Recent research from Gartner predicts that the worldwide public cloud services market will grow 18% in 2017, to a total of $246.8 billion. This is expected to continue to increase far beyond 2020.
Many organisations across the world have already adopted the public cloud, on the basis that it offers a more secure computing environment than many previously had, and at a fraction of the cost. Indeed, public cloud has reached a tipping point: organisations have now put their trust in it in sufficient volume for concerns around compliance and practical application to now be mitigated, in turn, driving yet greater peer adoption.
Despite all this, there is still some reticence. These range from security concerns and issues around data sovereignty to questions around control and third-party reliance, leading some even to assume that a hybrid public-private approach is the best way forward. Just recently NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden became the latest industry figure to take aim at the public cloud, accusing the technology of being “disempowering”.
But nonetheless, the volume of adoption means that the question appears to have evolved from “why use the public cloud?” to “why not use the public cloud?”. After all, on closer inspection, the arguments against public cloud do not always stack up.
Many organisations cite security as one of the main reasons to eschew public clouds, where applications and data are hosted on dedicated servers within a cloud provider’s data centre, accessible only via private connections.
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But this is outdated. Governmental departments are now using Amazon Web Service (AWS) data centres, meaning enterprise security concerns around public cloud adoption have in fact diminished. A prime example of trust in the public cloud comes from the Government Digital Service, which has stated that it is a perfectly safe platform for data.
This is not to belittle the gravity of security considerations. Rather, public cloud service providers, like AWS and Microsoft Azure, are fully aware of the dangers and are constantly investing in developing and enhancing their security capabilities to stay one step ahead of today’s constantly shifting security landscape and protect customer data and applications. Even to the point, ironically, that the investment and security resilience outweighs that of most private datacentre set-ups.
Moreover, Gartner predicts that by 2018, better security will in fact be the main reason why government agencies decide to use the public cloud.
Issues around data sovereignty are another potential impediment to public cloud adoption. The concern is that the data the company is storing will be subject to the legislation of the country in which it is being stored.
However, in Britain the post-Brexit era will see an increase in British-based data centres, with the government’s Public Services Network (PSN) weakening the data sovereignty argument against public cloud by demonstrating its confidence in the technology. This will also reduce latency and help to open the doors to new classes of organisations who are in need of tangible operational savings, but were previously locked out of using the public cloud.
Another argument against the public cloud is that organisations like to stay in control of their infrastructure and services, and do not want to be reliant on third-parties. A lack of training and early engagement guidance on best practice is therefore cited by businesses as a weakness of the public cloud.
But government procurement initiatives are beginning to break down large contracts. This presents the opportunity to ease large legacy supplier lock-in, allowing small and medium suppliers to actively compete to be able to deliver on these challenges using the public cloud. Smaller players on smaller contracts mean that suppliers will start behaving more like systems integrators, working alongside customers to offer consultancy on best practice public cloud implementation.
A hybrid cloud instead?
While a hybrid cloud may seem to be the best of both worlds, it introduces more problems than it solves. Private clouds, while inherently providing more control, are more expensive to build and maintain than the public cloud, and do not provide the same levels of scalability and flexibility.
A hybrid environment, to mitigate perceived weaknesses of the public cloud, actually does little more than introducing an additional level of complexity and management challenges, which is simply unnecessary.
Hybrid cloud is simply too complex to manage without constant training and outside help, which brings us to the main reason that hybrid cloud is not a viable solution: cost. In simple maths, adopting a hybrid cloud means adding the costs of private cloud, plus public cloud, plus highly skilled staff to manage the intricacy. And even after all this, the security of the private – not public – part of the cloud remains a concern. Furthermore, compatibility is a major issue when building a hybrid cloud and with dual levels of infrastructure, a private cloud that the company controls and a public one that the company doesn’t, the chances are that they will be running different stacks.
We need to cast off the excuses not to rely on the public cloud. With governmental backing, high adoption, continuous investment and low costs, the public cloud is already the best approach for your business. Besides, many of the reasons holding back the public cloud are not actually about the technology itself, rather the negative mindset around its adoption.