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A Cloud By Any Other Name… Has To Be Less Confusing

Note to social climbers: There’s no easier way to gain credibility in a dinner party than to announce that you’re involved with “the cloud”. Short of showing up to the event wearing Google Glass, it’s easy to project yourself as a ambassador of the future by associating yourself with cloud technology… a sure-fire way to get you to the head of the table.Note to technology professionals: Tell your peers that you or your business is ‘in the cloud’, and you can be sure to get a decidedly less enthusiastic response…

cloud selfie small

I just took a selfie with ‘the cloud’ using my Google Glass; thereby completing my own virtuous cycle of futurism. I’ve become ‘#one’…

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To save time, I’ll spare you from the long narrative and get down to facts:

  • Public, Private, Hybrid, Virtual Private, SaaS, etc. There are so many terms that describe clouds today, we thought it appropriate to try and clear the air.
  • Customers are far too often associating public cloud with risk and shared resources. Deploying a solution in a public cloud data center does not always make the infrastructure shared.
  • Whereas SaaS is one way to leverage a public cloud offering, it’s certainly not the only. There can be mountain of difference between public cloud-powered and SaaS offerings in terms of security, data sovereignty and data sharing.

Invoking the educational power of the metaphor, allow me to help clear up some of today’s cloud confusion by providing this simple guide to cloud naming conventions:

Private Cloud: The Car You Own/Lease

In the case of private clouds, customers own their own infrastructure, deploy applications on and manage the infrastructure themselves.

This model has similarities with buying or leasing your own car, where all of the acquisition cost is sized at the time of purchase and access to the car is exclusive to the owner. Of course, you need to drive the car with a fair amount of frequency to justify the large capital cost vs. renting a car… but, peace of mind of ownership can go a long way.

Virtual Public Cloud (VPC): The Car You Rent

In the case of virtual private clouds, a customer is provisioned a logically isolated part of a public cloud service where 100% of the data and computing lives behind a customer-defined and customer-managed VPN and subnet.

This model is similar in many ways with renting a car, where a customer takes full control of the rental during the rental period and decides on any/all passengers that ride in the car. The rental car company puts out the money to buy the car and handles all of the maintenance at a time that’s convenient for you. Even still, renting a car can be less expensive than buying a car if you’re not a power-user of the rental service.

Software-As-A-Service (SaaS): Public Transportation

In the case of SaaS, a customer is provided an account on a centrally managed, multi-tenant application where many users co-exist in an environment that is logically managed by the SaaS solution provider.

This model is similar in many ways with taking a bus – where the route is fairly rigid (aka: you can’t host just anything in SaaS) and where the bus driver runs the show (aka: the solution provider often oversees user access and data ownership). If you’re going in the direction of the bus and aren’t a power-user – the cost of this solution can be compelling. However, there are serious compromises that can arise: Modern SaaS offerings support traditional IT authentication systems – but are often compromised because the solution provider also has access to both authentication tools and even customer data.

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Of course the above can be combined in various ways for a hybrid cloud solution, but we intend to dedicate an upcoming blog post entirely to that one.

OK, so… rent or own, you never have to worry about some creepy guy riding along with you trying to steal your briefcase. The resource is 100% under your control and the infrastructure access is as secure as it has been in traditional corporate IT data centers.

Regarding SaaS offerings, CTERA learns every day through our customer discussions that there is pervasive lack of understanding around data privacy in SaaS offerings. In this case, you need to worry about the creepy guy stealing from either you or the bus driver who is also looking after your data. These same customers express an overwhelming interest in avoiding solutions that aren’t 100% compliant with an organization’s IT and data privacy policies.

CTERA has long supplied service providers with the tools to build their own SaaS offerings, but unlike many SaaS offerings that were designed for consumerization of IT – the CTERA platform enables unrivaled control over data access and data encryption where our service provider customers can avoid the risk of having any access to their customers’ data. Think of this as Virtual Private SaaS. We view this as the logical evolution of today’s SaaS model where users take full control over their data, even when storage is provided as a simple SaaS offering… the best part is, we offer all of these controls today.

Of course, if a SaaS solution provider can’t get access to your encrypted data, then their SaaS offering can’t fully deduplicate your data across the entire customer base. The dirty secret of the SaaS market is that this is one of the key ways in which the SaaS providers optimize their business. However, at a time when SaaS services are hemorrhaging money, any data controls that lessen their ability to optimize infrastructure costs may just turn a few companies’ business models too far upside down. More on this some other time, until then…

Save travels.

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