No, this is not just another polemicist’s vain attempt to stir up the hornet’s nest. Much has been written about pros & cons for every cloud strategy, private – public-hybrid -closed hybrid - open hybrid ( I am not making this up !) and cloud prophets have been arguing over the future of it.Many enterprises and technology consulting firms are placing their bets on hybrid cloud strategy. In fact, I have been a strong advocate of a hybrid cloud strategy. Well, until now! The staggering pace of change that’s happening the in the public cloud provider space has made rethink about the need for a hybrid cloud strategy.
Well..It is time I let my guard down and shared my two cents on hybrid cloud strategy. (*Note: Please read my disclaimer..again :) )
I have been mulling over this for a while. I believe it is essential to come out and revalidate some of the significant concerns that drive business and IT decision makers towards hybrid/private cloud strategy. The concerns and challenges that were valid a few years ago are either no longer valid or will become invalid in the near future.
Before we proceed any further, it is important that I clarify what I mean by hybrid cloud. The term is loosely used, and I am not referring to the coupling of the traditional data center with the public cloud. When I mean hybrid cloud, I am talking about pairing up the private and public cloud. [ NIST Definition: Hybrid cloud infrastructure is a composition of two or more distinct cloud infrastructures (private, community, or public) that remain unique entities, but are bound together by standardized or proprietary technology that enables data and application portability.]
Also, am ignoring all other additional scenarios like fog computing, edge computing, intercloud, multicloud, bimodal IT….phewww .. and many many more scenarios
Now let’s dive into some of the key reasons.
Reason – 1: Enterprises have unique requirements
The prevailing view among large enterprises is that public clouds are best suited for SMEs and suitable to run non-critical or experiential workloads whereas large enterprise requirements are unique and are best addressed through a hybrid private-public cloud.
Yes, this is true if you have hundreds of thousands of servers running in multiple geographies or if you are in specific technology industry like telecom. Even in the case of large enterprises, many ( for example GE) are taking massive steps to reduce their on-premise data center footprint. Another example is the case of technology-intensive industry like telecom. Though telecom operators have been heavily investing in private clouds, they are actively exploring the possibility of adopting public clouds. Here’s an article that talks about how public cloud can be coupled with overlay network functionality to accelerate NFV/VNF testing. Even ICT vendorsthat work with telecom operators have started forging strategic alliances with public cloud providers to enable a painless transition to the cloud.
Even if you are that particular enterprise that has unique requirements, go slow on the private cloud.No matter what your vendors claim, it is highly unlikely you will outpace the public cloud provider.
Reason -2: It’s easier to spin up our private cloud
“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others” – George Orwell
Yes, it’s much easier these days to set up a cloud. Many vendors like Mirantis, Stratoscale have made deployment of private cloud much more manageable. But it’s important to note that all clouds aren’t the same. You do not set up a private cloud because you want to spin up virtual machines and assign storage. You no longer go to cloud just for infrastructure but to consume advanced services like analytics, machine learning, IoT et al. A quick glance at the features or services shows a big disproportionate difference between private cloud ( Openstack, Cloudstack et al.) and public cloud
Moreover, when we are talking about hybrid cloud, we are talking about seamless integration and flawless orchestration of workloads between the private and public cloud. Though it is a fantastic idea and possible to achieve, there’s a tiny caveat. You need an absurd amount of engineering and deep expertise to make it run and operate.It will cost you more than it pays back.
The hard truth is that all clouds aren’t equal!
Reason -3 Public clouds aren’t cheap
"It’s not significantly less expensive to use the cloud for a company the size of GE. And if you do it wrong, the cloud can be a lot more expensive" - Chris Drumgoole
Let’s be honest here. It’s challenging to build a comprehensive business case for any cloud model. Every cloud service provider( both public and private) and technology consultants tout their TCO calculator as the most reliable and comprehensive. Also, there are industry experts like Joe Weinman that has published extensive studies on cloud economics. In spite of availability of several tools, as Joe Weinman points out in one his papers, the sheer number of services offered, change in pricing units ( from hours to seconds), constant change in pricing ( price cuts has become a monthly affair among public service providers!), comparison again internal units ( if at all available) makes cost analysis challenging to say the least. Let’s make a wild assumption that we managed to use a combination of the available tools to perform a quantitative total cost analysis. But then again, these are just quantitative analysis. What about the qualitative factors like business strategy, operational constraints? In the case of GE's decision to move to public cloud, the cost was ranked only third after flexibility and possibility as the primary drivers to the public cloud.
I believe if you factor in all possible scenarios, in a long-term horizon, public cloud will outdo a hybrid cloud presuming you have adopted the best practices to check cloud sprawl.
Reason- 4: Prevent vendor lock-in
“Vendor lock-in is a concern, it always is. Today’s leading-edge cloud companies are tomorrow’s dinosaurs.” - AstraZeneca CIO David Smoley
The fact is that vendor lock-in worries aren’t new. Many enterprises have been grumbling about vendor lock-in, and this is not going disappear in the cloud computing era. That said, this wariness primarily stems from the “old ways “of development where developers have been bound by coding language and underlying platforms. With the increased adoption of container technology, application portability has become a reality and reasonably mitigates the risks of vendor lock-in.Furthermore, standards like TOSCA driven and put together by OASIS addresses portability of applications and prevent vendor lock-ins.
Reason -5: Security & Compliance
“Cloud computing is often far more secure than traditional computing, because companies like Google and Amazon can attract and retain cyber-security personnel of a higher quality than many governmental agencies.” ~ Vivek Kundra, Executive Vice President at Salesforce.com
Security and compliance are often cited as reasons behind the adoption of hybrid private-public deployments. Their absolute defiance is that public clouds do not provide visibility on the underlying infrastructure, inherently insecure, can’t meet high QoS or regulatory requirements. While many of the concerns are valid, it would be imprudent to assume that the public cloud provider cannot address these concerns.
AWS was able to create govcloud explicitly designed for the government since it provides a significant opportunity. Public cloud providers are likely prepared to develop solutions designed specifically for industries that offer substantial opportunities ( Pharma, Banking, Insurance, et al.). Public cloud providers have made considerable strides in compliance requirements in the last couple of years. This is evident from the recent report from RightScale on Cloud Computing Trends: 2017 State of the Cloud Survey which shows a decline in compliance challenges. In fact, compliance, which can be a considerable burden for enterprises can be offloaded to public CSP.
Cybersecurity maintenance is all about staying ahead of the hackers. This means a considerable investment in people, processes, tools & technology, and public cloud service providers have the investment resources. Recently, AWS was cleared to host US department of defense’s data including top secret and pentagon NSA information.Enterprise-grade security and compliance are almost a given in public cloud providers.
Bottomline, unless you have a compelling need for private cloud, do not go for a hybrid private-public cloud strategy. Even if you do, adopt a public cloud first policy and go slow on the private cloud with a clear plan to sunset your private cloud in the future. Whether you like it or not, someday you will be forced to prepare one!
Disclaimer : This post does not represent the thoughts,intentions, plans or strategies of my employer. It is solely my opinion.Feel free to challenge me, disagree with me and share your thoughts in the comments section