There are a lot of reasons you may be thinking about moving to a private cloud environment. Perhaps you need more security, or maybe you feel the risks of public cloud have outweighed the benefits. But you’re still not certain that this version of web-scale networking is right for your company, and you’re wondering what’s involved in moving from a public cloud to a private one. Not surprisingly, there are several factors to consider when making the move from public to private clouds. Public clouds have their place, but there are many good reasons to switch. In this post we’ll covers some private cloud tips and considerations.

For an even deeper look at reasons you may want to switch to a private cloud, check out our white paper, “The era of private cloud has arrived.” 

Level set: Defining public, private and hybrid clouds

Private clouds take several different forms: semi-private cloud, virtual private cloud (hybrid), and fully private cloud. Each one has their advantages and disadvantages.

Semi-private clouds are similar to public clouds where the cloud is being hosted by a provider, but the access to the cloud is through private channels and not over the Internet. This reduces the problem of lag due to issues with the Internet and keeps your data relatively secure. Instead of dealing with the public having access to the same resources, you have a select few businesses which share the resource allocations. This is a robust system that helps keep costs low and provides a fair amount of security, and potentially some redundancy as your data is primarily accessed through the private cloud.

Virtual-private clouds (VPNs) are within the public clouds and have their own IP addresses assigned to them. In effect, the resources within a public cloud are set aside for use by the user and thus is considered “private.” The cloud infrastructure isn’t shared by other users because of this, thus making it useful for those companies that wish to have the flexibility that the Internet offers, while implementing a level of security not found in public clouds.

Lastly, there are fully private clouds. Fully private clouds are either hosted on or offsite and are within a private WAN. They do not use the Internet. Because the private clouds are on designated hardware (whether in your own company’s data center or at another datacenter, hosted by a contractor), this is often the most secure way to implement a cloud. Those who are looking for HIPAA compliant servers will opt for the fully private cloud.

Private cloud tips: Consider why you’re making the switch

Those companies that switch to a private cloud often do so for security reasons. The company has little control over where the data is nor how secure it might be. This is a huge issue for those companies that deal with sensitive data such as medical and financial records. For example, due to the HIPAA Act, medical caregivers face big fines if the data is processed through non-HIPAA compliant machines. Public clouds are not compliant nor do they have adequate safeguards necessary to protect the data.

Another issue with public cloud has to do with real-time processing. Major cloud providers have regional data centers with large internet uplinks all around the world. When you create cloud images, you choose the data center you want them hosted in. If you are too far away from one of those data centers, chances are you are also too far away from a data center to host your private cloud that has sufficient internet speed to accomplish what you need. In terms of real-time processing, there may be a serious time lag that can cost the company thousands, if not millions, of dollars. While it is possible to design your public cloud to account for these latency issues, it requires deep knowledge about your public cloud tooling. This is especially true with financial institutions.

Another very real concern for public cloud consumers revolves around control of your businesses most sensitive data. Using public cloud resources can arm your competitors with data. If you store your data in a public cloud, that cloud has a very good view into how you run your business, and that knowledge can potentially be used against your company in the future.

While public clouds give a low-cost solution at the start, over time, this option can become quite costly. Think of it like owning or renting a house. If you’re looking for a short-term solution, then renting space might be easier and more affordable. But if you’re going to expand your family and wealth (re: customers and data), then your rent will eventually become more expensive than a mortgage. When you scale with a public cloud environment, migration gets slow and scaling gets expensive.

Lastly, there’s the issue of culpability. When there’s an issue with the public cloud, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get a timely response. When you have a private cloud, you either contact your own employees or the contractors who maintain your cloud to ensure the problem is being worked on.

Private cloud tips: Are you looking at onsite or offsite implementation?

Once you determine what type private cloud, your next step is to decide on onsite or offsite implementation. Onsite implementation is usually done for fully private clouds. If you have a datacenter where your team or a contracting company can add several servers and maintain them. The upside to this is that you know where the equipment is so you and your team can act fast should there be a problem or if you need to upgrade. You will also have lower latencies due to all aspects of the environment being hosted in close proximity to one another.

The downside is that you will need to have enough basic infrastructure to handle the necessary throughputs and power requirements private clouds require. Furthermore, to provide appropriate scalability, you may find your company will have to purchase or lease more equipment in the future to maintain an agile response. This is one of the many reasons we believe in using whiteboxed hardware — as it allows you to scale more efficiently and economically.

Offsite implementation is often performed through a contracting company. You can have any type of private network in this scenario. The downside of using offsite private clouds is the lack of overall control over them. You can’t simply send your team to the datacenter within your building to fix a problem — you’re going to have to rely on the contractors to make certain the cloud is running smoothly and that they’ll answer the phone when there is a problem. In cases with virtual private clouds, you may not know where the private cloud actually resides. Is it in the next county, the next city, the next state or halfway across the world?

Private cloud tips: In-house or contracted support?

Depending on the type of private cloud your company opts for will often determine whether you choose in-house or contracted support. When dealing with semi-private and virtual-private clouds, your company will almost always be using contracted support when resolving issues with the cloud. If you have an onsite private cloud, you may opt for either in-house or contracted support.

With a disaggregated model and Cumulus Linux, you can leverage in-house skill sets and Linux knowledge to enable an efficient NetDevOps workflow that streamlines processes and remediation. To see what other types of benefits you can get from building a private cloud with Cumulus Linux, check out our customer e-book where you’ll find a variety of customer stories organized by business benefit.