Public, private or both?
That question essentially frames the narrative surrounding enterprise cloud deployment so far. But if you follow much of the trade press lately, it would seem the smart money is on private or hybrid architectures due to the operational efficiency of the cloud and the increased security and control that owned-and-operated infrastructure brings to the table.
But what if that assessment is wrong? Or, more precisely, what if there is a broad distinction between what enterprise executives say they want and what they actually do? In short, perhaps the public cloud really is the wave of the future.
The latest market research certainly shows no signs of flagging demand for public cloud services and infrastructure. Research and Markets' most recent survey indicates revenue for global shared cloud infrastructure will top $6.6 billion by 2019, which would put it at about 30 percent growth per year between now and then. The firm reports that the advantages of scalability and support for new enterprise applications, like collaboration, are starting to outweigh security and control issues. Of course, a growing market does not prove that it is the preferred solution, especially since the public component is an essential element to hybrid solutions.
But on ReadWrite, MongoDB’s Matt Asay says the enterprise is indeed being drawn to the public cloud, and in particular the Amazon public cloud, in a big way—and not just for low-level archiving or dev/test workloads. Asay’s take is that convenience is trumping even security and availability in the eyes of many enterprise executives. The simple fact is that, unlike private cloud infrastructure, public clouds are available right now, providing both the scale and ease of deployment the enterprise needs to handle Big Data, collaborative workflows, mobile communications and other rising data trends.
And now that Amazon is offering hooks into legacy virtual enterprise infrastructure, organizations should find it easier to migrate to AWS, EC2 and other platforms. The company recently rolled out the AWS Management Portal for vCenter, which essentially allows IT managers to oversee virtual machines in the Amazon cloud the same way they run local VMs. A word of caution, however: While the system provides a convenient on-ramp to Amazon, it is unclear how easy it is to move workloads off again, either back home or to another cloud.
Going forward, it also seems likely that public clouds will demonstrate a more vibrant and faster-paced innovation curve than private clouds. When the delivery of infrastructure and services is the business rather than the cost center in support of alternate revenue streams, the incentive to invest and expand is very strong. The key, says ZDNet’s Drew Turney, is to craft language into the SLA that ensures that the benefits of that investment, and related cost reduction, go to you, the customer, rather than into the provider’s own pockets. In most cases, these benefits will be mutual, but it never hurts to make sure your dollars are spent wisely regardless of whether they go to leased or owned infrastructure.
In the end, what the rest of the industry is doing should be irrelevant to the individual enterprise. Grandma’s admonition about jumping off cliffs applies to school-age children and professional data managers alike. The wisest course, as always, is to define goals based on business requirements and organizational capabilities, and then craft solutions that provide the highest level of support.
Sometimes this path will lead to the public cloud, sometimes to the private. And sometimes it may take you back to the raw hardware sitting in your data center.