AS SMBs EVOLVE their cloud strategy, platform choice is important. Today, about 97% of the market uses public cloud providers like AWS, Google, and Microsoft, according to the Flexera 2022 State of the Cloud Report. And 87% are using hybrid clouds, which combine public and private clouds. Nowadays, it’s rare for any company to reside entirely in a private cloud. In fact, only hosted private clouds have had an uptick in adoption—partly fueled by the pandemic and the need for turnkey services—according to Tracy Woo, senior analyst at Forrester Research.
It’s essential, therefore, for channel pros to thoroughly understand the pros and cons of private clouds—and how best to integrate them with hybrid solutions.
“It’s important to understand the exact needs of a client and put together the right cloud framework,” says Corey Kirkendoll, CEO of 5K Technical Services, a Plano, Texas-based managed service provider. “There are situations where a private or hybrid environment are preferable to the public cloud.”
This may include cases where granular controls and a higher level of data security or regulatory compliance are needed, or when geopolitical sensitivity is a factor. Private clouds can also make more sense for an SMB that has specialized needs, such as GPUs for high-end graphics or deep learning, Woo says.
Kirkendoll says that the growing level of sophistication and features in public clouds—along with superior security and controls—make them attractive for most situations and scenarios. “Most of the capabilities and security controls businesses need are now available from major public cloud providers,” he says.
In some cases, however, a hybrid approach may deliver a higher level of flexibility and agility. For example, there are situations where an SMB may want to keep data on premises but also use external applications for niche or specialized requirements. Similarly, an SMB may require a private cloud but also need access to a public cloud in case a sudden need for additional compute power or storage arises. With this “cloud-bursting” tactic, the organization owns the basic infrastructure and all the backups, and has the responsibility for maintenance, but can take advantage of a “hot standby” approach that plugs in additional resources for hours, days, or even months, Kirkendoll explains. “A business can operate on the private cloud 95% of the time but the other 5% delivers the missing elements when they are needed.”
Understand the Issues
If a client wants a private cloud, Kirkendoll recommends first reviewing with them whether it’s really needed, and, if so, how it can be built with the necessary components, including security and flexibility. “You don’t want to find yourself boxed in and unable to change directions in the future,” he points out.
Key considerations include cost; who has responsibility for handling the technical and practical aspects of operating it, such as keeping software up to date; and whether the environment delivers adequate resiliency and business continuity, Kirkendoll explains.
Outside partners and expertise may be required, he continues. “Designing and operating private clouds can be technically challenging. You own the upkeep, maintenance, and management.”
There are ways to minimize the challenges, however. One is to install an appliance that supports a hyperconverged infrastructure, Woo says. Another is to rely on a hybrid cloud management tool such as OpenStack, Manage IQ, or Cloudify with private cloud building capabilities that provide “a single pane of glass across all environments.” A third is to use a hosted private cloud solution.
Woo believes that public cloud and edge offerings will continue to dominate the cloud space. The features and flexibility they offer are difficult to overlook. As SMBs become more accustomed to putting data in the public cloud—and recognize that public and hybrid approaches are generally cost-effective and secure—thinking will continue to shift.
Says Kirkendoll: “Private clouds have a place, but it’s important to understand how, when, and where to use them.”