Last week I had a typical conversation with a very successful IT executive. I had just presented benefits of a cloud computing solution, and he was excited about it, but explained he wouldn’t be able to start for a couple of years.
He had just signed a lease for more datacenter space, and he had tons of equipment on his books. He was worried that some of his critical applications might break if he made any sudden changes. His predicament is common, and so was his conclusion.
But that kind of thinking squanders a golden opportunity to reap early benefits from the cloud. So what do you do? You must start with what you have and build from there.
Here’s the catch. You need to know where to begin. I have said that from an internal management perspective, public and on-premises environments have a lot in common. Nonetheless, at any given time you will be consuming your services from a specific location, which could be an internal datacenter, a public service, or some combination of both. The question is, which you should choose?
The answer? It depends. There are some trade-offs to consider in this selection. Public clouds address many enterprise pain points very well. There are good reasons why many enterprises subscribe to a public infrastructure and platform service, such as Windows Azure. Public clouds relieve the organization of a large part of the physical administration and reduce the need for capital expenditures. This can mean quicker time to value.
However, public services also present a radical change, which doesn’t come without risks. Some corporations are reluctant to run sensitive applications over publicly accessible networks or pool resources with external entities.
On-premises environments present a simple solution to this dilemma. Enterprises can benefit from scalability, efficiency, and availability without radically altering their risk profile. Especially in cases where sensitive data is involved, regulatory compliance is difficult to maintain and data governance is strict. An internal implementation of cloud-scale technologies is often the only viable option to drive better efficiency and agility.
There are other factors to think about. Financial considerations may also favor an on-premises solution. Most enterprises already have significant capital invested in an existing datacenter, including hardware and software. The incremental cost of using these assets is low. Even when the time comes to procure new systems, a large corporation can often run these internally for a lower cost than the price of a public service.
Leveraging an existing datacenter is often simpler because it can be done with incremental changes in technology. Large companies are already familiar with the systems they have deployed throughout their infrastructure. Updating these systems with newer OS versions that include cloud capabilities like resource elasticity, greater scalability, and more efficient use of capacity injects cloud capabilities into the datacenter without introducing compatibility issues. This approach becomes an effective stepping stone to the future.
Cloud computing introduces new capabilities that foster business process changes that place even greater demands on the datacenter. It is unrealistic to expect to reach utopia overnight. One key to success is leveraging the assets you have in your existing datacenter. However, you can augment this strategy with other options as well.