The Cloud Conundrum
You know the stories. The cloud is going to take all our jobs and is going to relegate traditional IT to an afterthought as a part of the new world order. You’ve all heard the mantra that enterprise IT workloads are marching slowly (or quickly, in some cases) but surely to the cloud. In this context, the assumption is that workloads are exiting the local data center and making their way to public cloud providers such as Amazon and Microsoft. While this is certainly true for some applications, it’s absolutely false for others.
With that in mind, and before we get too much deeper, let’s consider a few items. First of all, consider why organizations are evaluating the public cloud for some of their workloads. For smaller businesses, the decision ultimately boils down to cold, hard cash. A public cloud provider is able to amortize their fixed costs across dozens, hundreds, or thousands of clients. They are able to enjoy significant economies of scale that individual organizations simply cannot achieve on their own. Additionally, in most cases, deploying a new application in the cloud requires very little or no initial capital expenditure. If you think about how we generally buy data center infrastructure, it makes a lot of sense for SMBs to avoid hefty upfront CapEx in favor of public cloud. Rather than tying up a bunch of capital on hardware for which a return may be months or years away – or is really nebulous – why not move to a solely OpEx-based computing model in which you basically rent someone else’s infrastructure? And then, as you need more computing power, you simply request it from the provider.
For Enterprises, while CapEx reduction is certainly a motivation, the move to the cloud goes well beyond financial outcomes. In many cases, there are potential operational benefits to be had. For example, agility—standing up a new workload becomes a really easy task. Deploying a new virtual machine in Azure is very simple. In fact, it’s so simple that your end users can – and probably are – doing it. That’s not a statement intended to denigrate the intelligence of end users. Rather, the intent of that statement is to demonstrate that those with deep technical skills in an organization are not necessarily the technology gatekeepers, as was the case in the past. For these kinds of super-simple processes to work, however, cloud providers – which include public cloud providers and even software-as-a-service-(SaaS)-based tools, of which there are thousands – have spent considerable time automating backend processes and orchestrating the activities that take place when a user makes a request.