Does the Private Cloud Have a Real Future?

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    Conventional wisdom holds that enterprises will embrace the public cloud while revamping internal infrastructure with private cloud technology, eventually combining the two into a grand hybrid data environment.

    Sometimes the best laid plans have their detractors, however.

    In this case, that would be Amazon Senior VP Andy Jassy, who took the floor at the recent AWS Enterprise Summit in London to unleash both barrels on the private cloud concept, calling it “archaic” and all but accusing traditional enterprise vendors (a.k.a. the “old guard”) of keeping the enterprise in thrall with a bunch of false promises. At best, he said even large firms will see internal infrastructure reduced to a shadow of its former self as organizations tap into the data service powerhouse that Amazon has become.

    Hubris aside, Jassy is correct that public services like Amazon offer the quickest way for enterprises to scale up their cloud presences. And many organizations may be surprised to find that a good portion of their data, even critical data, is already on the cloud as knowledge workers take it upon themselves to provision their own resources. But if recent surveys are any indication, more enterprises prefer private cloud infrastructure over either public or hybrid. According to VMware (which Jassy includes as one of the “old guard” with vested product lines to protect), of the nearly three quarters of enterprises pursuing a cloud strategy, 48 percent want private cloud only, citing security and lack of control as their chief concerns.

    And yet there are examples of companies—big companies—moving aggressively into the public cloud. Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ), the third largest bank in Australia, says it uses a “cypher cloud” technique that allows it to separate customer data, including personal IDs, from banking data, so anything that winds up in the cloud is completely anonymous. In this way, the company hopes to quickly expand operations across the Asia Pacific region while maintaining full compliance with financial regulations in multiple countries.

    While it’s true that private cloud services offer a great deal of flexibility compared to private infrastructure, that edge is getting smaller every day. As NetApp’s John Martin points out, the fact that the private cloud is rooted in physical layer technology has been its Achilles heel, so far. But with new technologies like software-defined networking (SDN) placing the entire data environment on the virtual plane, system architects will soon have the equivalent of an undo key (control-z) that allows entire operating environments to be revamped on a whim.

    To cloud boosters like Jassy, this is all the more reason why enterprises of all stripes should shed their own infrastructure and adopt the public cloud. Complete separation between hardware and software means the actual location of any hardware component, and therefore its security and reliability, is moot. Infrastructure, services, data and everything else the user needs is now a fungible commodity that can be sourced and resourced on virtually any piece of hardware in the world, with security naturally evolving to the application layer where it can protect valuable data no matter where it goes.

    This is heady stuff, and it certainly won’t happen overnight. But in the long run, enterprise executives have a choice to make: Remain behind closed doors, or open up their infrastructure to the wider world.

    Arthur Cole
    Arthur Cole
    With more than 20 years of experience in technology journalism, Arthur has written on the rise of everything from the first digital video editing platforms to virtualization, advanced cloud architectures and the Internet of Things. He is a regular contributor to IT Business Edge and Enterprise Networking Planet and provides blog posts and other web content to numerous company web sites in the high-tech and data communications industries.

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