Is it time to put the public vs. private/hybrid cloud debate behind us? Like Mac vs. PC or open vs. proprietary, it seems that the biggest arguments over technology have a shelf-life, and the time to put conflicts over cloud infrastructure is nearing its end.
The reason is simple: In an age of virtual, abstract data environments, the enterprise is no longer limited to stark choices when it comes to resource configurations.
While it’s true that, as InfoWorld’s David Linthicum points out, public cloud providers are pushing the envelope on emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and serverless computing, the fact remains that local infrastructure still provides unique capabilities that cannot be matched by third-party infrastructure, no matter how advanced. This goes way beyond the security issue, which some say is better in the public cloud, to factors like latency, data residency, governance and single-vendor lock-in.
The cloud is not, and never was, a zero-sum game. As Nutanix’ Sachin Chheda noted recently, IT executives fretting over making the wrong choice in the cloud should relax. With infrastructure now defined as a service, the results are what matter most, not technology. So instead of deploying public, private or hybrid clouds and then figuring out what to do with them, the new development process is to ascertain the requirements of a given application and compile the appropriate resources for optimum support. Sometimes that will lead to all-public clouds, sometimes all-private, and sometimes something in between.
Things would be different if a single cloud architecture could be all things to all processes, but if such a thing is possible, we certainly aren’t there yet. Datamation’s Cynthia Harvey provides a good round-up of the pros and cons of the various cloud computing models, particularly their relative merits regarding agility, scalability and cost. In short, while the public cloud is tops when it comes to scale and performance, private solutions win out in areas like visibility, control and compliance. And of course, there are multiple ways to fudge these differences through approaches like hosted private clouds and managed services platforms.
In fact, the ability to define all manner of in-house and external resource configurations in the cloud is one of the chief reasons why the simple public vs. private debate is becoming moot. ZDnet’s Conner Forrest notes that there are five main categories of clouds at the moment – public, private, hosted private, hybrid and cloud-based services, which includes functions like database management, disaster recovery and other as-a-service options. Rather than focusing on deploying the correct infrastructure all the time, IT executives would do better to understand the intricacies of each model and how they can best be integrated into a broad-based, service-centric data ecosystem.
At the moment, it’s fair to say that most discussions surrounding the cloud are still based on archaic notions of how data, applications and infrastructure interact to support the various enterprise processes. But all of this is about to be turned upside down with the dawning of the digital services economy. As Big Data, the IoT, autonomous computing, microservices, and a host of other developments come online, the key factor for success will be performance. And since most functions will have the ability to determine for themselves how to provide the best performance, issues surrounding underlying infrastructure will become increasingly tangential for the enterprise – akin to how its electricity is provided or what kind of cement was used to pour the foundation for headquarters.
More than anything, this is the most significant development of the modern IT era, where all types of clouds are on the table and the enterprise has the ability to dynamically shift workloads to whatever combination of resources works best at any given time.
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 and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.