Different flavors of cloud computing fit different needs

No such things as one size fits all in the cloud

Ask even the savviest IT executives to list the differences among public, private and hybrid cloud implementations, and you’re bound to get a variety of answers. However, experts say government CIOs and IT executives need to get familiar with the ins and outs of each because their future infrastructure will contain components of all three.

“There will be pieces of the cloud that will have to remain private because of the complexity of the legacy environments in the government sector,” said Deniece Peterson, senior manager of federal industry analysis at research and market intelligence firm Input.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology defines a private cloud as “being operated solely for an organization. It may be managed by the organization or a third party and may exist on premise or off premise.” To some, the idea of an off-premises cloud solution would automatically put it into the public cloud camp, but it’s important to note that even an off-premises cloud implementation can qualify as a private cloud. The difference is ownership. A private cloud is owned by one organization for its exclusive use. In government, this exclusivity means there’s less to worry about from a security standpoint.

“A private cloud is no different than a traditional data center,” said Dennis Hurst, founding member of the Cloud Security Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to cloud security. “You’re going to use a lot of the same technologies to manage it, and from an isolation and audit perspective it’s going to be similar, too.” In addition, a private cloud can help change the way an organization looks at IT spending, taking it from the peanut butter model — spreading the cost of services and infrastructure across all departments — to a utility billing paradigm. “This is one way where you can identify where your spending is taking place and where you can eliminate computing power and applications,” Hurst said.

But that’s not to say that a private cloud is automatically more secure. Some large cloud providers might have better security and governance in place than their customers do, and using a public cloud implementation could reduce audit complexity. Banks and financial institutions, which rely on public cloud providers, can attest to that first hand, Hurst said.

It’s easier to migrate data and applications to a private cloud. However, private clouds can reduce cost savings unless management is outsourced, Peterson said. This will be specifically pronounced in implementations that have both public and private components.

Equipment is one cost factor. When IT managers need to add capacity, they might need to turn to new equipment to handle the load, necessitating a capital expenditure. In a traditional public cloud, extra capacity can be added incrementally and put into the operating budget bucket. Of course, the same benefits can be achieved by outsourcing a private cloud, Hurst said.

That might be why Forrester Research, in an April 21 report, "Sizing the Cloud: Understanding and Quantifying the Future of Cloud Computing," predicts that infrastructure as a service, which can be used for “compute power, storage, database functionality, archive, or other basic resources” will shift from public clouds to virtual private clouds and create a market worth $1.4 billion by the end of this year. Meanwhile, the total market for private cloud solutions — which includes infrastructure, middleware, business processes and application virtualization tools — will grow from $7.8 billion this year to $15.9 billion by 2020. “Infrastructure virtualization tools help enterprises to increase the average utilization of on-premises hardware and thus save hardware costs or improve application performance,” according to the report.

“The future of the cloud looks like it’s hybrid,” Peterson said. “There are going to be a lot of choices being made in the government sector.”

About this Report

This special report was commissioned by the Content Solutions unit, an independent editorial arm of 1105 Government Information Group. Specific topics are chosen in response to interest from the vendor community; however, sponsors are not guaranteed content contribution or review of content before publication. For more information about 1105 Government Information Group Content Solutions, please email us at [email protected]