Understanding IaaS, Public and Private – Where Does Your Organization Fit?

Cloud computing is well into its second decade, and its impact has changed, moving from a disruptive (and often disputed) technology to a more established and mature component that’s become expected in almost every IT business space. Cloud is generally looked at as more secure than its on-premise counterpart by most IT experts, it offers infrastructure cost savings, massive scalability, and delivers new features and functions on an ongoing basis. With these changes in full swing, it’s a great time to take a look at definitions and explanations that have been variable in the past years – as the cloud’s maturity in the market has brought with it stability to how we talk and think about it.

In this post, we’ll look at the main two types of Cloud: public and private infrastructure. In both of these descriptions, a tenant (whoever is using the Cloud) accesses a virtual server instance where the hardware exists elsewhere, hence the moniker “virtual” server. The difference between the two lies in how many tenants, or customers of that cloud provider, are accessing it, and what controls are put into place by the provider.

Public (Multi-tenant) Cloud

In a public or multi-tenant cloud, a single instance of a server is accessed by multiple customers, wherein each customer uses the same server, but their data and activity are kept invisible to the other tenants on that server. The hyper-scale clouds that corner much of the market are almost always implementing a public cloud system. Public shared infrastructure almost always offers a cheaper option than the private cloud alternative, as it requires fewer servers, and therefore less infrastructure for the provider to maintain, and huge networks of computers allow for immense scalability.

However, certain drawbacks to public clouds have become more apparent as the adoption of cloud computing spreads across industries. Namely, the need for customization and control of your own infrastructure. Because public clouds are shared across multiple tenants, they have large incentives to force their customers into pre-built arrangements, standardized pricing levels, and feature packages. For some businesses, these arrangements make sense – but for others, public cloud can leave you paying for features you don’t need and incapable of providing the customizations you do.

Private (Single-tenant) Cloud

private, or single-tenant cloud, provides a customer (tenant) with a single instance of a server that is dedicated infrastructure for that customer only. This allows each tenant to have absolute control over their environment – from security measures to compliance and regulatory requirements. It also allows independence from changes. For example, when public, shared clouds are performing an update to the database or application, that update is applied to all tenants sharing the cloud. For organizations who rely on a certain version or legacy application, updating the schedule of the cloud provider is not an option.

Finding a provider that can service your organization’s specific needs is crucial to a successful cloud solution. In today’s market, there are enough options that businesses should seek out customized solutions that fit their requirements.

Looking for the next steps? Take a look at this write-up of some main considerations when selecting the right infrastructure solution for your next move.