The latest research into cloud computing confirms what most of us already knew: The cloud is quickly becoming the new normal in enterprise computing, portending dramatic changes in hardware, software and service markets in the coming decade.
But even as cloud adoption kicks into high gear, it should be noted that not every application is suited for full cloud deployment and that in some cases the cloud could end up costing more than traditional data center infrastructure.
First, the numbers. Verizon reported this week that cloud utilization grew by 90 percent over the past year, a reflection of the technology’s transition from a largely test and development platform to a full production environment, even for mission-critical apps. The result is that organizations are on average increasing their cloud budgets by 45 percent per month.
And there is still plenty of room for growth. According to Gartner, only 38 percent of organizations report the use of cloud services today, with 80 percent planning on doing so over the next year. This may be music to cloud providers’ ears, but Gartner cautions that enterprises run a grave risk of misallocating their IT budgets if they continue to look at the cloud as the answer to today’s infrastructure challenges. The real prize, says Gartner researcher Gregor Petri, is finding ways for people to utilize the cloud in new and novel ways, resulting in productivity gains and even business opportunities that simply aren’t achievable with bricks and mortar data centers.
Of course, the reverse is also true: You can do things in the data center that you can’t do in the cloud. As VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger noted at VMworld last week, applications that require high levels of performance, governance and compliance will likely be tied to established data centers for many decades. This means that while hotshot app developers in Silicon Valley might get away with full reliance on the cloud, banks, utilities, government contractors and a host of other organizations will still have to keep their data closer to home.
But even then, sometimes the cloud proves too burdensome even for scale-out applications. Last month, wired.com highlighted the story of database service provider MemSQL, which had begun shifting workloads from Amazon back to internal infrastructure because it was, frankly, cheaper. Scale is unlimited in the cloud, but at some point the monthly fees start to exceed that of your own data center, particularly as commodity hardware costs come down.
Without question, the cloud is a juggernaut, but it doesn’t appear that we are seeing the wholesale transformation of IT infrastructure that many people describe. At best, we’ll see both internal and external data environments become more cloud-like, which will most likely lead to widespread data migration as enterprises seek the most efficient and cost-effective utilization of resources that satisfies both budgetary and operational needs.
It’s a dramatic change, to be sure, but it doesn’t require enterprises to give up on the past in order to embrace the future.