Cloud chaos: Navigating the costly conundrum with data repatriation

Cloud computing concept represented by a server room, with a cloud representation hologram concept.
(Image credit: Shutterstock/Virgiliu Obada)

In recent years, the public cloud has experienced an unprecedented surge in adoption, becoming the de-facto compute solution for businesses across industries. The potential for lower costs, increased flexibility, and seamless scalability propelled a rapid movement to cloud computing with both born-in-the-cloud digital natives and heritage brands alike migrating their workloads to leverage its transformative capabilities. This was accelerated further as the world grappled with the global pandemic, when the cloud emerged as a lifeline for remote work, digital collaboration, and business continuity.

However, the cloud may not be the answer to every problem and has some of its own issues that need resolution in any company that is utilizing the cloud.

The cost of maintaining and managing cloud infrastructure is a growing concern for businesses, with research revealing that cutting cloud costs has overtaken security as the main concern for businesses embracing the technology. Many organizations have adopted the cloud without creating a cloud competency in their infrastructure group for managing costs, and the resulting increase in expenses through lack of management is driving this interest in cutting costs.

The initial pull of lower costs and increased flexibility has been overshadowed by unexpected price components, such as the cost to extract data from the platform. The increasing complexity of cloud infrastructure and the difficulty of predicting usage patterns have made it challenging for businesses to manage their cloud costs effectively.

In response to these issues, many businesses are opting to repatriate some data sets to better control long-term costs and lower the need for expense. However, while repatriation can help companies save money, it can be a complex process that requires significant investment in infrastructure and expertise.

Michael Cantor

Michael Cantor is CIO at Park Place Technologies.

Is it time to repatriate your data?

There are several benefits of repatriation. One frequently cited benefit is the concept that by bringing data back in-house, companies can ensure better control over data, reduce the risk of data breaches, and meet compliance requirements more easily. This has to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis – these benefits may indeed accrue from having the infrastructure on-premise, or the movement of the data to a different form of management may not be the root cause. Security management in the cloud is not the same as on-premise, so a lack of required skillset in the security team may be the actual root issue.

Another potential of data repatriation right now is cost, which businesses have found can quickly spiral out of control and is increasingly difficult to budget and plan effectively.

A big reason for this is that cloud providers often charge extra fees for services such as data egress, the cost associated with moving data out of the cloud storage platforms where the data is normally held. Firms have seen egress charges rise as they look to do more with their data, such as mining archives for business intelligence purposes, or to train AI engines. But data egress is one of the costs of cloud computing that companies without a dedicated cloud team may not factor into projects and can quickly mount up. In the most extreme cases, egress charge bill shock can make a cloud project so expensive that it’s no longer viable, and significantly impact a company's bottom line.

Another factor driving data repatriation is data security and compliance. Many businesses operating in more regulated industries, such as finance, healthcare and telecoms, deal with sensitive data that must be stored and managed in a highly secure and compliant manner. While cloud providers offer robust security and compliance capabilities, some businesses may feel more comfortable managing their data in-house, where they have more control.

Finally, enhanced performance. Although the cloud provides theoretically limitless scalability, it still loses some speed due to internet connectivity and virtualisation overhead. For certain use cases or for higher scales of data, workloads, or concurrency requirements, faster performance is essential. Some real-time analytics workloads, like machine learning-based AI, can be sensitive to latency. Analytics applications can leverage caching and other network optimisation methods to reduce latency. However, one of the easiest and most pragmatic fixes is to shorten the communication path. This means that unless the data was born on the cloud, bring the analytics back in-house.

Addressing the challenges head on

So, with all these benefits considered, is data repatriation the right answer for your organization? While it’s true there are many benefits to repatriation, the reality is that it’s not without its challenges, which means it may not be a possibility for some smaller to medium businesses. It can be a complex and time-consuming process, requiring businesses to assess their data needs, migrate their data, and ensure that, once back on premises, it is properly secured and managed, including backup and disaster recovery.

Another challenge of data repatriation is the potential impact on business agility. Cloud infrastructure is highly flexible and scalable, allowing businesses to quickly spin up new resources and adjust capacity as needed. By bringing their data back on-premises, businesses may lose some of this flexibility, which could impact their ability to respond quickly to changing business needs.

Ultimately, as with any major infrastructure decision, repatriation is not one that businesses should take lightly. They need to carefully evaluate their options, weigh the costs and benefits, and develop a clear strategy that aligns with their business objectives and regulatory requirements. This may involve working with cloud providers to identify the best workloads to bring back in-house, assessing their data management and security capabilities, and implementing the right tools and processes to manage their data effectively.

With choice comes risk, and ultimately businesses need to assess what deployment options best suit their current needs as well as their future growth and innovation strategy. It is not a one-size-fits-all solution, but the good news is that there is more choice than ever for businesses to find the right approach. By taking a thoughtful and strategic approach, businesses can achieve the right balance of control, security, and flexibility, and ensure that their data is managed and protected in the most effective way possible.

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Michael Cantor, CIO, Park Place Technologies.