Cloud

The future of data centers: Is 100% cloud possible?

Guest blogger Robert Offley explains how the market is shifting today, what barriers remain for total cloud adoption, and if an evolution to 100% cloud is likely to occur.

Today, many midsize and large companies are taking a piecemeal approach to cloud computing. While the majority of companies are experimenting with cloud computing, few have migrated their entire infrastructure to a public or private cloud environment. A survey published in January by Enterprise Strategy Group of more than 600 enterprise and mid-market companies globally found that 27% were using public cloud IaaS services, up 10% from a similar survey published in early 2011. 24% of respondents said they haven't pulled the trigger on a cloud solution yet, but plan to at some point in 2012.

While cloud offerings from behemoths like Amazon are at the forefront of press coverage, many companies are seeing compelling incentives to gradually transition their infrastructure to the cloud, and construct more customized and hybrid solutions often offered by smaller and lesser known players in the industry. A hybrid approach enables organizations to ease the transition to cloud, and alleviate any risks associated with a complete cloud migration. What does the role of cloud computing look like for organizations in the near future?

Cloud computing is becoming ubiquitous in today's businesses, with the rising popularity of free SaaS applications like Dropbox and Google Apps, among others. For IT decision makers, however, the decision to migrate all back-end and mission-critical applications to the cloud may not be the most appropriate - at least for now. In many instances, a gradual progression to the cloud is an ideal strategy. This is why the Hybrid Hosting model is an attractive option for many businesses. Hybrid hosting combines aspects of physical hosting and cloud computing, and facilitates a seamless progression to a completely virtual hosting solution. Businesses are able to pick and choose what services are required, the types of management levels provided by the vendor, and whether or not their data and applications are stored on dedicated hardware or shared virtual servers.

Taking the Hybrid approach is also a necessity for some organizations, since there are still some significant barriers to cloud adoption:

Security: High-Risk applications, such as those that store financial, medical, or other sensitive information, may not be suitable for a public cloud environment. It is also important to verify the level of encryption included in a public cloud offering. Furthermore, organizations must determine exactly who has access to the data stored on virtual machines through the administration panel. Security concerns must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Once this occurs, then the cloud can be evaluated as an appropriate or inappropriate solution. Compatibility: Many companies are still using legacy systems that predate virtualization technologies. As a result, these systems will not work well in the cloud unless they are significantly reconstructed. Additionally, end-user licensing agreements may not allow for deploying these systems virtually. Legacy systems are typically not appropriate for the cloud due to issues surrounding compliance, end-user support, licensing, high-speed data access, and internal skillsets. The process of transitioning a legacy system to be cloud-ready requires a significant investment in time, resources, and money. Geography: One downfall inherent with public cloud offerings is the physical location of data. Many organizations require confirmation of where their data resides geographically. Unfortunately, many public cloud offerings disperse their infrastructure throughout multiple jurisdictions. As a consequence of this reality, customer data can become susceptible to different legislations covering specific geographic boundaries, such as the US Patriot Act, PIPEDA (Personal Information Protection & Electronic Documents Act) in Canada, and equivalent legislations and guidelines in the EU and many countries around the world. For example, with Canadian-owned and operated organizations looking to store their data in the cloud, the risk of having their data being susceptible to international legislation has proven to be a deterrent to adopting cloud hosting solutions.

Is the future of data centers 100% cloud? Once more organizations become comfortable with cloud computing, and after the barriers listed above are remedied, the progression towards 100% cloud adoption will increase. The Hybrid hosting model will remain integral to many organizations wishing to transition all of their applications to the cloud. With that being said, an evolution to 100% cloud is not likely to occur anytime soon. Due to compliance, compatibility, security, geographic concerns, and internal skillsets, many organizations will still require physical hosting services and on-premise infrastructure to fulfill their requirements well into the foreseeable future.

Robert Offley is the CEO of CentriLogic, a provider of managed hosting and cloud computing solutions.

6 comments
Sean Derrington
Sean Derrington

There certainly isn???t a ???one-size-fits-all??? cloud. CIOs in both public and private sectors need to be empowered to chose the cloud that is going to best meet their needs. Whether its public, private or hybrid, the right way to go about picking a cloud solution is to, first, clearly identify what exactly you want to accomplish with cloud. And, second, how you plan to use it to accomplish those goals. Also, hype over cost savings or paranoia over loss of control shouldn???t drive decisions. Again it???s about knowing where you want your organization to go and then seeing which kind of cloud will get you there. I believe the number of organizations that go 100% cloud based will be in minority. ??? Sean Derrington, Symantec

keith.manning
keith.manning

Over the last 3 years we have migrated to 100% cloud - although we have gone beyond the cloud and call it sky IT. Although only a small company (one location + some work at home, around 80 total users) we are an example of the future. In fact, since the management have worked for the biggest companies, we know that if we were a big company we could have done the same things at even lower unit cost and had the leverage to get the customization we have to live without. In five years, no in house organization will be able to compete with the base services from MS, Google, Amazon, ... So, come and join us beyond the cloud; up here the deep blue sky looks beautiful every day. Keith

SylvainBoyer
SylvainBoyer

Cloud is highly attractive for many apps but not forever... think of the mobile app developer with a new offer. Is the new app going to be downloaded 5 times or 5 million times during the first week of launch? Cloud is a must to help prepare for the unpredictable load and requirements, but as time passes and the success becomes more level and constant, many enterprises and developers will often bring it back in house (either colo/hosting/virtual machine) rather than keeping it in the cloud to keep costs under control.

waltersokyrko
waltersokyrko

Cloud computing is good (less expensive) for dynamic applications (lots of provisioning and de-provisioning OR fluctuating loads) and small organizations (cannot afford to have expert in each required area). If organization is large enough to hire two or more (need replacement for holidays,sickness, etc.) experts in a particular area and the load is stable then in-house is the least cost solution. This description corresponds to a great many use cases such as ERP, sales, desktop, etc. Examples where cloud computing is appropriate: - Small organizations that are not big enough for in-house IT staff - Resources for development and testing (could use in-house cloud) - Applications that have peak demands such as selling Christmas decorations; filling out tax returns; launching new products. - Quick deployment of a new application (brought in-house if application proves successful).

corral
corral

Wherever there is a packaged product or service there is a great opportunity for the cloud: email, desktop backup, even some generic business applications. But, for in-house developed applications, the benefits of the cloud are not so clear. Probably, only a fraction of sites will consider moving into the cloud.

tom.marsh
tom.marsh

Simply, no. Not without trillions of dollars in investments to build up our nation's broadband capacity. Using the Internet as your "LAN" is pretty much DOA in this country unless and until every company can get affordable, reliable, high-speed, professional data-services (i.e. not DSL) at their location, 100% cloud is a myth, because the best business-case for the cloud is at the low-end of the spectrum, and they can't afford the quality-bandwidth to make it into a reliable solution. Very few small-business owners perceive that they can afford $1000/month for stable, reliable Internet services with an SLA guarantee attached, no matter what portion of the business relies on that application. He'll look at that and see ($1000/month * Forever) + ($CostOfCloudApps x Forever) as the model he's signing off on, and find a way to do it on his own equipment for far less. Big companies can afford it, but have too much invested in in-house applications, datacenters, people, and the like, and aren't able to just "conform" their practices to some off-the-shelf solution in the "cloud," so even the portion of the market that can afford the infrastructure necessary to use the cloud correctly probably won't ever be "100%" cloud.

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