It hasn't been a good year for the private cloud, and the Forrester Wave for Global Public Cloud Platforms isn't going to make it any better. With Forrester acknowledging it had previously under-projected the torrid growth of public cloud spending—the new total 23% higher at $236 billion by 2020—the private cloud remains the province of "suckers."
Indeed, nowhere is this more evident than in looking at Forrester's scoring for the would-be heirs to the AWS cloud throne. As comes out in the chart and throughout the report, the more enterprise incumbents like IBM focus on a hybrid approach to cloud, the more they fall behind.
Lock-in isn't the issue
For decades the open source community, in particular, has inveighed against the evils of vendor lock-in, even as the market happily concentrates its cash in a few vendors, whatever the category. This was true of Microsoft's desktop dominance, and it's true today of Amazon Web Services. Though AWS can't claim quite as indomitable an advantage as it held just two years ago, enterprises seem quite happy to be "locked in" to AWS.
Forrester's Dave Bartoletti confirmed this, telling me that "Our data confirms fear of lock-in is not slowing down cloud adoption in any way." Why? Because, as he went on to insist: "Speed and access to innovation are way more important than whether [an enterprise] can move it later."
Indeed, this quest for agility and convenience actually should make us welcome lock-in, cloud expert Bernard Golden wrote. Either an enterprise can build all the myriad of moving parts necessary to win in a "software is eating the world" context, or it can "Look to a cloud provider that offers them in an 'as-a-service' fashion and concentrate on running the application that sits on top of those services."
Guess which one companies increasingly choose?
For this reason, David Linthicum is correct to declare that "The public cloud is already the norm," and further that "The private cloud fantasy is over." As noted, let's look to Forrester's scoring to gut-check those bold statements.
Private cloud isn't a winning strategy
If we go off Forrester's scoring of infrastructure services, platform operations, development experience, and development services, AWS and Microsoft Azure—the two clear leaders in public cloud computing—don't have much of a lead over IBM and Oracle, the enterprise cloud runners up. Indeed, in some areas (like infrastructure services), IBM bests both AWS and Microsoft:
It's a bit surprising to see both AWS and Microsoft Azure ranked below IBM, but a bit easier to grok from the report. Speaking of AWS, Forrester advises that "[AWS] offers few developer abstractions to make its services easier to use, offers no bare-metal compute or arbitrarily resizable VMs, and lacks an on-premises, API-consistent platform to serve enterprises implementing hybrid cloud strategies." In other words, AWS (and Microsoft Azure) are voted down for infrastructure services because they don't do enough for private cloud hold-outs.
Scroll down the chart a bit more, and we see that IBM and Oracle have both AWS and Microsoft Azure blown away in terms of private and hybrid cloud strategy. The Microsoft scoring is a bit punitive given that Microsoft has solid offerings for hybrid clouds, though Forrester's claim that "Azure Stack—an on-premises, hybrid deployment option—is a nascent strength today" is fair.
Speaking of IBM, Forrester said that "IBM takes an enterprise-first, hybrid approach to the cloud platform market." The analyst firm goes on to point out that IBM "targets enterprises in transition to cloud with on-premises options such as Bluemix Local and a choice of dedicated, bare-metal, and multitenant infrastructure services."
These features raise its ranking with Forrester, but have done nothing to win it real customers. Besides, hybrid cloud is a bit of a canard, as Eric Knorr highlights, because the only companies that can credibly claim a real private cloud are VMware and those that support OpenStack. And, no one in these camps has a strong public cloud presence (or private cloud presence, if we're honest).
Indeed, despite this CIO-centric private/hybrid cloud strength among the IT giants, both AWS and Microsoft Azure crush these competitors in terms of market presence, the most important consideration of all: Customers, revenue, and growth rate.
Private cloud, in short, is the absolute wrong horse to bet on.
Do not go gentle into that private cloud
Are there CIOs who still cling to the dream of installing servers and controlling their IT destiny? Of course. But they aren't the ones writing the checks that continue to drive public cloud growth at rates private cloud acolytes can only dream of. Gartner indicates that public cloud VMs are growing at a 20X clip while private cloud VMs are managing just 3X growth.
The reasons are two-fold, as Linthicum lays out:
[P]ublic clouds are now more capable than private clouds. Look what's in AWS versus an OpenStack distribution—it's night and day. Ditto when comparing other public clouds to other private clouds.
But the biggest reason is that "private cloud" is another way to say "my own data center," which does not provide the benefits that companies seek from the principles of cloud computing. Both business and IT are increasingly acknowledging that "private cloud" isn't the cloud.
Public cloud is the winning strategy for enterprises that want to win customers. Private cloud is the strategy for CIOs that want to earn an early retirement.
- Report: Big banks to move 30% of workloads to public cloud within three years (TechRepublic)
- Public cloud crushing private cloud in growth and revenue (TechRepublic)
- Despite security and lock-in fears, public cloud adoption thrives among Fortune 500 (TechRepublic)
- Private cloud's very public failure (TechRepublic)
- Labor costs can make up 50% of public cloud migration, is it worth it? (TechRepublic)
Matt is currently head of the developer ecosystem at Adobe. The views expressed are his own, not those of his employer.
Matt Asay is a veteran technology columnist who has written for CNET, ReadWrite, and other tech media. Asay has also held a variety of executive roles with leading mobile and big data software companies.