The Ongoing Role of Physical Hosting in a Cloud-Enabled World
The proven benefits of the cloud (increased flexibility, OpEx spending models, greater geographic reach, etc.) have encouraged many businesses to implement ‘cloud-first’ strategies. The idea is that all-new systems will be built and hosted in the cloud. Existing workloads will also be migrated as, and when, opportunities present themselves.
Despite these efforts, cloud-only operations are all but impossible for most organizations. Hybrid cloud models will continue to be the norm for the foreseeable future.
Bandwidth and bottlenecks
Cloud platforms like Microsoft Azure offer virtually unlimited capacity in terms of storage and processing. The one factor that has not kept pace is bandwidth; current internet connectivity speeds cannot match that of the local network, introducing latency into data-intensive cloud operations.
This problem becomes particularly acute when dealing with massive data sets, or where vast amounts of information are being generated very quickly. Smart sensors used in IoT deployments are one example of this issue. Data needs to be analyzed and actioned in real-time; the delay in upload/download from the cloud creates an unacceptable delay that could have serious consequences depending on the application.
It’s also worth remembering that although the cloud supports unlimited data sets, you pay for what you use. You may be able to avoid the issue of purchasing additional capacity to support future growth, but the cost of storing and processing ‘big data’ sets in the cloud can be incredibly expensive.
Until the issue of Internet bandwidth can be solved, many of your frontline applications will have to remain in the local data center.
Onsite security is managed via Active Directory, and in the Microsoft cloud using Azure Active Directory. But despite having the same name, these are almost entirely different technologies. You can synchronize your on-premises directory to Azure, but migration of computer accounts, group policies and organizational units (OU) is not possible. Azure AD is an entirely stand-alone system purely for applications and services hosted in the cloud.
While cloud skills remain in short supply, it may be simpler – and more cost-effective – to keep Active Directory operations onsite. The overheads of trying to manage and sync two separate and distinct directories may be untenable.
Where this is the case, regular data-related activities are likely to be retained in house, while SaaS applications provide additional functionality, albeit in a cloud-based silo.
Maintaining full control in house
Finally, there is the question of security and data sovereignty, that may mean particularly sensitive workloads are unsuitable for deployment in the public cloud. Government bodies, financial services providers and organizations working with sensitive personal data, or extremely valuable intellectual property, may decide that they need to control the entire technology stack, from underlying hardware to application software.
Microsoft Azure employs a number of security technologies to protect client data from theft or leakage, but an element of doubt remains for key decision-makers. Where this is the case, on-premises physical hosting is the only viable option. For these businesses, the ability to control every detail of operations and security will outweigh any potential cost savings available from the cloud.
Here for a while longer yet
The combination of physical and political challenges means that although cloud solves many traditional computing problems – like scalability – there are still legitimate barriers to 100% adoption for almost all organizations. It is extremely important therefore that CIOs, CTOs and IT managers are made aware that there is a very good business case for retaining an on-premises data center, and rushing to the cloud without addressing these issues could cause even more problems than are solved.