The benefits of cloud-based solutions are powerful and well-known; proven by the increased popularity of cloud computing. Cisco predicts cloud traffic will increase by 12 times by 2015, however, most analyst firms treat public, private and hybrid clouds equally within these results.
On the surface, the private cloud appears to carry a number of advantages over the public cloud in terms of data security, location, jurisdiction and guarantees. It also enables organisations to avoid paying for service providers' profit margins, as well as the cost of having another party involved. But this is not necessarily always the case.
Moving to the public cloud can provide a number of economic benefits, offering companies the opportunity to share in the cloud provider's massive economies of scale and flexible and efficient purchasing. With these potential benefits, it is surprising that more organisations have not already moved to the public cloud.
In order for the public cloud to really catch on, the following assumptions need to be dispelled:
Although some high volume public cloud services do not provide sufficient service levels for enterprise applications, service providers differentiate by offering excellent SLAs, so long as they take a targeted approach.
Most security problems in the public cloud are not down to technical failings, but are instead a result of poor organisational practice. Whilst this cloud does present security challenges, many of these are also common to private clouds. The added benefit of a service provider is they tend to have in-house cloud-focused security expertise, whereas enterprises in general do not.
Regulatory restrictions do not in general prohibit the use of service provider clouds. By gaining a deep understanding of what the regulations are, service providers can ensure they offer appropriate forms of cloud service in line with regulations.
Applications need to run in-house
Migration costs exist with legacy applications, but these costs are often also found when migrating to private cloud. Whilst the technical properties of public cloud make its use inappropriate in some circumstances (for instance extremely latency sensitive applications), such applications are often unsuitable for any form of cloud technology, whether public or private.
Public cloud is sometimes presented as a solution applicable to every problem and this has alienated certain CIOs, providing them with a valid line of objection. It must be made clear that not all IT functions can go onto the public cloud and so CIOs need to understand its capabilities and limitations. But, just as public cloud is not a cure-all, neither is a private cloud solution.
Private cloud is in essence an attempt to use cloud's technology without gaining any of the efficiencies. It is for service providers to educate their customers and prospects, and the audience will often be financial or strategic as opposed to technical. As the CIO's empire is affected, the objections outlined above often represent examples of the principal/agent problem, where the buyer (or his reports) may have a personal incentive at odds with that of the enterprise as a whole.
Alex Bligh is the COO and CTO of Flexiant.