Is your organization planning on transitioning to some type of cloud but confused by the different types of clouds available? Are you cloudy about what the difference is between a hybrid cloud and multi-cloud? Is your current data center already a private cloud and you don’t know it? Are you bewildered about cloud security and how its security posture might compare to your trusted on-premise environment? If so, I’ve got good news because I present you with the definitive blog to clear the air about these basic cloud concepts.
What is a Private Cloud?
Let’s start with the private cloud, as it is the cloud type that garners the most confusion in my opinion. Here’s a quick question to test your knowledge.
True or False:
A private cloud simply describes what was once commonly referred to as a data center.
If you answered true, you get the buzzer. Like a traditional data center, the resources of a private cloud reside in an on-premise environment and are used exclusively by a single organization. However, just because you have a data center does not mean that it is a private cloud. For your data center to be categorized as a cloud it must have cloud-like capabilities such as a self-service portal or metered resource usage. That’s because the cloud is not a place. It is simply an alternative way to consume the IT resources residing on top of hardware within someone’s data center. Unless you have a pay-as-you-go model, user self service or dynamic scaling implemented within your data center, you do not have a private cloud.
Hybrid Cloud is the Default
Except for the incessant mention of ‘digital transformation’ in nearly every IT article written in the past three years, the term ‘hybrid cloud’ has a be a close second in the IT name-dropping competition. But what makes a hybrid cloud? Here is a simple equation that defines it nicely.
On-premise Data Center + Public Cloud = Hybrid Cloud
First off, very few organizations are 100% public cloud. This elite status is otherwise known as cloud native. Cloud Native organizations are about as rare as blood donors with AB negative blood. The few that exist tend to be startup businesses. If you are one of the lucky ones managing a native cloud, congratulations. You’re not saddled with technical debt from legacy applications and don’t have to be forever burdened with firmware patching. Cloud Native can be a good place to be.
For the rest of us with stuff that isn’t cloud compatible, we must settle for a hybrid one. I like to refer to hybrid cloud as the default way that organizations do the cloud. Hybrid cloud simply means you have migrated some portion of your applications, servers, and services to a public cloud and until there is nothing left in your data center, you will have a hybrid cloud.
What Constitutes a Multi-cloud?
Let’s start things out with a quick multiple-choice question to test your understanding of multi-cloud.
Which of the selections below is an example of a multi-cloud?
- A combination of 2 or more public clouds
- A combination of 1 private cloud and 1 public cloud
- A combination of any 2 or more cloud types
- All of the Above
If you picked 1 you can proceed to the next paragraph. 4 is certainly tempting, but incorrect. A multi-cloud consists of two or more public clouds. That could be AWS and Azure or throw in GCP for all three. If you use less than 2 public clouds, you don’t have a multi-cloud scenario.
Why More than One Public Cloud?
Now that we have established what a multi-cloud is, the next question is of course why you would want one in the first place. Multi-cloud requires your support teams to be proficient in two or more admin portals not to mention toggle back and forth. If all public clouds were the same, there would be no reason to use more than one, but they are not. For instance, AWS probably has the most robust catalog of services out there currently, but Google cloud has the edge when it comes to data analytics and machine learning tools. There are good reasons to prefer Azure in some cases as well. A multi-cloud gives you the ability to take advantage of the unique and special capabilities of each public cloud environment to maximize the returned value to your company.
How Secure is the Cloud?
There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to cloud security. If you assume that a public cloud provider is going to automatically take care of all your security needs upon application upload, think again. Public cloud providers offer what is referred to as a ‘shared security model’ in which the provider is responsible for the security of the cloud. That includes the infrastructure and facilities that run the cloud services. Customers are responsible for securing what they put into the cloud. They oversee the security configurations, and, in the cloud, there are lots of them.
Is the cloud more secure, less secure, than the traditional center? The answer is neither. Each one has its advantages and disadvantages over the other. More importantly, each requires different security tools and skill sets to secure them. Those with a hybrid cloud must often deal with duplicate sets of security tools and personnel which adds to greater costs and complexity while multi-cloud is probably the most difficult to secure properly.
Personnel Challenges for the Cloud
There is a perception out there today that those with cloud skills are harder to come by and it is probably true. However, the tide is turning, and it is going to completely flip within ten years. By then there will be a dearth of skills for traditional data center environments because people are not learning those technologies in technical training programs today. Also, the mindset is different between the admins and architects that support either traditional data centers or the cloud. Large legacy data centers have traditionally relied on technology specialists. An enterprise had a network person, a storage person, a server person, etc. Cloud personnel tend to understand the complete makings of their cloud environment. They can fire up a container, configure a firewall or modify a routing table. The biggest staffing challenge lies with those with multi-cloud environments because it is a rare individual that has the skills and experience for AWS, Azure and GCP. If you do find one someplace, have your checkbook ready.
The concept of the cloud is still new, and everyone is getting accustomed to a new vocabulary, new architectures, new skill sets, and new security strategies. Just know that the destination is not the cloud. Its getting your stuff into the right cloud that matters. If you want to learn more about cloud selection, planning and migration, contact our cloud specialists here at Evolving Solutions today.