CIO · Cloud · Data

Why are enterprises moving away from public cloud?

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We often hear of enterprises that move applications from their corporate data center to public cloud. This may come in the form of lift and shift. But then something happens that causes the enterprise to move it out of public cloud. This yo-yo effect and the related consequences create ongoing challenges that contribute to several of the items listed in Eight ways enterprises struggle with public cloud.

In order to better understand the problem, we need to work backwards to the root cause…and that often starts with the symptoms. For most, it starts with costs.

UNDERSTANDING THE ECONOMICS

The number one reason why enterprises pull workloads back out of cloud has to do with economics. For public cloud, it comes in the form of a monthly bill for public cloud services. In the post referenced above, I refer to a cost differential of 4x. That is to say that public cloud services cost 4x the corporate data center alternative for the same services. These calculations include fully-loaded total cost of ownership (TCO) numbers on both sides over a period of years to normalize capital costs.

4x is a startling number and seems to fly in the face of a generally held belief that cloud computing is less expensive than the equivalent on-premises corporate data center. Does this mean that public cloud is not less expensive? Yes and no.

THE IMPACT OF LEGACY THINKING

In order to break down the 4x number, one has to understand legacy thinking heavily influences this number. While many view public cloud as less expensive, they often compare apples to oranges when comparing public cloud to corporate data centers. And many do not consider the fully-loaded corporate data center costs that includes server, network, storage…along with power, cooling, space, administrative overhead, management, real estate, etc. Unfortunately, many of these corporate data center costs are not exposed to the CIO and IT staff. For example, do you know how much power your data center consumes and the cost for real estate? Few IT folks do.

There are five components that influence legacy thinking:

  1. 24×7 Availability: Most corporate data centers and systems are built around 24×7 availability. There is a significant amount of data center architecture that goes into the data center facility and systems to support this expectation.
  2. Peak Utilization: Corporate data center systems are built for peak utilization whether they use it regularly or not. This unused capacity sits idle until needed and only used at peak times.
  3. Redundancy: Corporate infrastructure from the power subsystems to power supplies to the disk drives is designed for redundancy. There is redundancy within each level of data center systems. If there is a hardware failure, the application ideally will not know it.
  4. Automation & Orchestration: Corporate applications are not designed with automation & orchestration in mind. Applications are often installed on specific infrastructure and left to run.
  5. Application Intelligence: Applications assume that availability is left to other systems to manage. Infrastructure manages the redundancy and architecture design manages the scale.

Now take a corporate application with this legacy thinking and move it directly into public cloud. It will need peak resources in a redundant configuration running 24×7. That is how they are designed, yet, public cloud benefits from a very different model. Running an application in a redundant configuration at peak 24×7 leads to an average of 4x in costs over traditional data center costs.

This is the equivalent of renting a car every day for a full year whether you need it or not. In this model, the shared model comes at a premium.

THE SOLUTION IS IN PLANNING

Is this the best way to leverage public cloud services? Knowing the details of what to expect leads one to a different approach. Can public cloud benefit corporate enterprise applications? Yes. Does it need planning and refactoring? Yes.

By refactoring applications to leverage the benefits of public cloud rather than assume legacy thinking, public cloud has the potential to be less expensive than traditional approaches. Obviously, each application will have different requirements and therefore different outcomes.

The point is to shed legacy thinking and understand where public cloud fits best. Public cloud is not the right solution for every workload. From those applications that will benefit from public cloud, understand what changes are needed before making the move.

OTHER REASONS

There are other reasons that enterprises exit public cloud services beyond just cost. Those may include:

  1. Scale: Either due to cost or significant scale, enterprises may find that they are able to support applications within their own infrastructure.
  2. Regulatory/ Compliance: Enterprises may use test data with applications but then move the application back to corporate data centers when shifting into production with regulated data. Or compliance requirements may force the need to have data resources local to maintain compliance. Sovereignty issues also drive decisions in this space.
  3. Latency: There are situations where public cloud may be great on paper, but in real-life latency presents a significant challenge. Remote and time-sensitive applications are good examples.
  4. Use-case: The last catch-all is where applications have specific use-cases where public cloud is great in theory, but not the best solution in practice. Remember that public cloud is a general-purpose infrastructure. As an example, there are application use-cases that need fine-tuning that public cloud is not able to support. Other use-cases may not support public cloud in production either.

The bottom line is to fully understand your requirements, think ahead and do your homework. Enterprises have successfully moved traditional corporate applications to public cloud…even those with significant regulatory & compliance requirements. The challenge is to shed legacy thinking and consider where and how best to leverage public cloud for each application.

Cloud

Containers in the Enterprise

Containers are all the rage right now, but are they ready for enterprise consumption? It depends on whom you ask, but here’s my take. Enterprises should absolutely be considering container architectures as part of their strategy…but there are some considerations before heading down the path.

Container conferences

Talking with attendees at Docker’s DockerCon conference and Redhat’s Summit this week, you hear a number of proponents and live enterprise users. For those that are not familiar with containers, the fundamental concept is a fully encapsulated environment that supports application services. Containers should not be confused with virtualization. In addition, containers are not to be confused with Micro Services, which can leverage containers, but do not require them.

A quick rundown

Here are some quick points:

  • Ecosystem: I’ve written before about the importance of a new technology’s ecosystem here. In the case of containers, the ecosystem is rich and building quickly.
  • Architecture: Containers allow applications to break apart into smaller components. Each of the components can then spin up/ down and scale as needed. Of course automation and orchestration comes into play.
  • Automation/ Orchestration: Unlike typical enterprise applications that are installed once and run 24×7, the best architectures for containers spin up/ down and scale as needed. Realistically, the only way to efficiently do this is with automation and orchestration.
  • Security: There is quite a bit of concern about container security. With potentially thousands or tens of thousands of containers running, a compromise might have significant consequences. If containers are architected to be ephemeral, the risk footprint shrinks exponentially.
  • DevOps: Container-based architectures can run without a DevOps approach with limited success. DevOps brings a different methodology that works hand-in-hand with containers.
  • Management: There are concerns the short lifespan of a container creates challenges for audit trails. Using traditional audit approaches, this would be true. Using newer methods provides real-time audit capability.
  • Stability: The $64k question: Are containers stable enough for enterprise use? Absolutely! The reality is that legacy architecture applications would not move directly to containers. Only those applications that are significantly modified or re-written would leverage containers. New applications are able to leverage containers without increasing the risk.

Cloud-First, Container-First

Companies are looking to move faster and faster. In order to do so, the problem needs reduction into smaller components. As those smaller components become micro services (vs. large monolithic applications), containers start to make sense.

Containers represent an elegant way to leverage smaller building blocks. Some have equated containers to the Lego building blocks of the enterprise application architecture. The days of large, monolithic enterprise applications are past. Today’s applications may be complex in sum, but are a culmination of much smaller building blocks. These smaller blocks provide the nimble and fast speed that enterprises are clamoring for today.

Containers are more than Technology

More than containers, there are other components needed for success. Containers represent the technology building blocks. Culture and process are needed to support the change in technology. DevOps provides the fluid that lubricates the integration of the three components.

Changing the perspective

As with the newer technologies coming, other aspects of the IT organization must change too. Whether you are a CIO, IT leader, developer or operations team, the very fundamentals in which we function must change in order to truly embrace and adopt these newer methodologies.

Containers are ready for the enterprise…if the other aspects are considered as well.