There’s plenty of debate inside of enterprises and across the idnustry whether public, private or hybrid clouds are more viable for today’s IT challenges. However, some believe it may not be long before private clouds will simply melt away altogether, blending into the massive public clouds that are engulfing industries across the globe.
That’s the word from participants in a recent industry panel, intended to provide guidance on delineating between private, public and hybrid clouds. The general conclusion of the panel, hosted by BrightTalk, is that private cloud is quickly slipping into irrelevancy. It’s only a matter of how fast this transition happens.
Let’s hold that thought for a minute. Is the melting away of private cloud a fair prediction? Just to add some perspective, IDC calculated that global IT spending this year would total about $2.1 trillion. Cloud spending would hit about $100 billion. That’s a lot of cloud spending, but it’s only about five percent of total IT spending. We can presume a lot of spending, then, still goes to to the maintenance and upgrades to on-premises systems. This trend will hold for many years to come. With so much “legacy” out there running today’s enterprises, private cloud may be the only way to go for some time to come.
Many argue that corporate cloud formations will evolve in the form of hybrid arrangements between on-premises clouds and public clouds. However, Kate Craig-Wood, MD, co-founder and managing director of Memset, questions the logic of such strategies. “I’m actually a bit of a skeptic about hybrid cloud,” she explained. “From a security standpoint, what I hear some companies say they have a legacy estate, and they want to have infrastructure in house, for security reasons. Then they say they want to burst out into public cloud, in which to be able to have the elasticity of resources. If you’re doing that you may as well just use public cloud. If its secure enough for the bursting, then its secure enough for doing everything with it.”
Another panelist, Peter Mansell, sales manager for HP Helionpeter, agrees that private clouds will melt away, but it may take some time. “In the short term, I don’t see that happening, because I don’t think we have that common architecture in place at the moment. Since there isn’t one common operating system, you can’t get that structure at the moment. In the short term, you’ll still see the very deep distinction between public and private and managed cloud.” Efforts such as OpenStack are paving the way for such a common foundation, Mansell continued.
“The lines are blurring between public and private cloud, in sometimes quite confusing ways,” said Jessica Twentyman, editor with IP Expo Europe and moderator for the panel. “The issue of open standards remains paramount. without those standards, its going to be difficult to migrate workloads between and different cloud types”
Still, the value proposition and functionality available from public clouds is hard to beat, Craig-Wood added. Ultimately, it will become too difficult to make a business case for keeping an on-premises cloud. “Increasingly what we’re seeing is just different flavors of public cloud around a service level,” she said. “What most people mean by on-premise public cloud or off-premise private cloud is they’ve got some dedicated hardware. Again, you have to ask yourself, why you actually want that? It’s usually a security requirement or legal requirement, which is fine, but that’s not necessarily a hybridization issue. It’s more a service level issue, it’s about getting that service level with the cloud provider right. As far as public versus private, I always contend we should always be pushing things toward public cloud. Increasingly its extremely robust, virtualization layers have been proven to be unbreakable.”
While Craig-Wood and Mansell may be right regarding the upsurge of public cloud, it may also be worth taking a look at where this may primarily be taking place. It doesn’t make sense for enterprises to be running their own server farms. At the same time, many of today’s companies are quickly evolving into software providers themselves. They have industry expertise, and are rolling out industry-specific solutions that they are sharing with partners and customers. At a Software as a Service level, enterprises are building and maintaining their own in-house applications — though they may be relying on back-end infrastructure cloud platforms from Amazon, Microsoft or IBM to run the solutions. That’s a hybrid approach of another stripe.