What is private cloud?
Private clouds are pools of virtual resources—sourced from systems dedicated to and managed by the people using them—that can be automatically provisioned and allocated through a self-service interface.
They are defined by privacy settings and management responsibilities—not location or ownership. So long as the resources are dedicated to a single customer with isolated access, on-site or off-site infrastructure can power private clouds.
Think about it like this: You’re running a traditional resource allocation system. When a business unit requests a custom deployment, your IT department pulls resources from their physical systems, virtualizes them, and locks them down as part of a virtual machine (VM). Implementing an on-demand, scalable private cloud involves consolidating those virtual resources into shared pools and defining self-service parameters using management software that’s tied to automation tools. If you needed more resources, you can either buy new on-site hardware, or you can rent the infrastructure from a vendor. So long as that hardware is solely dedicated and managed by you, it’s still a private cloud—even if the it’s physically located somewhere else.
In both examples, you’re completely responsible for all costs at all times. You staff, manage, and maintain the underlying cloud infrastructure. Using off-premises, vendor-owned private clouds simply means you’re not buying new hardware—you’re simply renting them.
Why use private clouds?
Private clouds are the ideal solution for IT leaders who want to make enterprise resources available on-demand, but can’t (or don’t want to) move to the public cloud. This can be due to security policies, budgets, compliance requirements, or regulations, like those that define the healthcare and financial service industries. Companies in these industries use encryption protocols and firewalls to secure their IT systems, but private clouds add an extra level of security—compared to public clouds—because access is limited.
Whether or not you invest in private cloud infrastructure also depends on the workloads that need to be supported. Traditional, stateful workloads are well supported by enterprise virtualization products. But stateless, loosely coupled workloads—typically found in development, research, and telecommunications (particularly network functions virtualization)—are better supported by private clouds.
Once you’ve reached the limits of hard-wired infrastructure, it’s time to virtualize your resources; once you’ve reached the limits of virtualization, it’s time to develop a private cloud.
Private clould security
A private cloud is implemented on hardware (e.g. servers, routers, switches) owned by an enterprise. This means you have control over just about everything. But control doesn’t guarantee security, data protection, or compliance. Each new provisioned environment could reveal security gaps if policies aren’t applied right away, which is why it’s the enterprise’s responsibility to employ a diverse cloud portfolio full of redundant and automated security protocols that help reduce errors and security breaches.
However, not every enterprise has the resources and knowledge to handle all those responsibilities. It’s here where the assumption that private clouds are the most secure distribution falls short. Sometimes, a public cloud provider’s security protocols and staff are more predictive and staff. In such cases, a public cloud might be more secure than a private cloud deployment. It’s all situational.
No cloud deployment offers guaranteed safety. The diversity of your cloud portfolio, the strength of your encryption protocols, and the depth of your disaster recovery policies (bonus points if it’s all automated) have the strongest impacts on your cloud security risks.
Storage in private clouds
Storage is one of the most popular uses of cloud computing, particularly for consumers. The user-friendly design of service-based companies have helped make “cloud” a pretty normal term—even reaching meme status in 2016.
However, cloud storage means something very different to businesses. Big data and the Internet of Things (IoT) have made it difficult to appraise the value of data until long after it’s originally stored—when finding that piece of data becomes the key to revealing valuable business insights or unlocking an application’s new feature. Even after enterprises decide where to store their data in the cloud (on-premise, off-premise, public, or private), they still have to decide how they're going to store it. What good is data that can’t be found?
It’s common to store data in the cloud using software-defined storage. Software-defined storage decouples storage software from hardware so you can abstract and consolidate storage capacity in a cloud. It allows you to scale beyond whatever individual hardware components your cloud is built on.
Two of the more common software-defined storage solutions include Ceph for structured data and Gluster for unstructured data. Ceph is a massively scalable, programmable storage system that works well with clouds—particularly those deployed using OpenStack—because of its ability to unify object, block, and file storage into 1 pool of resources. Gluster is designed to handle the requirements of traditional file storage and is particularly adept at provisioning and managing elastic storage for container-based applications.
Managed private clouds
Private clouds can be delivered by vendors as part of a managed private cloud approach. Managed private clouds let customers maintain a private cloud—on or off premises—that's deployed, configured, and managed by a third-party vendor. It's a cloud delivery option that helps enterprises with understaffed or underskilled IT teams provide better private cloud services and infrastructure to users.
Private cloud benefits
Private clouds are more than simply an extension of a virtualization platform—they abstract a variety of computing resources and provide controlled self-service access to them. They go beyond the benefits of traditional virtualization by providing:
- Increased infrastructural capacity to handle large compute and storage demands
- On-demand services using self-service user interfaces and policy-based management
- Efficient resource allocation based on user needs
- Increased visibility into resources across the infrastructure
Private clouds reduce instances of underused capacity. They allow the enterprise to automatically configure and reconfigure resources in any way it wants, since those resources aren’t restricted by their physical installations (thank you, virtualization). And private clouds can provide greater security than other cloud options, depending on your organization's’ security policies and practices.