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The hummus effect: Why blindly jumping to the public cloud can leave a bitter taste

(Image credit: Image Credit: TZIDO SUN / Shutterstock)

Hummus is often considered a “superfood” and people are consuming it in large quantities. National hummus sales now top $725 million annually, and it's estimated that 25 percent of U.S. households now stock hummus in the fridge. It wasn't always like this. Just two decades ago, annual U.S. hummus sales barely surpassed $5 million.

But if you read the small print on some store-bought hummus labels, you may see things like soybean oil or other hard-to-pronounce ingredients. As Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD and Health Magazine’s contributing nutrition editor says, "do yourself a favor and skip hummus that contains preservatives: scan the ingredient list for things like potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate, and other words you don't recognize.” The bottom line here is that hummus is good for you, except when it isn’t. You need to understand, and avoid, the potentially harmful additives to get the most health benefits from this tasty dip.

So, what exactly do hummus and the public cloud have in common? Well, the latter has been hailed as the future for IT operations. We keep hearing that the “cloud is the future, cloud is the answer, cloud is everything.” Gartner says that the public cloud market will hit $300 billion by 2021, with 60 percent of businesses using an external provider to run IT operations, so clearly people believe it. So, you may be feeling the pressure…thinking if you don’t adopt the public cloud fast, your company will lag, not lead. The consequences of not moving to the cloud, well, just aren’t worth pondering, are they?

You’d be forgiven for thinking there’s a bit of hype going on when it comes to the cloud and the need to adopt a public cloud provider. And yes, there are clear benefits (reduced maintenance, economies of scale, etc.), but there are risks as well. The move to the public cloud can be a little overwhelming. Just like hummus, it can certainly be good for you, but you need to know the pros and cons of the “ingredients and additives” of each provider.  You need to understand how their offering complements and drives your overall IT initiatives.  Seeking guidance from experts while choosing a multi-cloud solution can save thousands of hours and dollars and assure a healthy, successful migration. Long story short – it's well worth it to ask for help.

For example, a cloud migration expert can help you solve for the lack of visibility into your data, address compliance requirements (both internal and state-led), and navigate the running costs of using the top three U.S. providers: AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud Platform. Once you’re in with a big player, there’s often no wiggle room to move laterally, or indeed take back applications and workloads when needed, so making the right decision up front is critical.

An expert can also help you determine which components should stay on-premises. Think of it like a balanced diet – hummus is good for you (Protein! Fiber! Manganese!) but too much can expand your waistline. Likewise, you probably don’t want to shift all your IT workloads and operations to the public cloud. It’s about finding the best of both worlds to fit the needs of your business, which a balanced, hybrid approach can provide.

Why is the public cloud touted as the big thing in IT?

So many business sectors have been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, but one thing that has continued to grow, even flourish (knock on wood), is the public cloud market. Gartner predicts revenues will increase 6.3 percent by the end of the year, with the market set to reach $257.9 billion. It predicts that the largest cloud market, software-as-a-service (SaaS), will hit $104.7 billion alone. Those are big numbers by anyone’s standard, but why has the market become so prosperous?

In my mind, it’s all about functionality and marketing. Functionality, because the cloud does have numerous benefits as IT operations are outsourced and maintained by the provider, freeing up time for in-house IT teams. Plus, the public cloud can be cost-effective with pay-as-you-go models, not forgetting a quick and easy setup.

But a lot of the success is down to marketing from the big three providers. They’ve been able to pump massive budget into ongoing campaigns and gain huge publicity, influencing media and analysts, and most importantly, IT infrastructure managers and CTOs. I’m not saying that we’ve been victims of false advertising. Far from it. But are we seeing a true picture of the public cloud and providing enough information for IT departments to make a fully informed decision when deciding on the future of their IT infrastructure and operations? Jury’s still out.

The FOMO effect

What we’re witnessing is the FOMO effect – the fear of missing out. No matter what industry you’re in, in the current economic climate, it’s never been more crucial to keep on top of the latest trends to stay ahead of competitors. In the tech space, companies are looking sideways, behind their backs, and out in front at what their rivals are doing. It would be easy to get lost in the hype of the public cloud and want to make that move for reasons we’ve discussed. Everyone wants a piece of the shiny, new public cloud provider in the hope of reaching some cloud utopia and not having to worry about their IT operations again. After all, their competitors are doing it – Gartner says so. As you make the move, know what’s right for you and your business. Know what is and is not possible. Indeed, it might not even be possible to run everything from the public cloud.

When going to the public cloud isn’t an option, and why some move back home

Before blindly jumping to the cloud and outsourcing all your IT infrastructure, you have to know whether you can do so legally and logistically. You should audit all of the IT systems within your organization and look objectively at what can and cannot be moved. This should be done collaboratively with your company’s compliance and security teams to ensure you’re adhering to data protection laws, such as GDPR and CCPA. It’s also worth noting that some public cloud providers talk about their shared responsibility model when it comes to storing and handling customer data. A worthy, and secure process on the face of it, but if customer data gets leaked from your systems, it’ll be your brand they blame, not the public cloud provider. Keeping your data in a private cloud puts you in control over how your servers are stored, who has access, and whether they are online at all – this can prevent unauthorized access to your customer data.

Interestingly, those who have been caught in the public cloud wave and outsourced too quickly without sufficiently weighing risk vs. reward have found themselves moving workloads back from public cloud environments. This is something IDC calls “cloud repatriation.”  In its CloudPulse Survey, it found that 85 percent of companies have “repatriated” for reasons such as security and compliance issues, hidden costs, and in some cases, performance. Moving back from the public cloud to on-premises can prove very costly. So why would you adopt a “buy as much as you can afford” approach when it comes to shifting everything to the public cloud when it can bring more harm than good to your organization?

The benefits of a balanced diet of public and private

There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to developing a cloud strategy – it’s all about gaining agility while ensuring stability. This is what will help you stand out and be successful. Organizations must consider where they deploy new applications and where they should modernize legacy ones. Solving this conundrum requires a collaborative effort from decision makers, developers, and engineers to consider best practices and architecture patterns.

So, what approach should you consider when assessing your cloud options?

Forrester Consulting’s recent Total Economic Impact study found that organizations that embrace hybrid cloud migration can yield a 145 percent return on investment within three years. That’s a pretty good sound bite for you to take to your board meetings to get buy-in from your finance team. The report found that those who correctly plan and optimize can better balance their workloads, have a more strategic focus, and increase their flexibility. In addition, a best-of-both-worlds hybrid approach can allow IT teams to quickly identify and resolve problems, understand the impacts of application interdependencies and attain a direct understanding of health and performance metrics in real time.

What’s clear is that the strategy behind your migration to the cloud needs to start from within. You shouldn’t be so focused on what others in the market are doing. What works for them might not work for you. Think of the public cloud in the same way as we think of hummus - not all brands are created equal, it should be consumed in moderation, and it should not be relied on as the golden ticket to health.

You need to exercise your mind and expertise to find the balanced diet of private and public that’s right for you.

Now, where did I put the pita chips?

Scott Leatherman, Chief Marketing Officer, Virtana