Taking a bite-sized approach to the cloud has become the norm. Put off by the likes of network outages and security risks, the cloud has been viewed as a means for a little bit of computing, but not the whole shebang of enterprise IT services. The Netflix and DropBox outages have hit the cloud's reputation hard and have driven a desire to better understand how greater resilience and enterprise class service level agreements (SLAs) can be achieved without compromising on the flexibility and simplicity of the cloud delivery model.
Luckily, we are starting to come out the other side. The difference between the public and private cloud is starting to gain more widespread understanding and a number of the early challenges of traditional cloud computing have disappeared. The next phase of development to be ushered in is the arrival of scalable, integrated ICT infrastructure that offers the same security, performance and architectural flexibility as a "real data centre", but with the flexibility, simplicity and immediacy of the public cloud.
A question of cost
Just as the success of cloud apps have been driven by cost, we're starting to see a similar trend being played out in the ICT infrastructure space. It all comes down to whether it is cheaper for enterprises to build and use this kind of cloud ICT infrastructure themselves in the form of a private cloud, or buy it as a hosted cloud service from someone who has already done this and retains the responsibility for it.
The widespread adoption of MPLS for cost effective Wide Area Networks (WAN) has rendered the on-premises cloud hopelessly inefficient and unnecessarily costly. At the same time, businesses have become comfortable with WAN outsourcing and are wising up to the benefits of consolidating their enterprise infrastructure on what they already know and trust.
So, why do people still feel the need to build their own on-premises facilities? While the majority of today's businesses still have on-premises computing, IDC predicts that by 2016 in the mature markets of Asia Pacific and Japan, over 50% of enterprises will have outsourced more than half of their IT assets to third-party data centers. This figure is even higher for enterprise-class storage, with up to 60% predicted to ship to cloud service providers by 2016. In fact, as far back as November 2011, IDC said that the UK cloud market had reached the point where growth in the on-premises market was close to zero. The assumption being that all the growth was now moving to outsourced public, private and hybrid cloud solutions. There is precedent for this already in the ICT world; it's a situation that network providers are very familiar with as 95% of organisations in Europe currently outsource their WAN.
Building on-premises facilities is not only an unnecessarily complex road to the cloud, but it is a severely dated approach that leaves businesses grappling with interoperability issues while their arms are full of disparate service level agreements (SLAs) from a long list of carriers.
For the same reasons why businesses don't build their own networks anymore, it makes little sense for them to build their own on-premises facilities either. We're moving towards an ICT ecosystem in which the most sensible and cost effective option is to outsource the cloud into a scalable, trusted network platform.
It all comes down to the network
The biggest thing preventing widespread cloud uptake is the fear of losing control of company data. But it stands to reason that if businesses are willing to trust the likes of Salesforce.com with customer data then shifting infrastructure out of the on-premises environment into a secure network should be common sense. After all, it offers the same control and security as before, but with better performance, cost structure and flexibility.
The foundation of any organisation's ICT is its network, so it is no surprise to see it scaling the corporate agenda. What businesses need to realise is that the only way to get the most out of the cloud is to put it in the mother of all networks; one that has the scale, capacity and strength.
By Matthew Finnie, CTO, Interoute