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Re-evaluating the love affair with the public cloud

High-profile public cloud failures may have companies re-examining business needs

It's taken a surprisingly long time and some very public failures for businesses to step back and reflect on the cloud's potential problems and not just its advantages. The recent Amazon Web Services (AWS) failure was not the first to cause a large number of cloud-based services to shut down for a significant period of time, but it is the highest profile failure of the public cloud to date.

Human error was to blame for the initial AWS failure, which is often the case with cloud failures, but it was followed by unexpected issues that prevented a rapid recovery. Amazon's explanation for the failure can be found here, but the technical media's reaction to the failure is more interesting and points to why companies may need to re-examine business needs. 

[Also see: Is your public cloud just burning money?]

A few second thoughts

How often major cloud services experience significant outages is lost on much of the general media, but the tech media outlets seem to be re-evaluating their love affair with the public cloud. One reason mentioned in published articles is that the nature of the massive public cloud removes one of the strongest benefits of Internet-aware services, which is a distributed computing model with a high tolerance for failure. Depending on a single public cloud solution is the equivalent of putting all of your eggs in one basket. Many types of failures within that cloud can bring down your services completely. As such, a strong public/private cloud mix might be the most appropriate direction for the future. Not up for debate is that businesses positioned to manage, manipulate, and make use of the massive increase in data and devices that technologies such as the Internet of Things represent will be the most successful.

The public cloud offers real advantages: rapid prototyping, easy availability, and a mix of services that organizations can use to build complete entry-level enterprise services without the need for strong internal IT help. But building a reliable service infrastructure using public cloud resources takes significant time and money. You may be shortchanging your business if you limit your goals because of what is available only via public cloud services.

Building your own hybrid public/private cloud infrastructure can be the logical growth path for businesses looking to leverage public cloud. Technologies such as hyperconvergence and a composable infrastructure provide the basis for developing an on-premises private cloud. Initially, enterprises considering building hybrid cloud environments looked at it as a way to continue to run legacy applications that might not be cloud-suitable alongside the latest in cloud-based technologies. But the hybrid path also offers flexibility and reliability benefits that pure cloud solutions can't—from running your existing legacy applications to allowing the buildout of customized networking and cloud resources targeted at addressing specific business. Companies also use hybrid clouds to meet the security, compliance, performance, and cost requirements that public cloud cannot.

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Public cloud not the only game in town

New technologies are re-invigorating traditional data centers. Advances in hyperconverged architectures and the ability to deliver, with minimal coding, composable infrastructures that provide highly flexible environments are giving the public cloud a run for its money. These technologies allow organizations to deploy private clouds that offer the benefits of public cloud but with greater security, compliance, and performance, and often at a lower cost.

When companies combine private cloud software from major cloud vendors like Microsoft Azure with these kinds of hardware and software solutions, they can deploy services and applications to the most suitable environment, whether it's advanced private cloud running on premises or a public cloud.  

Understanding the process and management techniques necessary to deploy the most efficient and effective hybrid cloud will give businesses the edge they need when moving toward cloud technology. A hybrid cloud that includes a mix of private and public cloud can offer a more resilient environment, greater security, higher performance, and the ability to meet regulatory requirements. It also provides one of the major benefits of the public cloud: capacity on demand. Workloads can continue to exist primarily on owned devices and spike demand can be pushed to resources available from the public cloud.

Another reason to go the hybrid IT route: Businesses often move processes for data backup and disaster recovery to the cloud. But if the cloud goes down, what happens to the business? The cost of downtime has been reported to be an average of $8,000 per minute, and that for Amazon itself, a website outage can be almost $5 million per hour. In the typical enterprise, the costs are likely somewhere in the middle.

But building a hybrid IT can mean that the reliability advantage goes both ways. If the public cloud become unavailable, your private cloud infrastructure can pick up the slack, should you choose to build this model.

 Cloud realities: Lessons for leaders

  • Cloud failure contingency planning is critical.
  • The one-size-fits-all approach of the public cloud limits operational flexibility.
  • New on-prem hardware and software technologies and hyperconverged and composable infrastructures, combined with private/public cloud deployment, offer the highest level of flexibility, security, and control.

Related link:

Why public clouds don’t make sense for critical applications

This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.