The Private Cloud Pendulum

We once had a unified vision of how cloud would be adopted by the average enterprise.   With all the uncertainty around security, cost and performance of public cloud, they would naturally transform their private data centers into private clouds. Once successful in that incremental transition, they would be more comfortable with extending to the public cloud, resulting in the Holy Grail – a hybrid deployment.

We were only half right.

As events have unfolded, we see that hybrid clouds are indeed the desired outcome. However, the way-points on that journey are, for a number of cloud adoption profiles, reversed from what we had predicted. Instead of first stopping at private cloud, many skipped it entirely and went to using public cloud in spite of their own previously voiced objections. Why?

For all but the larger enterprises and the very capable mid-market IT organizations, a private cloud has often been too difficult to build and maintain. The technology existed, but it was far from turnkey. In the face of the challenging business and operational transformations that cloud demands, this was too distracting and unnecessary: public cloud was sitting there, gleamingly simple and ready-to-use without the burdens of operational hassles.

So, for these “I need it to be as easy as possible” cloud adopters, the pendulum largely bypassed private and swung to public. But will it stay there?

The costs of public cloud are tricky to pin down and manage. You are paying a premium for someone else to handle the headaches. For many projects this makes sense. For long-running activities that don’t take advantage of public cloud’s scale and global reach, you will likely pay more than is necessary.

The chickens, as they say, will come home to roost. The true cost of public cloud will become apparent, and the advantages of private cloud more compelling for the mid-market. The pendulum will return, and when it does, we’ll have evolved private cloud technologies to make them suitable for organizations looking for an appliance-like experience instead of building an IT practice around them.

But what if we’re wrong again? Regardless of how that pendulum swings, having choices and management capabilities that span multiple clouds (public, private, whatever) ensures you’ll be able to keep cost and utility in balance. The trick is to invest in tools and technologies that enable that choice;  buy and design software that is infrastructure-agnostic, dependent only upon abstracted network services of which analogs are available from many providers. That way, whether it’s now or in the future, when you’re ready for private cloud (or it is ready for you), you’ll be in a position to further expand your selection of cloud targets by adding your own.

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