Can we just shut up about cloud already?

In the aftermath of PRISM-gate, and outages at Google, AWS, Microsoft, vendors should just shut up about cloud already. At least if they want to sell stuff.

The Public Cloud Will Dominate Enterprise IT — One Day

A battle rages for the hearts, minds and wallets of cloud computing’s users. Public, hybrid and private clouds each deliver clear value for today’s enterprise customers, but it can’t be many more years before the public cloud’s ubiquity and economies of scale win over alternative models. By now, it’s a question of when — not if — the vast majority of computing will be performed on infrastructure that’s owned and operated by a range of public cloud providers.

The Leading Edge Forum‘s Simon Wardley published a long blog post this week that built on his earlier work about the rise of utility computing. In this latest post, he unpicks the various ways that cloud technologies are used inside the enterprise firewall. These technologies are typically referred to as private clouds, but Wardley argues that private cloud actually addresses only one of two very different use cases, and that two separate labels are therefore required in order to describe what is going on. He calls one use case “private cloud” and the other “enterprise cloud,” and goes on to explore each in more detail. According to Wardley, a private cloud is essentially the same as a public cloud like Amazon’s, but behind the firewall and dedicated to a single customer. It is created in response to the same drivers as a public cloud, seeks similar economies of scale and is essentially based on the requirement to be “good enough;” it is simply a commodity.

Wardley’s new concept of the enterprise cloud, on the other hand, is seen by him as a logical evolution of the philosophy that traditionally drove enterprise IT deployments. Altering this underlying belief, and re-architecting legacy applications in order to fit a more traditional cloud model, Wardley argues, would prove prohibitively expensive, preventing more significant adoption of public cloud techniques in addressing these use cases.

While I agree broadly with Wardley’s arguments, I would question whether they lead to his conclusion of two wholly different visions for cloud inside the enterprise. They appear to be two extreme ends to a spectrum of possible use cases, and shouldn’t prevent the application of mainstream cloud methodologies inside the enterprise. In both public and non-public clouds, there are valid business reasons to deploy infrastructure that is either cheap or robust, more fault tolerance or less, faster or slower, or whatever else may be required. Increasingly, we’ll see cloud providers explicitly differentiate products using a number of criteria. Alongside the bargain basement utility cloud, you’ll be able to pay a premium to specify the country in which your data will reside, the degree of fault tolerance you are prepared to accept in equipment, the bandwidth into (or out of) the data center, etc. The basic cloud is getting cheaper, but that doesn’t remove the opportunity to differentiate and charge for premium capabilities.

Wardley ends by suggesting that his enterprise cloud will become increasingly targeted toward a diminishing number of niche requirements in markets such as Defense, while public clouds become “the dominant form.”

Elsewhere this week, RedMonk‘s James Governor wrote about the shifting balance between the public and private cloud. He cited figures from an EMC presentation, which claimed that both public and private clouds will grow significantly over the next decade at the expense of legacy enterprise IT. The diagram Governor used suggests 70 percent legacy IT in 2010, falling to just over 30 percentby 2020. Over the same period, public cloud grows from about 20 percent to about 35 percent, and private cloud grows from around 10 percent to around 30 percent.

Governor expressed some surprise at the figures, and I agree. EMC’s premise that legacy IT will not disappear overnight is clearly correct, as is a prediction that private cloud will grow in the short term. However, I fully expect private cloud to be in terminal decline by 2020, as today’s arguments in its favor are overturned. Many of the barriers (such as security) to public cloud adoption are perceived rather than real, created by genuine misunderstanding, poor explanation or deliberate confusion sown by incumbent vendors. Others, including the need to maximize existing investment in recently constructed enterprise data centers, are of only short term relevance.

By 2020, individuals, SMEs and global corporations will all be placing the majority of their data in the cloud —  the public cloud.

Related Research: Defining Internal Clouds: From Appistry to VMware

Question of the week

Which will rule enterprise IT: public or private clouds?