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Private vs Public vs Hybrid - The who, what, why, when?

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Over the past year, I have heard many CIOs and CTOs discuss how worried they are about losing control over their IT environments to public cloud or regularly heard them complain about ‘Shadow IT’. These trends are disrupting traditional IT models, in my opinion that’s a good thing.

When used right, cloud can enable IT to deliver and quantify business value. So for those wanting to leverage the power of cloud – what’s the right balance between public and private cloud, and what does it mean to go Hybrid? Here’s my take.

Who?

Almost every organisation has thought about adopting public cloud in some form or the other. For example, many large organisations are taking up very attractive offers from Microsoft to use Office 365, its public cloud collaboration service. In the old world, this would raise questions for the CIO losing control or whether public cloud is a valid solution for enterprise, but this is changing.

The truth is that cloud makes good business sense. Businesses no longer need an army of expensive engineers to run costly infrastructure for what are today considered basic user requirements – email, collaboration and communication.

Now, I am not saying public cloud solutions like Office 365 are best for everyone, there will always be a subset of organisations that it won’t be suitable for, due to issues like data sovereignty, application integration or other custom requirements that a standardised public cloud offering like Office 365 cannot handle.

This is where a private model can make a lot of sense. You get the benefits of having a third party domain expert to manage the environment but get to choose where your infrastructure, and therefore your data, resides.

What?

Take a look at your infrastructure and ask yourself, ‘what do I really need to satisfy business requirements?’ How many racks of equipment are required to run your email, collaboration and communications? It is probably more than you think. What about the data that resides in storage systems that are also used by critical business applications? How many users have access to email on their smartphone and tablet, or work away from the office on a laptop?

When you start to think about all of these remote connections to your infrastructure, internal to your network, that are sometimes coming from untrusted sources it makes sense to look at how you can free existing infrastructure and reduce your security risk and suddenly it becomes clear that you can reduce your risk by moving to the cloud. Yes, it is possible.

Why?

The adoption of cloud is causing mass disruption, with organisations re-inventing business models to ensure IT contributes significantly to business growth.

Yet the majority of vendors tend to focus on the cost benefits of cloud. I often wonder why so many of them have cost calculators on their sales websites as, for me, this paints an incomplete picture of the value of cloud.

I’m sure that CIO’s do not approve budgets based on perceived savings alone. New IT projects must deliver value to the business. There is no point doing something the same as before but saving 10-20% over the contract term, because more than likely that 10-20% will get eaten up by transition and or training costs. The true value comes from optimised costs and delivering business outcomes to allow the business to move forward.

When?

No time like the present. In all seriousness, if you are not actively working towards your cloud strategy now, your competitors are. They could be ready to launch a hybrid-cloud solution delivering a business outcome that shortens their development cycles for new products down from 12 months to three.

How would this impact your business and market share? This is not hypothetical, it’s happening and it’s happening now, across every industry. Look at your own business and consider where it sits in the industry, where do you find yourself on the cloud maturity scale shown below?

Now ask yourself where your competitors are. Which one is ahead of the rest? What advantages is the leader getting from their cloud investments?

For most organisations the answer to which type of cloud is best for their business will likely be a mix of private and public cloud infrastructures. There are hybrid cloud systems that are so well integrated between private infrastructure and public Infrastructure-as-a-Service, that both can be managed through one consolidated platform. With environments fitting into one management platform, administrators can have consistent monitoring and performance indicators across all of their clouds. This can allow further insight into what belongs where, why and when.

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