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Tech Debate: Cloud: Public or private?

For those that see value in adopting cloud computing, the next question is private or public? A private cloud, built using your resources in your data center, leaves you in control but also means you shoulder the management overhead. Public cloud services relieve you of that management burden but at the expense of some control. A hybrid approach might make it possible to realize the best of both worlds, but you'll still have to pick private or public as the base for operations. What is the best approach?

Moderator

John Dix, Network World Editor in Chief, sets up the debates and recruits the experts. Contact him with thoughts and ideas, jdix@nww.com.

The experts

Dave Malcolm, Chief Technology Officer of Surgient

says a private cloud lets you capitalize on your existing investments while driving up utilization rates, increasing productivity and making IT more dynamic.

Siki Giunta, Global VP of Cloud Computing & Cloud Service at CSC

says public clouds are already well understood, widely used, and easier to adopt because it doesn’t require rethinking IT from the ground up.

Don’t Compromise on Security

A private cloud is the clear choice for enterprise and government organizations looking to reap the benefits of cloud computing without compromising critical security policies or overall system flexibility.

When you add it all up, it is clear that enterprise and government organizations maintain high standards for security, privacy and cost management, while transforming their operations into a dynamic, flexible environment. The best solution for them is the private cloud.

A private cloud is the clear choice for enterprise and government organizations looking to reap the benefits of cloud computing without compromising critical security policies or overall system flexibility.

Organizations that are able to closely align IT initiatives with core business strategies are more agile, more responsive, and more effective than their peers. But the accelerating growth of user demand for infrastructure, coupled with ever-present restrictions on IT budgets and staff, has created a dilemma: How do you cost-effectively scale operations to serve the rapidly growing needs of your user base, all while staying aligned with the core business?

The obvious solution is to transition to a cloud-based infrastructure delivery model: the promise of better utilization, higher productivity, and truly dynamic IT is impossible to ignore. While some public cloud options look attractive, a private cloud is the way to go. The private cloud:

* Lives within your firewall. The private option gives you control over your data: who has access, where it lives, and how it's transferred. Organizations that deal in private and proprietary data (for example financial services, healthcare, and government institutions) simply cannot risk third-party access to sensitive data, and even face legal ramifications for breaches.

John Merchant, assistant vice president of the Hartford Financial Services, was recently quoted as saying, "as a Fortune 500 company with highly regulated data and a very conservative outlook, it's going to be difficult for any insurance company or any financial institution of any size to migrate any data to the [public] cloud." This perspective is widespread in enterprise and government organizations, and for good reason. Public cloud offerings simply aren't able to adequately address the security and privacy needs of data-sensitive organizations.

Private clouds offer a way for these organizations to transition their existing data center investments into a more scalable, user-friendly model while maintaining control over private data.

* Is a "force multiplier". Enterprise and government organizations have already made investments in large data centers with thousands of servers, supporting infrastructure, and management software. Clearly, these investments will not be retired overnight. Rather, these organizations need a way to transform this powerful, albeit static, infrastructure into a dynamic, fully automated cloud that still conforms to existing security and privacy policies.

With an enterprise private cloud, administrators receive two major benefits. The first is a dramatic increase in the utilization of existing infrastructure, which drives down costs and limits the need for future purchases. With cloud-based capacity management, administrators can increase utilization from around 40% (with virtualization alone) up to 75% to 85%, and they have detailed insight into exactly how that infrastructure is being used.

Second, because of the powerful automation engine enabling the private cloud, administrators can break the cycle of never-ending hands-on provisioning and reclamation to focus on strategic functions, such as IT service design and policy management. With a private cloud, administrators can support more users with far less busywork.

* Is custom-designed for your business. You know your business and its needs better than anyone. With a private cloud, you define exactly how things will work, taking into account your technology, your standards, your applications and your users. You're able to leverage the technology you want, and can easily switch if necessary. In the public cloud, vendor lock-in is a reality, and you are at the mercy of the providers and their choices about technology, vendors and standards.

Because of the ability to finely tune the private cloud, your end users benefit from a true self-service experience that takes into account their needs and functions and how they can directly contribute to company results.

* Offers clear ownership and accountability. What's the game plan when something goes wrong? We all know something will go wrong at some point, regardless of whether you go public or private. With a public solution, you'll be dealing with both internal owners and likely multiple external owners to resolve the issue, which can result in confusion and resolution delays. With a private cloud, you own the cloud and can prioritize resolution based on the needs of your business, rather than someone else's.

When you add it all up, it is clear that enterprise and government organizations maintain high standards for security, privacy and cost management, while transforming their operations into a dynamic, flexible environment. The best solution for them is the private cloud.

Malcolm is responsible for software development, product management, and datacenter operations for Surgient's products and hosted solutions. His team is responsible for multiple granted patents on cloud technology and more than 150 successful private cloud deployments. Surgient is a leader in enterprise cloud automation software, leveraging virtualization and systems management technologies to automate the deployment and management of complex, user-centric IT services. For more information visit www.surgient.com.

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Public gives you the greatest return

Given the impact public clouds have had on consumers and society, it’s no wonder businesses are trying to match this level of agility with their internal infrastructure. I often hear enterprises lament: "I wish I could deploy Amazon’s EC2 internally for my private cloud."

While public cloud services are proving their worth and attracting new converts every day, we will ultimately see the emergence of a hybrid public/private mix that can satisfy any lingering security or regulatory concerns about particular data.

Given the impact public clouds have had on consumers and society, it's no wonder businesses are trying to match this level of agility with their internal infrastructure. I often hear enterprises lament: "I wish I could deploy Amazon's EC2 internally for my private cloud."

They envy the readiness of on-demand execution, the fluidity and elegance of systems delivery. It is a sense of freedom from the constraints of traditional IT.

But replicating public cloud services will not come easy. While organizations can strive to make IT the electricity that enables the business, there are many legacy impediments.

Enterprise IT is not ready to aggregate infrastructure in shared pools and to charge it back on usage. Infrastructure still tends to be acquired for internal customers without asking: "Does it need to be dedicated?" "How long do you need it for?" and lastly: "Who is the consumer?"

While enterprise IT is pondering the answers to these core questions, the overwhelming benefits of public cloud services will drive businesses to adopt them more quickly than not. In a highly competitive, global marketplace, businesses with the agility to respond quickest to customers have the advantage, and public cloud services allow them to ramp up and ramp down to meet changing levels of demand in different geographies and markets.

Once business category leaders start adopting public cloud services, they will gain an advantage, their market share will grow and competitors will quickly follow.

Of course the primary case against enterprise use of public clouds right now is security. While security is a challenge, there are ways to meet compliance rules and mitigate risk. Consider, for example, SalesForce.com, one of the biggest business public clouds in use today. Companies readily deliver all their customer contacts and revenue pipeline information without worrying about either privacy or commingling of data with other organizations.

The Salesforce application was built from scratch with public cloud delivery in mind: data is segregated in multi-tenancy or can be obfuscated or tagged so data resolution happens only internally within the owner's firewalls.

In fact, we have not really had a big security breach in public clouds. If any problem had occurred, you can bet the news would have spread around the world in a matter of minutes. Meanwhile, we often hear about the loss of PC or thumb drives containing Social Security numbers or instances of fraud executed inside the "private cloud." In other words, private clouds are not without security failings.

That said, to ensure a secure public cloud experience it is important to know who the provider is, their profile, service excellence and history. Sometimes a service might look compelling and promise substantial savings, but end up costing you more. With public cloud services, you share service responsibility for your business with the cloud provider, so choosing one with integrity, accountability and strong service-level agreements is critical.

Public clouds are blazing the trail for enterprise IT. Realistically, it would take quite some time for private clouds to achieve the same level of usage and sophistication.

Consider, for example, what the Haiti relief effort showed us about the power of the public cloud. Without public cloud services, participating charities would have to anticipate the demand and get pledge money to build out the infrastructure to accommodate the spike in user pledges, and then maintain it as it sat idle long after that first month's peak of generosity.

While public cloud services are proving their worth and attracting new converts every day, we will ultimately see the emergence of a hybrid public/private mix that can satisfy any lingering security or regulatory concerns about particular data. But without compromising their most sensitive data, businesses will move as much of their workloads as possible to take advantage of the flexibility and agility offered by public cloud services.

Giunta is responsible for implementing CSC's cloud computing strategy and continuing to advance the company's leadership position in cloud services. She heads CSC's newly-formed Trusted Cloud and Hosting Business Group, using cloud capabilities to extend the company’s strength in consulting, systems design and integration, and cybersecurity, while driving the SaaS-enablement of CSC's portfolio of industry solutions. For more information about CSC's Trusted Cloud Services please visit www.csc.com/cloud.

Siki Giunta, Global VP of Cloud Computing & Cloud Services at CSC.

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