Physical data centers, how quaint

'All you need is cloud'? Hold that thought.

Is the physical data center an anachronism? Some industry leaders say there's no longer a need for enterprises to have data centers at all -- that everything they need is in the cloud.

Clouds Crane over Hudson River  cropped June 2013 photo by Joe McKendrick
Photo: Joe McKendrick

That's the word from Matthew Finnie, CTO of Interoute, and a regular advisor to the European Commission on ICT research and innovation. In an interview conducted by TechRadar's Desire Athow, Finnie says cloud computing is more than adequately filling the need data centers once fulfilled.

Of course, the "cloud" is not operating in a vacuum --- it's powered by multiple data centers. But Finnie's point is that enterprises should not worry about all that underlying infrastructure. While Finnie's business is running virtual data centers for clients, it's interesting to get his take on how these opportunities are unfolding:

"With greater flexibility, IT can create incredible services at scale and still securely deliver them to employees for a fraction of the price. We need to move on from the traditional IT model of 'locked down' builds using closed infrastructure, towards an approach that effectively turns the IT department into a service provider. For example, instead of purchasing physical data centers, simply store and transport data virtually, using cloud infrastructure."

Finnie also points out that he has seen cloud working well for processing large-scale data sets for scientific applications. In this sense, cloud opens the door to innovations not possible with on-premises systems.

Cloud services keep getting more powerful and sophisticated, it's going to be some time before large numbers of organizations will be able to let go of their physical IT assets. There are significant data security concerns as well with relying on outside cloud providers. In many cases, those on-premises assets -- such as mainframe programs with specific processes have been mapped out and developed over the years -- may still deliver competitive advantage.

In addition, a hallmark of the cloud era is organizations and individuals become both publishers and consumers of services. For organizations with considerable on-premises assets, there are opportunities to extend resources to partners and customers as cloud or SaaS offerings.

Rather than be the twilight of data centers, the coming era may represent a golden age of data centers. Not just on-premises servers and storage devices, but a hybrid mixture of on-premises, hosted, and outside cloud services to get whatever jobs enterprises need.