So you‘ve heard about cloud computing, you know what it is, and you‘ve decided it could be a great tool for your business. Now, you want to dig a little deeper…
Choosing the right cloud deployment model is essential to making sure your business gets the performance, scalability, security, legal, and price structure it needs.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and the different models exist to solve a particular set of problems. Choosing the best one will depend on all sorts of factors. In this guide, I’m going to go explain each of the models, look at the benefits and limitations, and who should be using them. Hopefully, by the end, you‘ll have a great understanding of each cloud deployment model, and ready to take the next step on your cloud journey.
- Deployment Models Vs Service Models
- Public Cloud
- Private Cloud
- Community Cloud
- Hybrid Cloud
- How to Choose Between Them
- How to Get Started With the Cloud
Deployment Models Vs Service Models
There are four main cloud deployment models:
- Public Cloud
- Private Cloud
- Community Cloud
- Hybrid Cloud
These refer to the size, placement, and access level of a cloud environment. They aren’t the same as the service models – Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), or Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). If you aren’t 100% about each of these, you can take a look at this article for a description of each one.
The public cloud deployment model is the most widely understood out of the four. Chances are you use some sort of public cloud product already. Some of the most common examples of public cloud offerings are:
- SaaS – Gmail, Microsoft 365, Dropbox, etc…
- PaaS – Google App Engine, Heroku…
- IaaS – Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services…
Public Cloud – Definition
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defines public cloud as:
“The cloud infrastructure is provisioned for open use by the general public. It may be owned, managed, and operated by a business, academic, or government organization, or some combination of them. It exists on the premises of the cloud provider.”
Basically, public clouds
- Are open to the public
- Can be owned, managed, and operated by pretty much anyone
- Are located on the provider‘s premises
To be open to everyone, public cloud deployment services are usually delivered over the internet. All you need is a web browser to access all sorts of software and tools. Anyone with the right hardware and resources can operate a public cloud. Just set up your servers and start renting out storage and computing power.
Public Cloud – Pros
The main advantages of using a public cloud are:
- Low price (sometimes even free)
- Location independence
- It‘s easy!
The big cloud providers like Amazon and Microsoft have huge pools of computing resources powering their public cloud services. This has to massive benefits for you. Firstly, it means you can take advantage of economy of scale. The cost of a large network is split between many people, so capital overheads and operational costs drop for individual users. Many cloud providers even let you have a certain amount of cloud access for free (e.g. Google drive).
Secondly, it means you have access to essentially unlimited computing resources instantaneously. Traditionally, if your website suddenly had a 20x spike in traffic, your servers would be overloaded and it would crash. Using something like Amazon Web Services, your website could scale from getting a few visitors per hour to millions and never go down. And, you would only pay for what you actually use.
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The other key advantage of public cloud is its location independence and ease of use. You don‘t need to worry about where you are, the location of hardware, setup, network settings, infrastructure, or anything like that. Just plug in and pay for what you use as you use it. Businesses of all sizes are using the public cloud for web applications, document collaboration, webmail, and storage of non-sensitive data.
Public Cloud – Cons
Sounds great so far, but there are some downsides that many companies can‘t ignore. The main ones are:
- Security concerns
- The law and location of your data
- Lack of control
Security concerns are a major roadblock for many companies. Especially ones that deal with sensitive data. When using a public cloud, your application and data could be sharing servers and hardware with anyone. That‘s a risk for some types of data, and straight up against the law for others. Also, with public cloud, your data could be stored in another country where laws concerning data storage are different.
Public Cloud – Who‘s it For?
Public cloud has some serious advantages, and that‘s why it‘s the most commonly used of the deployment models. Check out this article for even more detail. It‘s ideal for small and medium businesses, especially ones with fluctuating or growing demands.
The biggest public cloud service providers are
- Amazon Web Services
- Microsoft Azure
- IBM Cloud
- Google Cloud Platform
The 2017 RightScale State of the Cloud Survey found that public cloud is growing in popularity this year. This is because public cloud providers are gaining more trust from big companies with their sensitive IT assets.
However, the lack of control over factors such as privacy, security, and location of infrastructure means that businesses with sensitive data or specific performance needs will need another solution.
Private cloud is a popular cloud deployment that addresses some of the main issues with using public cloud. As you can probably guess, the private cloud deployment model has a key difference to public cloud – it is privately used by a single organization, and not open to the public. It is also sometimes called internal cloud or corporate cloud.
Private Cloud – Definition
Technically, a private cloud is no different from a public cloud. Here‘s the definition from NIST:
The cloud infrastructure is provisioned exclusive use by a single organization comprising multiple consumers (e.g., business units). It may be owned, managed, and operated by the organization, a third party, or some combination of them, and it may exist on or off premises
The only key difference is that is used exclusively by one organization.
For example, a large insurance company needs a lot of computing resources, for many different parts of the company. The risk assessment team needs to store and analyze historical data to figure out insurance premiums, while the customer service department needs to store and access customer information. But, using a public cloud isn‘t an option due to security reasons. Instead of each department running and maintaining their own servers and equipment, a private cloud can be setup for all departments of the company to share.
It is a cloud used by a company itself – rather than its customers. Anyone can build a private cloud using servers and a technology such as OpenStack.
However, a private cloud can also be managed by a third party provider. There are many providers that will be happy to build and maintain your private cloud for you. They will even set it up exactly as you need it (for the right price of course).
Private Cloud – Pros
The main advantages are
- Control over how a cloud is setup and run
- Control over privacy and security practices
- Control over the geographical location of data
As you can see, private clouds are all about control. Some companies don‘t want to – or can‘t – hand over their data to someone else. They want to have direct control of data at all times while keeping the flexibility and scalability of public cloud technology. This is possible with a private cloud.
Private Cloud – Cons
Of course, this level of fine grained control comes with trade offs, including
- Much higher setup and maintenance costs
- Less redundancy and resilience (especially if you host the cloud internally)
- Less scalability
The biggest disadvantage is the extra cost. Hiring out a small portion of a much larger cloud is very cheap, but building your own private cloud is very expensive. This means only large corporations can realistically host their own private clouds. You‘ll also need a team of expensive experts working to maintain your highly customized cloud to keep it up and running.
Also, even at a big company, a private cloud is going to be much smaller than a public cloud. This means there will likely be less redundancy and backups of data in case of a disaster or attack. And, less room for scaling up in case of usage spikes.
Private Cloud – Who‘s it For?
A private cloud is just a public cloud that isn‘t open to the public. That means that it‘s ideal for a company that wants cloud benefits but needs to avoid sharing computing resources with anyone. The prohibitive costs required for a private cloud mean that it‘s only really suitable for big companies with big IT budgets.
There are many companies that sell private cloud hardware, software, and services. Some of the biggest players are Hewlett Packard Enterprises, VMware, Dell, Oracle, IBM, Microsoft, and Amazon Web Services.
So public clouds are open to absolutely everyone, and private clouds are private to a single organization. Isn‘t there some sort of middle ground here?
Community cloud is a sort of compromise between public and private cloud. Don‘t get it mixed up with hybrid cloud though (we‘ll discuss that next). You can think of a community cloud as a semi-public cloud that is open for use by only selected organizations.
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Community Cloud – Definition
The NIST describes community cloud as:
The cloud infrastructure is provisioned for exclusive use by a specific community of consumers from organizations that have shared concerns (e.g., mission, security requirements, policy, and compliance considerations). It may be owned, managed, and operated by one or more of the organizations in the community, a third party, or some combination of them, and it may exist on or off premises
Just like private cloud, community cloud is technically no different from public cloud. The only defining difference is who is allowed to use it. A community cloud could be built by one organization in an industry, and then rented out to others in the same industry with similar computing and security requirements. Or, a community of businesses with similar needs could group together to share the cost of each building their own public clouds.
Community Cloud – Pros
Community cloud has many of the advantages of both public and private clouds. Those are
- Cloud configuration and security that meet the needs of your industry
- More scalable than private cloud
- Cheaper than private cloud
If public cloud isn‘t going work, and private cloud is too difficult, take a look for a community cloud in your industry. Or, find some buddies and set up your own! Best case scenario is that you get cheaper access to a cloud that is configured in a way that suits your needs. Of course, a community cloud needs to exist for this to happen.
A community cloud can be configured to comply with specific data laws or performance requirements. And, because setup and running costs are shared between multiple organizations, the economy of scale savings come back. Also, if the community is quite large, flexibility and scalability will be increased for each individual organization too.
Community Cloud – Cons
The main drawbacks of using community cloud are:
- A community cloud doesn‘t exist for every community
- Compromise – won‘t get the full benefits of either public or private
Firstly, there isn‘t going to be a community cloud to solve every problem. Community cloud is the newest deployment models of cloud computing.
Also, the community cloud deployment model is a compromise solution. That means you won‘t get the full benefits of either public or private cloud. Community cloud will usually be more expensive than a more generic public cloud, but won‘t allow for all the customization of a private cloud.
Community Cloud – Who‘s it For?
If your business has very similar cloud computing needs to many others, community cloud might be a good fit. This will be highly dependent on what‘s available in your industry.
One example is NYSE Capital Market Community Platform. It‘s a kind of financial sector community cloud. Another example is AWS GovCloud. Amazon has set up a community cloud to be used by all the different parts of the US government that meet the legal and security standards they require.
The last deployment model we‘re going to look at is hybrid cloud. As you may have guessed from the name, it is a combination of any of the cloud computing deployment models we‘ve already looked at. One common use of hybrid cloud is a mix of public and private – with sensitive data staying in a ’private‘ section, and other less critical tasks done in a public cloud.
Many companies are planning on using multiple clouds to use for different purposes. The 2017 RightScale State of the Cloud Survey found that 85% of respondents have a strategy to use multiple clouds. More than half said this would be in the form of hybrid cloud.
Hybrid Cloud – Definition
The cloud infrastructure is a composition of two or more distinct cloud infrastructures (private, community, or public) that remain unique entities, but are bound together by standardized or proprietary technology that enables data and application portability (e.g., cloud bursting for load balancing between clouds)
Basically, any cloud configuration that combines multiple deployment models is a hybrid cloud. As long as they are ’bound together‘ somehow to form a coherent unit.
Hybrid Cloud – Pros
Just like community cloud, the hybrid cloud deployment model aims to get benefits from multiple deployment models. By having both a private (or community) cloud that works seamlessly with a public cloud means you can
- Keep sensitive data safe
- Still get some of the scalability and cost effectiveness of public cloud
- Ultimate flexibility
Flexibility is the main draw card of hybrid cloud. By combining different deployment models, you can pick and choose the perfect balance between legal compliance, security, and scalability.
Hybrid Cloud – Cons
The main challenges of hybrid cloud are
- Difficulty communicating between cloud models
- More expensive than public or community models
Combining multiple deployment models means things get complicated quickly. Making sure sensitive data is completely separated from the more public parts of a hybrid cloud can be tricky. Luckily, many cloud providers are encouraging businesses to use this model and will be happy to help you get set up.
Hybrid Cloud – Who‘s It For?
Anyone that wants to pick and choose different elements from different cloud models can make use of hybrid cloud. A common example is storing and analyzing sensitive data on a private cloud, but using a public cloud for a website and public facing applications. Another is to use a private cloud for base level processing, but have public cloud available for sudden spikes in demand that the private cloud can‘t deal with. This is called cloud bursting, and many businesses are already using this idea to increase uptime.
If neither public or private cloud meet all of your needs, perhaps a hybrid of the two will do the job.
Some of the biggest providers include Microsoft, VMware, Amazon Web Services, Rackspace, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Cisco, and Dell.
How to Choose Between Them
All of these models are being used extensively by companies all around the world. Each is designed to solve a specific set of problems. To find the best model for you or your company starts with defining your requirements for:
- Scalability – Is your user activity growing quickly or unpredictable with spikes in demand?
- Privacy and security – Do you have any sensitive data that doesn‘t belong on a public server?
- Ease of use – How much time and money do you have to invest learning and training?
- Pricing model – What‘s your monthly subscription budget? How much capital can you spend up front?
- Flexibility – How flexible/rigid are your computing, processing, and storage needs?
- Legal compliance – Are there any relevant laws in your country or industry?
Answer all of these and you‘ll have an idea whether to go with public, private, community, or hybrid cloud (or none at all!).
How to Get Started With the Cloud
Once you‘ve figured out the deployment model you want to use, the next step is to choose a service provider and get set up. Picking one is a whole different topic we go into in more detail here. At the moment, it looks like Amazon and Microsoft are going to dominate the consumer cloud market for a while. If you‘re unsure, there are companies out there that will be happy to help you get started with cloud computing. They can help you choose the right cloud model and configuration, migrate your current systems over to the cloud, and even start building your own cloud native applications.
Cloud computing can help you keep up with leaders in your industry and gain a serious advantage over others. New tools and ideas like DevOps are helping businesses deliver services over the internet faster and more reliably than ever before. Right now is the perfect time to get started with the cloud.
Cloud computing is now making its way into the lives of every business and individual. Understanding these 4 main deployment models can help you strike the right balance of scalability, cost, security, control, and legal compliance for your unique business needs.
Check out some of our other articles for more info on cloud computing!