2019 will undoubtedly be remembered as the year of cloud services and rightly so. It became an indomitable force, hungrily consumed by pretty much every industry. From finance to manufacturing and everything in between, public cloud especially pervaded almost every business process and has been an omnipresent platform for the adoption of the latest innovations.
Stephan Fabel, Director of Product, Canonical.
Forecasts from Gartner at the time expected the worldwide public cloud services market to grow by 17.5 per cent in 2019 alone, and these figures look to be on point. But what is next for the cloud and are reports of the rise in cloud repatriation true?
Riding the public cloud hype
For companies which have been built solely in the cloud, it's true that some are now considering cloud repatriation for specific workloads. This isn’t to say though that they are moving away from the cloud.
It is simply a case that, as they reach maturity, these businesses have recognized that deriving the greatest value from the cloud doesn’t mean putting everything into it. Instead, it requires a strategy of placing business applications where they best fit - even if that means bringing some back from the public cloud to on-premise systems.
So while a fraction of cloud-native businesses is moving certain workloads to on-premise, what is key is that organisations find the right balance between public and private infrastructure in terms of data storage, governance, compute control and access rights.
The public cloud conundrum
In the past couple of years, we have seen the first such stories appear of cloud-native businesses moving workloads off public cloud platforms and back to on-premise. Dropbox, for instance, moved 600 petabytes of data off the public cloud and adopted a hybrid approach.
While we won’t see a mass exodus from the cloud - in fact, quite the opposite, with public cloud growth expected to continue - what we will see is cloud native organisations leveraging a hybrid environment to enjoy greater cost efficiencies. As these organisations reach a critical mass, their public cloud environments become increasingly expensive to operate, meaning that they need to reconsider their IT infrastructure. It's establishing and preparing for this tipping point that becomes the challenge.
Balancing public cloud economics
With businesses under massive financial strain at the moment, understanding how to balance cloud economics is crucial for the survival of any organisation. This involves a multitude of factors including the size of the business, the pace of growth and the types of applications being run.
For businesses starting out or working with limited budgets, which require an environment for playing around with the latest technology, a public cloud is the perfect place to start. With public cloud, you get an agile solution which can deliver faster time-to-market, greater innovation and even reduced costs.
But when organisations phase from a small start-up to a large enterprise, an IT infrastructure that is solely dependent on public cloud becomes painfully expensive. For any organisation, it’s prudent to consider how to regain control of cloud economics when these costs begin mounting.
Despite this, most organisations are reticent to abandon public cloud environments which they have invested time, energy and resources into. Thankfully, an effective repatriation strategy doesn’t mean abandoning the cloud completely. Repatriating workloads to on-premise is certainly a viable option, but this is only applicable in certain instances.
The public cloud has the upper-hand for specific functionalities, particularly when we consider the running costs associated with on-premise, which includes power usage and maintenance. For an organisation which is looking to leverage innovations such as AI/ML, the power required is a cost that needs to be factored in.
It’s not always easy going home
Once nimble, cloud-based companies have considered which workloads are worth bringing back to their local business servers, there is another challenge standing in the way of repatriators. This issue is actually related to the advancement of workloads within the public cloud. As organisations get past each new milestone in the development process, repatriation becomes more and more of a challenge.
For instance, the more complex the application workload, the longer it will take to move it back on-prem, requiring an extended outage. For businesses with developments in production, this might not be a feasible solution - particularly if customers rely on their services. Instead, what we will likely see is public cloud providers reaching into the data center to support this hybrid demand, so that they can capitalize on the trend.
Ultimately, the public cloud market is still a critical tool for businesses and its growth will only continue to grow. The small number of cloud-based organisations repatriating workloads are doing so to realize even greater benefits from their cloud investments. Organisations should consider a hybrid approach to achieve greater flexibility, cost efficiency and compliance which supports the future growth of their business.
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