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Public cloud

What is the public cloud?

The public cloud is a pool of virtual resources—developed from hardware owned and managed by a third-party company—that is automatically provisioned and allocated among multiple clients through a self-service interface. It’s a straightforward way to scale out workloads that experience unexpected demand fluctuations.

Cloud deployment trends have shifted dramatically since enterprises first began adopting public cloud capabilities en masse around the turn of the 21st century. Though the private- and public-only cloud deployment trend that dominated through 2015 is quickly being replaced with hybrid cloud distributions—largely because hybrid environments allow enterprises to customize a scalable, flexible, and secure portfolio.

Today’s public clouds aren’t usually deployed as a standalone infrastructure solution, but rather as part of a heterogeneous mix of environments that leads to higher security and performance; lower cost; and a wider availability of infrastructure, services, and applications.

Resource allocation

Every tenant’s cloud services and virtual resources come from the provider’s infrastructure, platforms, and software.

Use agreements

Users are charged based on pay-as-you-go models, an agreement that gives users the right to access resources or services when needed.


At a minimum, the provider maintains the hardware underneath the cloud, supports the network, and manages the virtualization software.

How do public clouds work?

A public cloud is perhaps the simplest of all cloud deployments: A client needing more resources, platforms, or services simply pays a public cloud vendor by the hour or byte to have access to what’s needed when it’s needed. Infrastructure, raw processing power, storage, or cloud-based applications are virtualized from hardware owned by the vendor, pooled into data lakes, orchestrated by management and automation software, and transmitted across the internet—or through a dedicated network connection—to the client.

Think about it like this. Cloud computing is the result of a meticulously developed infrastructure, in the same manner that electricity, water, and gas are the result of years of infrastructural development. Cloud computing is made available through network connections in the same way that utilities have been made available through networks of underground pipes.

Homeowners and tenants don’t necessarily own the water the comes from their pipes; don’t oversee operations at the plant generating the electricity that powers their appliances; and don’t determine how the gas that heats their home is acquired. These homeowners and tenants simply make an agreement, use the resources, and pay for what’s used within a certain amount of time.

Public cloud computing is very similar. The clients don’t own the gigabytes of storage their data is backed up to; don’t manage operations at the server farm where the hardware lives; and don’t determine how their cloud-based platforms, applications, or services are secured or maintained. Public cloud users simply make an agreement, use the resources, and pay for what’s used at within a certain amount of time.

Public cloud in a hybrid environment

The public cloud has many advantages, such as replacing capital expenses (CAPEX) with operational expenses (OPEX); modernizing applications when data center resources are limited; gaining access to a wide range of languages, tools, and services; increasing agility between development and operation teams; and providing unlimited resources without many management responsibilities. But that’s not to say the public cloud is without disadvantages. There are plenty of risks that come with outsourcing your data and its management to a third-party.

That’s why enterprises are adopting less public- or private-only cloud distributions and more hybrid environments: each environment’s advantage can minimize the disadvantages of another.

For example: Imagine an enterprise running all workloads on 1 virtual infrastructure cluster. That cluster would be running at full capacity, leading to poor response times and an inundation of calls or tickets to operations teams from upset application owners. This situation could be solved by rolling out another virtual infrastructure cluster and automating workload balance between the 2. This is the start of a hybrid environment.

The enterprise could expand its infrastructure portfolio to include a private Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) cloud (like OpenStack®). Workloads that don't need to run on virtual infrastructure could be migrated to the IaaS private cloud—saving money and increasing workload uptime.

To reduce poor response times to cloud users thousands of miles away, the enterprise could place some workloads on public clouds in nearby regions. This would allow the enterprise to control costs and maintain high availability.

At this point, the enterprise has to consider compliance and governance. Without knowing what users, groups, data, applications, and packages reside on systems running across its hybrid environment, the enterprise can’t identify and minimize risks. This leads to a number of questions:

  • How will legacy workloads interface with the public cloud?
  • What’s the disaster recovery plan for workloads and data hosted on the public cloud?
  • What’s the integration strategy?
  • What are the long-term costs associated with the public cloud?
  • How will a public cloud impact compliance?

With so many workloads running in so many environments, the enterprise needs to take advantage of one of the most important aspects of cloud computing: management and automation technology. Enterprises can save time and money by systematically identifying and automatically migrating workloads—a typically manual process. Choosing a cloud management and automation tool that allows you to see inside workloads across environments gives the enterprise even more insight into exactly what users, data, and packages are running where.

The public cloud has its advantages—which are largely realized as part of a comprehensive hybrid cloud portfolio.

Public cloud security

Deploying a public cloud implies that organizations can share the same resources, platforms, and services without having strong input about where data is stored or how it’s secured. While this isn't a huge problem for consumers or low-risk enterprise functions, it does pose a threat to certain industries that operate under strict privacy, security, and compliance regulations.

There are certain innate risks that come with not owning or managing the systems that house enterprise information, services, and functions. Some public cloud providers maintain the right to access data hosted on their hardware, while others have more stringent access requirements. While many times these agreements are spelled out in the contracts, it can be difficult to validate compliance when you’re not in charge.

Security is a top concern for enterprises considering a public cloud environment—but those concerns can be mitigated by deploying a hybrid cloud environment that protects sensitive workloads on a private server (that includes safety protocols a public cloud provider can’t provide or won’t guarantee), while less-sensitive workloads reside on the public cloud. The diversity of your cloud portfolio, the strength of your encryption protocols, and the depth of your disaster recovery policies have the strongest impacts on your cloud security risks.

Why Red Hat?

Because the majority of enterprises can’t afford to dedicate 100% of their business to a single environment—be it public or private cloud. But even in a hybrid environment, your developers can’t be distracted by application programming interface (API) and framework incompatibilities when migrating workloads. Developers need to have confidence that their applications will run the same way everywhere.

When your hybrid cloud strategy includes the public cloud, we’re ready to help with an ecosystem of more than 400 Red Hat® Certified Cloud and Service Providers—including the majority of those featured on Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service. Our open source software is engineered for scalability, flexibility, and efficiency—letting you run any app, in any environment, on any cloud. It’s this consistency that binds successful hybrid environments, allowing you to implement the cloud strategy that works for you, on your time, that meets your requirements.

We want to help you get the most out of your investments today and safely invest in your applications for tomorrow—knowing they can all run anywhere. Integrating a stable, open source foundation across your cloud will help you get there.

There’s a lot more to do with clouds