With the ongoing acceleration of cloud technology, the managed cloud vs. unmanaged cloud debate has gotten extremely complicated. Providers constantly experiment with new features, pricing models and terminology to try to get an edge on the competition, and many businesses struggle just to keep up with terminology. Even the relative benefits of public and private cloud providers are shifting, as businesses rush to incorporate technology developed in other sectors of the industry. Fortunately, the role of the provider continues to differentiate the two halves of cloud services, defining a set of key differences that can help you choose the best solution for your organization.
Managed vs. Unmanaged Cloud Basics
What is Unmanaged Cloud?
The unmanaged cloud (UC) is a utility. Companies pay for resources based on what they use, what they reserve ahead of time, or some combination of the two. The unmanaged cloud is generally a public cloud, where a large number of tenants are housed in a single resource pool. Unmanaged public cloud providers operate massive data center networks, where they can pack in clients to control costs, while reserving spare compute so clients can scale.
- Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): In this basic, barebones, unmanaged cloud model, tenants pay for compute — usually on virtualized servers. They can use that compute for anything, be it running applications, development and testing or simple data storage. However, the tenant is responsible for everything but that basic compute and connectivity.
- Platform as a Service (PaaS): PaaS provides tools for building, running, and/or testing applications, usually along with some level of support. Different PaaS providers address the needs of different communities. For example, the SAP Cloud Platform is designed for SAP developers, and has tools for a range of SAP applications including IoT, big data and machine learning.
- Software as a Service (SaaS): SaaS providers furnish a complete application or suite of software. The provider is responsible for updating and maintaining the software, allowing companies to plug into its functionality without the cost and complexity of patching, debugging, or applying extensive configuration.In SaaS, the managed cloud vs. unmanaged cloud paradigm breaks down a bit. Many SaaS cloud applications offer a lot of support within a narrow range of functionality, but nothing outside. The software does what the provider specifies, but if you need additional functionality or integration, you’re usually out of luck.
Overall, the managed cloud vs. managed cloud distinction comes down to the role of the provider. In all unmanaged cloud models, the provider has a fairly narrow set of roles, and provides little or no support outside of these roles. For PaaS and IaaS, the main benefit has historically been the low cost, scalability and automation.
What is Managed Cloud?
The managed cloud is a customized, organization-specific solution run by the provider for the tenant. The managed cloud is usually a private cloud, with dedicated resources for each tenant to provide extremely high stability, performance and security.
Historically, managed clouds used dedicated hardware for each tenant, which made them relatively expensive — as well as limiting scalability. As a result, they were less suitable outside of mission-critical applications. With the development of the virtual private cloud, managed cloud providers have been able to bring down costs and offer greater scalability, while preserving the traditional benefits of the private cloud.
A managed cloud provider functions as both your hosting provider and an extension of your IT team. Like other aspects of managed services, the amount of support is scalable. For example, Symmetry can build, tune and run your SAP HANA cloud, provide occasional on-call support for your SAP Basis team, or anything in between.
This scalability of service is one of the greatest benefits of the managed cloud compared to the unmanaged cloud. With a managed cloud provider, you have access to a huge pool of skills and assets that you may need in the future. For example, Pemco approached Symmetry after a divesture, looking for help solving an array of IT strategy issues, including setting a budget, creating a roadmap to SAP, and finding a partner who could coordinate the multiple companies involved in the move.
Pemco originally wanted Symmetry’s help for migration and SAP Basis support, but planned to host internally. However, after crunching the numbers, they decided hosting with Symmetry was “the most logical and cost effective solution.” Because they were working with a managed enterprise cloud services provider, they were able to scale up their support immediately.
Managed Cloud vs. The Unmanaged Cloud: The Changing Landscape
The managed cloud has been rapidly catching up in areas traditionally dominated by the unmanaged cloud. As mentioned above, managed cloud providers can now scale up workload as needed, erasing one of the key benefits of the unmanaged cloud. However, unmanaged public cloud providers still had a big edge in certain applications such as automation — until the next generation cloud.
In the next gen cloud, users can spin up and down resources quickly to handle fluctuating demand. Companies can still maintain the safeguards of the private cloud — without having to force developers to wait for the help desk. This cloud automation eliminates the temptation and security risks of shadow IT, since developers can start work when they need to without bypassing internal security to spin up public cloud resources.
Additionally, next generation managed cloud providers can accommodate traditional workloads economically alongside demanding workloads like SAP. Tenants can shrink their vendor portfolios, avoiding the overhead associated with integrating and managing multiple clouds. This also provides substantial visibility gains, and simplified security and compliance.
On the other end of the managed cloud vs. unmanaged cloud shakeup, unmanaged providers have been offering a greater range of services, and more tie-ins with third party integrators. Advanced PaaS offerings offer an expanding range of tools, shrinking the development lifestyle, and supporting rapid gains in emerging fields like IoT and big data.
Managed vs. Unmanaged? Public vs. Private? Finding a Cloud Solution:
Understanding the managed cloud vs. unmanaged cloud distinction is important, but it can make you lose sight of the big picture. The goal isn’t to pick a team — it’s to find the right solution for your organization, and that can vary. The public cloud is often a very good option for small businesses and startups. SaaS tends to meet the requirements of small and new businesses with little fuss and modest cost. PaaS provides ample development tools for startups, and IaaS is secure and stable enough for their needs such as storage, hosting, and storefronts.
The largest enterprises often have a mixed strategy. Their scale allows them to handle administration, security, and compliance in-house, so it may make sense for them to use the public cloud extensively. Many use a hybrid cloud model, hosting performance and security-critical production workloads may be kept in the managed private cloud, or their own data centers, to meet more exacting standards.
But for most mid-market enterprises (and many large ones), a managed private cloud strategy just makes the most sense. You’ll be able to control costs while leveraging a highly-customized environment designed around your needs. The right partner will be able to bring everything you need to run your landscape, from administration, to compliance, to cloud disaster recovery. That means you can focus on running on a great business, knowing your partner has cloud strategy covered.