Private cloud vs. public cloud
in the data center

If you’re getting ready for a data center refresh or thinking about moving to a private cloud, this article is for you. We break down the major differences, benefits and use cases between each type of cloud environment, giving you the information you need to make the right choice for your organization. For a more in-depth look at business, budget and technical benefits, download the white paper. 

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When cloud computing became the hot topic of conversation several years ago, private clouds received less attention compared to public clouds, largely due to the popularity of products offered by industry leaders like Google and Amazon. As IT departments began the transition to a public cloud, its many related benefits were soon overshadowed by concerns over uptime assurances, overall control and security threats. A private cloud environment essentially lessens, if not eliminates, these concerns through a dedicated, single-tenant infrastructure.

However, determining when to move to a private cloud can be a daunting challenge. Fears over internal network technology constraints, possible transitional downtime, continuity of business services, associated costs, lost data and perhaps regulatory demands can cause many organizations to delay their transition.

Fortunately, Cumulus Networks makes the entire process seamless, painless and stress-free. The following paragraphs goes into more detail about determining which type of cloud environment is right for you, when you know it’s right for your organization to move to a private cloud and how Cumulus Networks helps with the process. If you'd like a few easy tips for moving to a private cloud environment, check out our blog post on the topic!

Private vs. public cloud

Companies today demand a web-scale IT network with a focus on improved agility and lowered associated costs. The need to continually reevaluate and reorganize a unique architecture to adapt to new or changing business goals is often a dizzying task. The management of dozens or perhaps even thousands of different applications, each written by different people, at different times and in different languages, requires detailed planning and oversight.

Some applications must be readily available for use by a company's customers, SaaS (software as a service) vendors, subcontractors or partners. Others are designed to be used by only internal staff. Ultimately, the organization must determine which cloud computing solution suits each application best: private, public or a hybrid of the two.

Public cloud

A public cloud solution is hosted and maintained by an external provider, such as Microsoft Azure or Amazon AWS. The outside provider essentially “owns” the cloud infrastructure and simply “leases” a portion to willing tenants for a monthly fee. Moving from internal servers to a public cloud has its fair share of attractive benefits, including improved scalability functions, enhanced reliability, and public cloud networking automation capabilities.

A managed cloud services provider can also save the organization time and money by maintaining the related infrastructure, addressing ongoing issues of load balancing, web servers, application servers and custom failover scripts. For some organizations, this may be very appealing. Others may want to possess more control over their cloud computing network, at least regarding certain, more complex applications.

Private cloud

Although public clouds have many advantages, most companies rarely deploy 100% of their applications to a public environment. In fact, for organizations still using on-premises infrastructure and are considering a private vs. public cloud solution, transitioning to a private cloud is often considered the far simpler choice logistically.

Private clouds can be configured to support any application, just like with traditional on-premises architecture. They are also the preferred choice for organizations dependent on certain legacy applications, many of which experience issues with poor performance when deployed through the more conventional public cloud solution. Private clouds are also attractive options for poorly written or infrequently used applications that may not be worth the extra cost and effort required for rewriting and migration to a public cloud.

Private clouds are a safe and easy way to test and develop new applications of any level of complexity. At Cumulus Networks, we offer a community-supported virtual appliance called Cumulus VX, which enables IT admins and engineers to preview and test new applications and the data center infrastructure efficiently, safely and at zero additional cost.

Regulatory compliance is often another obstacle to choosing a public cloud. For example, if your company is currently using Oracle RAC in combination with dedicated architecture for compliance, a common public cloud equivalent is the Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS), which is not HIPAA compliant.

Hybrid cloud

A hybrid cloud solution consists of a combination of both public and private clouds, often from multiple providers. By spreading out the organization’s applications over a hybrid cloud, IT departments can choose which environments provide the most efficient deployments possible for individual applications.

The downside to this popular solution is that the different security platforms require more extensive IT management expertise to ensure that all aspects of the business are communicating well with one another at all times. However, a hybrid cloud works well for companies offering services specifically tailored to different vertical markets. For example, the organization can use a public cloud to engage with clients while keeping their related data stored securely in a private cloud.

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Private cloud network design

For organizations in search of a web-scale networking solution with improved agility, scalability and cost efficiency, the private cloud solution offers an array of attractive advantages. Because a private cloud is easily configured to the company’s precise requirements and to suit the deployment needs of any application, many IT departments are now choosing to forgo the public cloud option entirely.

Cost efficiency

Private cloud architecture offers web-scale networking capabilities with improved scalability and agility at a significantly lower total cost ownership (TCO). Based on our own research, our customers have lowered their TCO by up to 60% using web-scale principles build a private cloud. Alternatively, with a public cloud environment, your organization would essentially only be “renting” the public cloud storage space limiting your ability to optimize resources, processes and scalability.

Improved security

Because private clouds are a single-tenant solution, the specific hardware, data centers and network capabilities can be designed with the highest levels of security. The threat of another company accidentally gaining access to your data center is eliminated entirely. Servers can be located within the network boundaries of the organization and managed by in-house IT staff. While public clouds do provide a high level of security, the added peace of mind of a private cloud solution goes unmatched.

Web-scale IT agility and continuity

Traditionally, organizations deploy private cloud solutions inside the firewall of the related intranet, which ensures optimum efficiency and performance. Even the best applications rarely function as smoothly or efficiently as when they are deployed through a private cloud environment. Meanwhile, what would happen to your company’s operations should the managed public cloud provider go out of business? With a private cloud environment, organizations never need to worry about having to migrate the entirety of their data and applications into another new cloud solution ever again.

Resource optimization

When organizations choose a “locked” vendor like AWS or Azure, your organization needs to ensure that each application you use ties with a proprietary feature on the public cloud, and that each impacted individual at your organization is trained in that proprietary program. With a completely open, Linux operating system, your entire stack is speaking the same language. You can leverage existing Linux talent or train operators on Linux knowing that no further certification will be required.

Greater control

Because the hardware for a private cloud is located either on site or via a third-party co-location facility, organizations enjoy more control over their data storage and application management. The IT department maintains complete oversight of the entire system. Staffers can intervene immediately should any changes need to be made. The IT department can also carefully monitor the deployment of applications while using advanced analytics to prevent disruptions or bottlenecks.


Every organization has a different combination of technical requirements and business objectives based on company size, industry and services offered. One of the most attractive benefits of a private cloud solution is that companies can modify their existing infrastructure promptly to adapt to constantly evolving demands. They are also the preferred choice for organizations dependent on certain legacy, poorly written or infrequently used applications with odd or fluctuating bandwidth requirements.

Compliance issues

There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to cloud storage. Depending on the industry, certain federal, state or local regulatory policies may be involved. Furthermore, proof of compliance is usually an ongoing, crucial concern. And in situations involving international business practices, and data sovereignty,  the data center hosting a public cloud service must be located within that same country. For compliance issues of all shapes and sizes, a private cloud solution is often the best available option.  

Unlimited scalability and adaptability

Believe it or not, there are still areas of the world without access to the public cloud. Furthermore, if a company has multiple satellite offices located in various regions using different operational systems, the compliance issues will likely vary considerably according to the location.

For these organizations, a private cloud solution may be the only viable option. Cumulus Networks offers a Cumulus Linux package to create, automate and customize your private cloud, duplicating the very same web-scale principles of the world’s largest, most sophisticated data centers.

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Moving to a private cloud in the data center

Fear of change often prevents or delays many companies from moving to a private cloud. If you are an IT professional who is always asking yourself, “How can I build a scalable network that is cost-effective, reliable, and as easy to manage,” then it may be time to give Cumulus Networks a call. Here are four signs that you may need to take the leap and move to a private cloud once and for all.

1. You need accountability beyond the cloud provider's phone number.

Your employees, customers and vendors need access to your network from any device and at any time of day. They also need to be able to access the data center from a neighborhood coffee house on a Sunday afternoon or a hotel halfway around the world.

If users have any issues gaining access your applications or services, or if your businesses requires consistent and efficient time to market on new applications, depending on a public cloud environment can be risky because you’re completely reliant on that provider’s hours, processes and timelines. By bringing your cloud environment in house, you can completely customize processes around your business needs.

2. Those legacy applications seem to be running slower and slower.

Almost every company regardless of its size or industry is running at least one (if not several) legacy applications. Although older in age, they are still a vital component of the day-to-day business operations.

However, as time moves forward, many of these legacy apps begin experiencing issues with poor performance. If you are ready to move these legacy applications to a cloud solution, choose a private cloud option instead of a public. Private clouds are easily customizable to meet the precise needs of these older legacy systems whereas public clouds might require extensive rewrites of the code that you cannot afford.

3.  You lack the ability to share resources and information efficiently from one user to another.

A major part of web-scale networking is NetDevOps. To put it very simply, this methodology requires that the network, development and operations teams work closely and seamlessly together in order to optimize organizational efficiency. This type of organizational structure ensures employees share data and resources easily.

With a private cloud network, unique access and authentication codes can still be assigned to each user. Individual employees can be blocked from entire sections of the network, granted read-only privileges for others and provided editing capabilities for perhaps only specific files. Furthermore, these individual parameters can be changed instantly by the IT staffer with the proper level of authority. Much of this is possible with a public cloud, but a private cloud gives you more control and flexibility in house.

Another major consideration here is technology and applications. Many high-performance applications work on bare metal servers. An open, private environment allows you to use the right applications for your business needs. For instance, high performance big data applications can run on bare metal while simple back office applications can run as VMs.

4. You need more ability to innovate and scale with your business

A private, web-scale cloud gives you full control over your data center and network. If you need specialized processes, custom applications or cutting-edge technology, a public cloud environment will only hold you back. With a public cloud, you’re stuck with proprietary technology and applications, standardized processes and updates, and a support team that is offsite.

5. Security and compliance are a concern

If you are concerned about regulatory compliance like SOX or HIPPA and need to physically own the data and ensure it is transmitted and stored properly, then a private cloud is the best (and possibly only) way to do this. You have full control over the security mechanisms in place, and all of the data is stored in house.

Some organizations also are concerned with data sovereignty where data is required to be located in a specific country for legal, security or privacy reasons. This is another great reason to ensure you keep data in house where you have full control of privacy, security and physical location.

The world of cloud computing is steadily advancing at a rapid pace, which means that companies need to keep informed of the latest trends. Whether you are an early adopter of private cloud network automation or are just beginning the journey, here is a short list of technical networking trends and buzzwords that are gaining increased attention in 2017.

DevOps and NetDevOps

DevOps is a clever term that simply means “a combination of software development and operations.”  Instead of addressing the two issues separately, IT professionals are now merging the two disciplines into a single concept. Rather than identifying the development team and the operations team as two distinct groups responsible for specific tasks, the DevOps methodology recognizes that the two groups are interdependent upon one another.

An emphasis on collaboration, communication and cohesion is the primary focus. When this concept is applied to networking, especially with private cloud network automation, the term is redefined as NetDevOps. When implemented properly, IT professionals can adapt more quickly to needed changes, automate networking processes and change control, and reduce or eliminate provisioning bottlenecks.

NetDevOps represents a true culture shift in an organization where development and operation teams work together to work more efficiently and improve time to market. To learn more about how to implement NetDevOps principles, check out this blog post.

Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI)

In a traditionally converged IT architecture, the storage hardware attaches directly to the physical servers. Flash storage is a common solution for caching purposes from attached disk-based storage hardware and for use in high-performance applications. With a hyperconverged infrastructure, the storage controller operates on each node in the cluster.

And much like their public cloud counterparts, private cloud solutions require advanced standardization, automation, virtualization, SaaS access and resource monitoring. HCI environments offer pre-integrated storage and compute resources to help organizations get up and running much faster. Companies running Cumulus Linux, for example, tend to enjoy lower associated costs and user-friendly access to conventional Linux tools to automate and manage their network just as they would normally.

HCI first entered the networking industry with large, web-scale organizations looking for economical, modular scalability on commodity hardware. HCI combines compute and storage devices and offers customers a simple, easy-to-scale, standardized solution.

For a great example of how a Cumulus Networks customer has used hyperconverged infrastructure in a private cloud environment with Cumulus Linux, check out our case study on Perth Radiology.


The 2017 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Data Center Networking states that 96% of their survey respondents find open networking to be a relevant buying criterion and that the adoption of white-box switching will reach 22% by 2020. WIth numbers like that,  it’s clear that disaggregation is the answer for forward-looking companies. A disaggregated data center network offers customized automation, full scalability, organizational efficiency and lower TCO. Plus with Cumulus Linux, you can fully unify the stack on Linux, allowing you to streamline operations, resources and processes. Of course the only way to reap these benefits is by building a private cloud environment in house using white box switches and non-proprietary software.