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Public cloud vs. private cloud: Why not both?

Beth Schultz | April 4, 2011
As cloud computing moves from hype to reality, certain broad trends and best practices are emerging when it comes to the public cloud vs. private cloud deployment debate.

Still, additional Info-Tech survey data shows that most enterprise IT executives expect some sort of future in the public cloud, Sloan says. When asked where they see public cloud services in the next three to five years, for example, 70% of IT decision-makers said it'll indeed be a place where select data, applications and processes are located.

Variations on a cloud

Vimeo, an online-video sharing site, finds great value in getting infrastructure as a service (IaaS) from Amazon Web Services (AWS). The scalability and on-demand cost model available with AWS Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and Simple Storage Service (S3) work well for the up-and-down nature of the workloads it's placed in the cloud, says Peter McArthur, director of backend engineering for the New York company, a subsidiary of Internet company IAC.

At one time Vimeo relied exclusively on a managed hosting service, but about three and a half years ago it moved its Web site infrastructure into an internal IAC data center and all of its video transcoding and uploading services onto EC2 and S3.

"We started with EC2 because it was so simple. We could sign up with a credit card and we didn't have to do much work in the way of forecasting," McArthur says. "At the time, the difference between our peak and off-peak transcoding volumes was huge, and so scalability was critical."

Vimeo today uses between 150 and 200 EC2 instances during peak hours and roughly 90 off-hours, to support transcoding and uploading of tens of thousands of videos each day, McArthur says. "We love it."

Vimeo's video workloads, however, don't engender concern over matters such as data privacy and information security - two of the biggest inhibitors to public cloud use.

And there are companies that see their future exclusively in the public cloud.

Such is the case at AMAG Pharmaceuticals, which is working to offload all applications and data to the public cloud. And when AMAG encounters an application whose security requirements make it inappropriate for the public cloud, they use an external or hosted private cloud, says Nate McBride, executive IT director at the Lexington, Mass., company.

Coyle sums up the private-public dilemma this way: "If an enterprise really looks at bringing its technology environment to the cloud, it's almost 100% going to end up with some sort of hybrid, if it really wants to do it right."


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