Best of both worlds: Virtual privacy in the public cloud

Best of both worlds: Virtual privacy in the public cloud


Wednesday, December 07, 2011 | Dan Blacharski

Enterprises looking for the benefits of cloud computing may be averse to the idea, out of concern over lack of control, compliance issues or security. Those with a transaction-based environment or which collect credit card information will be especially aware of the potential risks, no matter how remote they may be. The virtual private cloud option, a relatively new and almost unheard-of concept, often makes sense and is not as confusing as it sounds.
 
One need look no further than Amazon Web Services for an example with their Amazon Virtual Private Cloud  service, with which a user provisions an isolated section of AWS in a virtual, self-defined network. The result is a system that is easily customisable, controllable, and has the ability to establish a connection between that virtual private cloud and a physical on premise data centre - essentially treating the off-site virtual private cloud as just another extension of the corporate office.
 
First announced in 2009, Amazon earlier this year extended its VPC service to a global audience, and added dedicated networking, and identity management solutions for its users to make it more suitable for mission-critical applications. With the most recent update, customers can now connect multiple networks to each other as well as to the central Amazon VPC. Perhaps the most significant part of the announcement though, is the AWS Direct Connect option, which allows users to establish a private network connection to Amazon Web Services, bypassing the public Internet entirely, and once and for all completely eliminating concerns over Internet-related security issues.
 
 
The addition of a private connection between the in-house data centre and the virtual public cloud may well be the final ingredient necessary to make this a viable option. It does add cost, but not as much cost as would provisioning a fully private cloud; and at the same time it eliminates concerns over Internet-related security issues, while allowing for better bandwidth throughput, reduced latency, and greater consistency and reliability of service.
 
GigaOM  points out though, that the result still does not offer the client a physically separate system, the separation occurs at the network level. At the hardware level, your data may still be physically on the same machine as another client. Is that enough? For many users, yes. The concept of the virtual private cloud provides a useful middle ground between public cloud services, which remain unacceptable to some users with high security needs or who collect and process private customer information; and the private cloud, which remains costly to provision and resource-intensive to maintain.
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