Cloud computing: Four reasons why companies are choosing public over private or hybrid clouds

Tech chiefs are making a big bet on the public cloud: here's why.
Written by Mark Samuels, Contributor

Why are companies jumping straight to the public cloud?

CIOs are now so committed to on-demand IT that many are not just ditching in-house provision but are skipping hybrid infrastructures altogether and shifting key systems straight to the public cloud.

Recently released figures suggest more than half (51 per cent) of IT leaders believe data security is better in the cloud than in their own data centres, and 58 per cent say the public cloud is the most secure, flexible and cost-effective solution to business challenges.

Take Travis Perkins CIO Neil Pearce, who says his firm is strongly committed to the cloud. "We're going to get rid of the legacy systems that are holding the business back," he says. "The aim is that everything will be in the cloud eventually. The board is very serious about transformation - the level of investment is already increasing swiftly."

So why are CIOs now more committed to the public cloud than ever before? ZDNet speaks to IT leaders and discovers four key reasons.

1. Innovation comes as standard with the public cloud

Rob Harding, CIO at Capital One, says his organisation has made a big commitment to the public cloud. "When you look at your business, you have to think very carefully about what back-end infrastructure makes the most sense for the organisation you are trying to create," he says.

"We realised there were a lot of benefits when we compared infrastructure in the cloud to on-premise data centres. Those benefits included elasticity, time to market and innovation, particularly in terms of software-as-service through the cloud. As a package, and even in terms of security, it just looked interesting."

Such is the scale of Capital One's commitment that Harding aims to have all production workloads in the cloud by 2021. It is a remarkable vision given the reticence of many finance firms to move on-demand.

"My experience of the financial services industry from both sides of the Atlantic suggests this is an innovative approach," says Harding. "There aren't many companies you can point at that have a cloud strategy at the centre of their technology strategy. A lot of people are still wedded to mainframe and a lot of people are still reliant on private data centres."

2. Flexibility provides a business advantage

Neil Moore, head of ICT at Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, is running a technology transformation project that will help the organisation update its network and IT infrastructure, while making big strides towards on-demand IT. Rather than a private or hybrid approach, Moore says the organisation is keen to be as open as possible.

"Our emphasis is towards the public cloud," he says. "There are obviously security constraints but they're not as onerous in the fire service as they might be in other public bodies. We don't, for example, face the layers of security and governance associated to the police."

Moore says the organisation is currently analysing its application provision and the cloud is likely to provide a key platform. The service is keen to support mobile working: toore says cloud-based and browser-based services provide additional flexibility that gives the organisation a business advantage

"As long as we can secure our data and services at the official level, then the cloud provides an adequate form of delivery," he says. "In most cases, we're keen to make as much use of the public cloud as we can."

3. External providers are the experts in secure provision

Omid Shiraji, interim CIO at Camden Council, is a big supporter of public provision. He has a simple strategy when it comes to decisions on whether or not to use the cloud: "People need to explain to me why we can't go public," he says.

Camden signed a contract to implement Oracle Fusion in the cloud at the start of the year. The technology will replace the council's existing finance, human resources, procurement and project systems. Camden, says Shiraji, will be the first local authority to deliver that scale and scope of back-office functions in the cloud via Oracle Fusion.

Shiraji is also not convinced by the argument that older software is tough to move. "You can run those legacy apps containerised in the cloud," he says. "I also think security and data location concerns are becoming less of an issue in the public sector as knowledge improves. A lot of cloud providers are locating in the UK and Europe now. I might spend a lot of money on security as a CIO, but the big providers will spend millions more."

While his starting point is public-first, Shiraji says some hybrid requirements will persist, particularly in highly governed firms. He also recognises that a complete commitment to the public cloud can be very challenging for IT teams. "It's not a position that's comfortable," he says.

"People can be concerned that they won't see the real technical benefits if they're not directly involved in the architecture. It's also worth noting that lifting and shifting apps to the cloud might actually cost more that in-house provision. But the real value from going on-demand is that I can focus IT staff on higher value activity."

4. CIOs can direct more attention to business change

Chris White, CIO at legal firm Clyde & Co is another IT leader who believes on-demand allows technology teams to focus their attention on more valuable activities. His strategy for the cloud is based on a desire to take advantage of external expertise. White and his executive peers want to cut the internal responsibility for big IT infrastructure projects.

"My range of responsibilities for running an IT department is huge. My depth of knowledge in each technical area is relatively narrow. I don't want to have to host applications. Other external technology providers can do that far better than I can," he says.

"I want to focus my attention on the areas where I can add value to my business - and that's not by running a global wide area network. Real value comes from pursuing innovation in areas like data mining, analytics and great customer services for our clients."

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