The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, and judging by the continued interest in private cloud solutions, it is fair to say that the sky is always bluer on the other side of the cloud, as well.
Cloud providers have made no secret of the fact that they can deliver advanced IT services at a fraction of the cost of in-house infrastructure, but for organizations that have invested millions, if not billions, in their own data centers, it isn’t just a simple matter of dumping the old for the new. Rather, many CIOs are asking themselves: If a third-party provider can deliver IT more cheaply and effectively, why can’t I?
This is one of the reasons why private cloud adoption is about to undergo a dramatic shift over the next year or so, says Technology Business Report. According to the company’s latest research, the percentage of private clouds delivered by third parties is showing a steady decline – from 70 percent to 65 percent in the past year – while in-house clouds are on the rise – 30 percent to 35 percent. At the same time, however, the group notes that while the private cloud market is due to grow by about 15 percent per year through 2018, spending at individual organizations is on the decline due to the low cost of open, public cloud services.
This does not necessarily mean that the enterprise is losing its taste for internal private clouds, however. Rather, it is more likely an indication that once a critical mass of data center infrastructure is shifted to a cloud footing, it becomes more scalable and flexible and therefore reduces the need for continual investment. As InfoWorld’s Howard Baldwin notes, the advent of software-defined networking (SDN) clears the last hurdle to a fully virtualized data environment, allowing organizations to finally bring the benefits of cloud computing to mission-critical applications that must remain firmly shielded behind the enterprise firewall. In this way, the enterprise can field a mix of public, private and hybrid architectures and then easily shift workloads to the appropriate tier through an integrated, universal management stack.
Meanwhile, cloud providers and even application/service developers are making it easier to deploy private clouds almost instantly using appliances optimized for key functions. For example, MobileSmith, a provider of specialized mobile app development platforms, recently launched the MobileSmith Pod appliance that allows enterprises to maintain cloud-based service and development without using a traditional third-party PaaS architecture. The device sits inside the firewall where it can oversee the integration of applications with internal data sources without risking exposure to public infrastructure. Essentially, it provides a rapid private cloud deployment model that fosters key mobile support services like native app development, even for those without advanced programming knowledge, as well as secure end-user management, push notifications and real-time content updates.
Still, the biggest dig at private clouds from the public cloud sector has always been cost. Security is a non-issue, they say, because the same security apparatus that exists in the enterprise can be deployed on the cloud, and public services can mount a wide range of architectures featuring various levels of isolation, reliability and flexibility to equal anything that an individual enterprise can muster, all at less cost. However, as Network World’s Brandon Butler points out, some are starting to contest that notion. Firms like Plexxi and Piston Cloud Computing estimate that, on average, once the public cloud budget hits $7644 per month, it may be time to invest in a private solution – depending, of course, upon the workload, the state of legacy infrastructure and a number of other factors. The key, they say, is weighing the higher upfront costs of the private cloud against the longer-term costs of perpetual leasing of public services, particularly as data loads increase.
All of this indicates that the enterprise will have to do a tricky dance when it comes to finding the right balance in the cloud. If anything can be said with certainty, it is that continual monitoring and assessment of needs and capabilities will remain the order of the day as cloud infrastructure makes the transition from emerging trend to the established mode of IT operation.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata, Carpathia and NetMagic.