. In many organisations, the cloud model now only truly makes sense if the strategy also leverages automation tools to deliver on its full potential. As a result, many IT professionals are now considering a fundamental question: is the cloud really all it was hyped up to be?

From Public to Private

So, where does that leave organisations who perhaps may be facing a cloud conundrum? For many, the answer lies in a strategic shift to the private cloud – a distinct approach that contrasts sharply with its public counterpart in a number of important ways:

Customisation: Tailored to specific needs, the private cloud allows for high levels of customisation and spreads costs over a longer duration. In this context, businesses can dictate the scale of their infrastructure, performance characteristics and compliance standards. This bespoke nature makes it particularly appealing for sectors with stringent regulatory demands or unique operational requirements.

Simplicity: The private cloud caters to volatile computing environments that might not be ideal for the public cloud. For companies with legacy systems or specialised software, for example, transitioning to a private cloud can provide a more controlled and gradual migration path, reducing disruption to ongoing operations.

Security: The private cloud also offers more control over data, a capability that is crucial for sensitive workloads. While public providers such as Azure offer high-quality security, private clouds offer more exclusive control. In sectors including finance and healthcare, where data privacy is paramount, the private cloud provides the necessary assurances, while the ability to monitor and manage data and access closely adds a layer of security that is often required in these industries.

Isolation: In addition, the isolated nature of private cloud environments significantly reduces the risk of resource contention, ensuring stable and predictable performance. This isolation is particularly beneficial for organisations running resource-intensive applications, as it guarantees the availability of computational power or storage resources as needed. Moreover, private clouds can offer superior network performance within an organisation, as the data does not have to leave the private network, which can be crucial for bandwidth-intensive applications.

Autonomy: Private clouds also enable organisations to maintain a higher degree of operational autonomy and control over their IT infrastructure. This control extends not just to the technical aspects but also to the governance of data and applications, allowing for a more tailored IT strategy that aligns closely with the organisation’s long-term goals and regulatory requirements.

Transformation: In the current environment where digital transformation is a major area of focus, the adaptability of private cloud infrastructure supports long-term scalability in a controlled environment, which is particularly beneficial for organisations on a transformation journey.

Best of Both Worlds: The Hybrid Cloud

In practical terms, however, every organisation will have a set of unique requirements, and there’s no universal solution that the cloud can deliver. In these circumstances, a hybrid cloud approach, blending the strengths of both private and public clouds, is arguably the most pragmatic strategy. It’s especially relevant for organisations running legacy software that might operate more effectively on older servers, while the hybrid model also enables a unified management approach across different infrastructures, benefiting from the cost efficiencies of each.

By adopting a hybrid cloud strategy, businesses can allocate resources more effectively, using the public cloud for scalable, less sensitive tasks while reserving the private cloud for critical, high-security workloads. This flexibility allows for better disaster recovery strategies and operational resilience. Hybrid cloud environments also facilitate innovation, enabling organisations to test new applications in a public cloud setting while maintaining core systems securely on-premises or in a private cloud.

It’s important to note that collaboration with experts is crucial to understanding the capabilities and maturity of different applications. Not every application will thrive in the cloud, and some may be better suited to more traditional solutions. Consulting with cloud architects and IT strategists can help businesses tailor their hybrid cloud environments, ensuring optimal performance and cost-effectiveness. As technology evolves, this balanced approach allows organisations to remain agile and adaptable, ready to harness new opportunities while maintaining a secure and stable IT foundation.

Chris Jackson

Chris Jackson is chief product and technology officer at Six Degrees. He is responsible for building cross-functional teams across the company and ensuring that technology is fully integrated into strategic business goals. In addition, Chris leads areas such as product strategy and customer experience. Prior to this, Chris held similar roles at Insendi and Thomas International and was director for cloud platforms at Pearson.

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