Q&A with Pete Chadwick of SUSE

Pete Chadwick (Profile)
Wednesday, October 3rd 2012

VSM: Can you outline the strengths and weaknesses present within the public vs. private cloud debate?

PC: Since the emergence of cloud computing, this question has been a source of great debate within the industry. Regardless of which cloud an enterprise chooses, there are two high-level advantages to cloud computing as a whole – reduced cost and increased agility (i.e., being able to respond faster to changes within the business’ IT infrastructure). Each advantage can be used to differentiate the benefits and weaknesses of each cloud model.

Many industry leaders argue that public clouds are the only form of cloud computing which have real value in agility and cost avoidance across the enterprise. That is, IT doesn’t have to pay for any capacity until they need it. Public clouds also allow IT to spin capacity up or down in a matter of minutes. Thus, the enterprise only pays for the infrastructure and capacity they need when they need it, affording them agility and cost-effectiveness.

The weakness to a public cloud strategy is that IT doesn’t have complete transparency or control when it comes to knowing exactly where data and workloads reside. This lack of control is not ideal for highly sensitive workloads, given the need for ultimate control and manageability needed to assure all assets are safe. Thus, for workloads in need of less supervision, the public cloud works best.

Conversely, private cloud environments allow the enterprise complete control: IT knows exactly where data resides and exactly which servers are processing workloads. The infrastructure can also be configured in a variety of ways that best serve the objectives of the business. Whereas in the public cloud there is less control, in a private cloud there is absolutely no chance of data migrating to any place outside of where IT wants it to. While private clouds do not avoid all of the up-front capital costs of a public cloud, the enterprise should still see savings thanks to improved server utilization and lower administrative expense.

VSM: Do you think one model will prevail over the other?

PC: We shouldn't think in terms of one cloud model prevailing over the other; enterprises should be examining how they can take advantage of both models. Thus, they will likely enter into some form of a hybrid cloud environment, opting instead for the ultimate blend of control and agility. For core parts of the infrastructure (those which contain the most important or sensitive data), IT will want to have full control from start to finish (building out the data center, managing it, etc.) so they know exactly where the workloads are running. Therefore this is best handled in a private cloud.  At the same time, there will be a set of applications where IT is less concerned which servers are running those particular workloads and are not worried about security and compliance risks. In those cases, the elements of a public cloud are best suited. The key is that an IT department utilizes the strengths of each model for the cloud infrastructure that best fits its organization.