Virtual Private Cloud Can Be a Stepping Stone or a Bridge
by May 31, 2017

Filed under: Cloud Computing

One of the less obvious aspects of the fantastic growth of the cloud has been the substantial role played by virtual private cloud (VPC). Those are chunks of public cloud capacity reserved in varying degrees for specific organizations.

Cloud has captured the imagination of business and IT. It’s a spending stampede. And a big portion of the move to the cloud has not been to the plain vanilla Motel 6 in the sky, but to a variety of gated communities, known collectively as virtual private cloud. There are pros and cons when weighing VPC vs. private or public cloud, and some monitoring and performance issues to consider.

While nearly everyone finds the cost savings and simplicity of cloud appealing, many customers, particularly larger organizations, have demanded and won a more carefully defined and protected chunk of cloud capacity to call their own: the virtual private cloud. For some, this is a stepping stone to placing more reliance on the cloud. For others it is a bridge, linking long-term cloud investments to key on-premises capabilities.

Cloud giants such as AWS, Azure and Google have padded their profits by pitching public cloud, but other providers are responding to the demand with VPC offerings. For example, Google offers a VPC with “a comprehensive set of Google-managed networking capabilities, including granular IP address range selection, routes, firewalls, Virtual Private Network (VPN) and Cloud Router.” Clearly, big customers have demanded that providers tailor their offerings to fit a customer’s needs—and providers like Google have responded.

Having Your VPS Cake and Eating It Too

IT teams are turning to VPC providers because of the inherent difficulty and high cost of creating their own private clouds. In fact, according to figures from Forrester Research, the majority of organizations that have tried to create their own private cloud have been disappointed. At best, most of them find they don’t have a cloud so much as a lot of virtualized resources, and they still need to hand-hold their internal customers. In the end, the high cost of switching from the public to private cloud was hardly warranted.

So, as analysts point out, customers are looking to VPC as a chance to have their cake and eat it too—leveraging affordable global public infrastructure, but keeping some of the features they liked about having their own infrastructure. For many organizations, this compromise represents the perfect alternative to either the public or private cloud.

The VPC locks in (virtually, at least) resources that are yours and no one else’s. The tailoring can include making the VPC look and act a lot like an extension of your on-premises data center. While it may not be a “real” private cloud, for many organizations it is close enough. For example, VPCs can provide address space that appears to be contiguous with on-premises resources. A variety of other technical sleights of hand can make workloads in the VPC behave and “look” just like those based back at home. Without added features, it’s like a connection to another company data center.

Those traits mean it has a lot of appeal for cloud doubters, and for IT, it makes management simpler. And given challenges and expenses of creating real private clouds, it is no wonder that decision-makers find VPC appealing.

And there’s more good news: If a stripped-down VPC isn’t good enough, some cloud providers will even go so far as to promise hardware exclusivity, making the VPC look a lot more like earlier approaches to hosting and outsourcing, though at a premium price.

If you take the VPC route, what does that mean for monitoring and management? The good news with VPC is that many on-premises tools can be extended to the lookalike VPC environment without much apparent difficulty. But cloud-based monitoring tools (either cloud-resident or appliance-based) can also work well. You can still get visibility into the functions you need to monitor.

So, if you are looking for a way to strengthen your disaster recovery strategy, need to cut infrastructure costs or are still testing the cloud waters and want something familiar, consider the VPC option. And don’t fear the management challenges. It’s not uncharted territory!