What is a Private Cloud?

A private cloud is a particular model of cloud computing that involves a distinct and secure cloud based environment in which only the specified client can operate. As with other cloud models, private clouds will provide computing power as a service within a virtualised environment using an underlying pool of physical computing resource. However, under the private cloud model, the cloud (the pool of resource) is only accessible by a single organisation providing that organisation with greater control and privacy.

The technical mechanisms used to provide the different services which can be classed as being private cloud services can vary considerably and so it is hard to define what constitutes a private cloud from a technical aspect. Instead such services are usually categorised by the features that they offer to their client. Traits that characterise private clouds include the ring fencing of a cloud for the sole use of one organisation and higher levels of network security. They can be defined in contrast to a public cloud which has multiple clients accessing virtualised services which all draw their resource from the same pool of servers across public networks. Private cloud services draw their resource from a dsitinct pool of physical computers but these may be hosted internally or externally and may be accessed across private leased lines or secure encrypted connections via public networks.
The additional security offered by the ring fenced cloud model is ideal for any organisation, including enterprise, that needs to store and process private data or carry out sensitive tasks. For example, a private cloud service could be utilised by a financial company that is required by regulation to store sensitive data internally and who will still want to benefit from some of the advantages of cloud computing within their business infrastructure, such as on demand resource allocation.
The private cloud model is closer to the more traditional model of individual local access networks (LANs) used in the past by enterprise but with the added advantages of virtualisation. The features and benefits of private clouds therefore are:
  • Higher security and privacy; public clouds services can implement a certain level of security but private clouds - using techniques such as distinct pools of resources with access restricted to connections made from behind one organisation’s firewall, dedicated leased lines and/or on-site internal hosting - can ensure that operations are kept out of the reach of prying eyes
  • More control; as a private cloud is only accessible by a single organisation, that organisation will have the ability to configure and manage it inline with their needs to achieve a tailored network solution. However, this level of control removes somes the economies of scale generated in public clouds by having centralised management of the hardware
  • Cost and energy efficiency; implementing a private cloud model can improve the allocation of resources within an organisation by ensuring that the availability of resources to individual departments/business functions can directly and flexibly respond to their demand. Therefore, although they are not as cost effective as a public cloud services due to smaller economies of scale and increased management costs, they do make more efficient use of the computing resource than traditional LANs as they minimise the investment into unused capacity. Not only does this provide a cost saving but it can reduce an organisation’s carbon footprint too
  • Improved reliability; even where resources (servers, networks etc.) are hosted internally, the creation of virtualised operating environments means that the network is more resilient to individual failures across the physical infrastructure. Virtual partitions can, for example, pull their resource from the remaining unaffected servers. In addition, where the cloud is hosted with a third party, the organisation can still benefit from the physical security afforded to infrastructure hosted within data centres
  • Cloud bursting; some providers may offer the opportunity to employ cloud bursting, within a private cloud offering, in the event of spikes in demand. This service allows the provider to switch certain non-sensitive functions to a public cloud to free up more space in the private cloud for the sensitive functions that require it. Private clouds can even be integrated with public cloud services to form hybrid clouds where non-sensitive functions are always allocated to the public cloud to maximise the efficiencies on offer.

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