Never Build a Cloud: Buy, Rent or AirBnB It


I have been working with virtualization and cloud for almost a decade now. I spent more than half of it at VMware working on virtualization, hypervisor and datacenter management. The last few years, I have been busy at ZeroStack, building a unique cloud solution for application development teams. In the process, I have talked to hundreds of customers and cloud builders, including CIOs, VPs of IT, software development, Eng. Ops, Directors of IT and developers.

This has given me a unique perspective on the evolution of cloud solutions and their consumption. There has been a lot of talk these days about whether enterprises should build their own private clouds or not. Before I answer that, let me draw a parallel to housing, since that would highlight the nuances of the answer for enterprises based on their size and requirements.

Cloud vs. Housing: 3 Models

We all live in a house that we have either built ourselves, bought or are renting from someone. So there are three choices here. But in computing, we talk mainly about private and public clouds and equate them to buy vs. rent. That is a very misleading comparison and in fact there are three models in cloud consumption as well.

Building a private cloud is like building a house yourself with the help of architects and contractors, who work with you on a very specific requirement and design that you need. Now this is obviously very expensive and time-consuming, but it is needed if you have very special needs that cannot be met by a generic design or a standard house. In computing, this is similar to buying hardware, software and building a cloud yourself with the help of an IT team with cloud experts. This is what most infrastructure and cloud vendors provide, where you buy their software or hardware appliance, train your team to get their certifications and build a cloud with those experts.

Getting a managed private cloud is like buying a house and having a team of people who you can call for any issues. Even better would be if the support team can tell you when there is a leak or security problem before you have to call them with a flooded crawlspace or basement. This is what “Cloud Managed Infrastructure” from ZeroStack provides you.

Finally, you can simply rent rooms at a hotel or book a longer stay with some discount, which is similar to leveraging a public cloud. It is flexible and is definitely needed in many cases. But this can get very expensive over time for longer term stays, and you also have no control over the place where you live. It is hard to do customizations in a hotel!

Now, you may ask, where does the AirBnB model come into play? That is what MSPs do for smaller companies that do not want to deal with any infrastructure but want someone else to host them or manage them. MSPs also can share a cloud deployment among multiple customers by doing logical partitioning of compute, storage and networking.

Managed Software Services

One key component that most people miss in cloud debate is the availability of managed services on public clouds. When you consume a public cloud, you have access to managed services similar to a hotel. At a house, you may have to call for such services but that is becoming easier and easier as most software vendors are packaging their applications to run on any infrastructure platform and I predict that they will start offering them as services instead of just software. For example, a NoSQL database company may offer a managed version of the service that can run across multiple sites in a highly reliable manner independent of the cloud platform used as the site. Otherwise, most of these companies will have a hard time competing with public cloud providers who are able to provide managed versions of open-sourced projects for these services. We have seen that with AWS providing Aurora and Redshift, which are forked off of MySQL and PostgreSQL.

Best Model For Application Deployment

So, Should you build your own private cloud?

The simple answer for most enterprises is NO! The whole purpose of cloud is to provide a platform that you can use as a standard platform for application development, testing, and hosting. Unless you want to build your own house, which is the equivalent of saying that you have very special needs or very high scale.

For most enterprises or tech companies, the answer is either buying a private cloud solution that they don’t have to operate themselves, renting resources from a public cloud or using an MSP. The diagram below illustrates the solution based on the size of the enterprise in terms of servers.


One can argue, “Why not simply rent and use a public cloud for all use cases?” It is well known that one can get a high-end server these days for $5000 to $8000 with 512 GB RAM and more than 8 TB of SSDs. This cost is amortized over 3 to 5 years. A VM with a similar configuration on a public cloud will cost more than $1000 per month. So the cost of hardware, even with the electricity, cooling and rack space, can be recovered within a year. Secondly, you can get much more control and infrastructure visibility from a private cloud that can help with application performance and troubleshooting if needed.

Any enterprise that has a mid-size deployment will find public cloud to be much more costly over time. Now, building a cloud yourself is definitely much more expensive at a scale smaller than 2000 servers because you have to factor in the cost of IT staff, power, cooling, time taken to maintain the cloud, doing patching upgrading and time lost in dealing with any failures.

However, you don’t have to build it yourself and you can simply consume a cloud that is fully managed. So with the right offering and design, you get economics, performance, control and visibility better than a public cloud!

Bottomline: Get a private cloud that you don’t have to manage and that integrates with public clouds seamlessly. This gets you best of both worlds.

If you want to know more about how to get the best platform for application development & deployment that combines a private cloud that comes without any infrastructure and operations and public cloud seamlessly, please reach out to us at:

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