The Virtual Infrastructure War: Who Is Goliath and Who Are the Many Davids?

There are a number of factors driving organizations toward the adoption of virtualized infrastructure, which corresponds with leveraging the proverbial cloud. Business pressures, including cost reduction, scalability, and “just-in-time” application software implementation, are just some of the requirements prompting businesses to “cloudify” at least some aspect of their IT infrastructure.

Today, you have three options to consider when adopting a cloud-based infrastructure:

1. Build it yourself.

2. Utilize a public cloud provider.

3. Utilize a private cloud provider.

Most organizations will choose between private and public cloud services providers (CSPs). The question is quite simple: Which provides the most aggregate value? Should you leverage a public cloud offering or leverage a private cloud offering? The table below includes representative companies in each of those offerings.

Goliaths—                                                                               Davids—

Public Cloud Providers                                                          Private Cloud Providers

azure.microsoft.com                                                                rackspace.com

aws.amazon.com                                                                     hosting.com

vcloud.vmware.com                                                                 datapipe.com

It is essential to consider your organization’s short- and long-term use of this infrastructure when making a choice. Most companies start down the path of cloudification for the purpose of simplifying testing and development projects but over time move more and more production workloads into their chosen cloud infrastructure, so choose widely.

There are a number of factors for you to consider:

Price: As the most significant factor in today’s world of doing more with less, cost is a top-shelf consideration. Massive public cloud providers have the ability to leverage their huge buying power. Sticking with the metaphor, the Davids (the private cloud providers) also have economies of scale, but not at the same level of the Goliaths of the industry.

Implementation speed: A public cloud provider can be analogized to a fast food restaurant. As long as you choose from the menu, it will deliver the product very quickly, very efficiently, very predictably, and every day. Put your credit card information in the system, and you have your product almost immediately.

Security: If your organization is weak in the area of security, then transitioning to a public cloud will enhance your security capabilities. Public cloud providers have a solid array of security features to choose from. These measures are implemented in standard configurations, so they can maintain their economies of scale. For example, there will be standard firewall configurations that are available. Customizations, however, will prove to be expensive and possibly prohibitively expensive. Private cloud providers are able to offer security measures built around your business or industry’s particular needs and requirements.

Compliance: Often a business has specific industry-standard compliance requirements. For example, in healthcare, you may fall under HIPAA (Federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) or require a BAA (Business Associate Agreement) to be executed. In the financial services industry, you may have particular regulatory requirements, or your business may fall under the Payment Card Industry (PCI) security standards. Your ability to negotiate terms with a public cloud provider will be very limited. It’s not that the provider doesn’t want to be flexible, but the public cloud business model requires very effective economies of scale and standardization with low profit margins.

Performance: Public cloud providers offer infrastructure that meets the needs of 80% of organizations at a reasonable price point. However, your organization may be deploying mission-critical applications that need the capabilities of the latest storage arrays such as a Pure Storage array (www.purestorage.com), a SolidFire array (www.solidfire.com), or a Tintri array (http://tintri.com), none of which will be available through a public cloud provider. This is where Goliath may be at a disadvantage. It is possible that your infrastructure needs can best be satisfied by leveraging a hyper-converged infrastructure product with capabilities from Nutanix (www.nutanix.com), SimpliVity (www.simplivity.com), or VMware’s EVO line (www.vmware.com).

Responsiveness: Public cloud offerings are, at their core, designed to be scalable and repeatable, which in turn enables them to make optimal use of economies of scale. Private cloud- offerings can be tailored to meet the customized infrastructure demands of any particular environment. In this case, the Davids are much more responsive to your individual needs.

High availability: Today, public cloud offerings are built on very robust infrastructure and leverage the natural high availability capabilities inherent in a virtualized infrastructure so that they often exceed 99% availability. For some mission-critical applications, the recovery time requirements are so stringent, the inherent robustness of a virtualized infrastructure is not sufficient to meet the service-level agreements (SLAs). Many business-critical applications (BCAs) and databases need extremely high availability. The virtualizations layer must be complemented by other measures. Private cloud offerings can be customized to implement solutions that meet these extremely high availability requirements.

   Public CloudPrivate Cloud
Cost LowestLow-Medium
Implementation SpeedFastestMedium
SecurityMediumHighest
Compliance Low-MediumMedium-Highest
Performance    Low-MediumMedium-Highest
ResponsivenessLowMedium-High
High-Availability OfferingsMedium-HighHighest

                                                                       

At a high level, private cloud offerings are similar to David: They can be very nimble and quick to respond to your needs. They can be tailored to give you capabilities built specifically around your requirements, but you will pay a premium for the flexibility and associated capabilities.

Public cloud offerings are similar to Goliath: big and cumbersome. Size matters, as it may present a highly formidable foe to overcome.

Recently, private cloud companies have begun offering hybrid models, sometimes also known as “federated clouds,” allowing access to the public cloud model through their private clouds, with one bill and the proverbial “one throat to choke” from a technical support perspective. Theoretically, this provides the best of both worlds. Ironically, you can go to a private cloud to leverage a public cloud’s full resources, but today you can’t go to a public cloud to get all the capabilities of a private cloud with one bill and a single support source.

Over time, public cloud providers will reduce the gap between what they can provide and what their private cloud competitors are capable of delivering. They will find ways to improve performance, increase availability, and be more responsive to customer needs where those requirements are common in the marketplace. To cover that final mile, they will use partners who are capable of bridging the gap. As you leverage these cloud offerings today and in the future, the survival of your business may require that you transition to one or more cloud models. You may eventually make friends with both David and Goliath to stay competitive.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.



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