In several recent posts, I have concentrated on the benefits of private cloud for large enterprises. For example:
- Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Cloud: The Evolutionary Path
- The cost benefit myth of the public cloud
- Launching my first book – Visible Ops Private Cloud
- Public Cloud Computing is NOT For Everyone
However, I want to be very clear about something:
Public cloud offers great benefits, even – or especially – for large organizations.
Public cloud may well be the only IT architecture ever needed for most small organizations, many startups, and some emerging enterprises. Why build even a server cupboard, let alone a data centre, if you don’t need to? And many of these organizations will never need to.
However, even large enterprises should use public cloud. It certainly offers substantial benefits for large enterprises too, including:
- cost reductions – avoiding any upfront spend on hardware can drive down the cost of creating and delivering some new products and services, and even reduce their total service cost over the lifetime of a short- or medium-term deployment.
- agile service delivery – when reacting to market forces, public cloud services can pivot in ways even private cloud cannot, because they are designed to accommodate immediate delivery of large scale, semi-permanent, additive compute resources.
- strategic flexibility – if your strategy depends on deep investment in IT hardware, a major course correction can be prohibitively expensive. Using public cloud resources, even if only temporarily, can be the difference between making the market and missing it.
- workforce mobility – physical hardware and data centers, even agile private clouds, can dramatically limit your ability to expand, insource, offshore, outsource, or move staff remotely, especially limiting small distributed teams, and even larger regional office deployments.
- mobile/social support – mobile and social services are king and queen of public cloud-native applications, driven by unique needs for global mobility, fast response, load spikes and troughs, massive data volumes, content crowdsourcing, and more.
- best of breed services – specialization, scale, and experience means large public cloud providers may deliver better quality services in non-differentiating areas like e-mail, CRM/SFA, or hosting than an organization can deliver internally.
- enabling risk and innovation – low CapEx risk enables enterprises to foster incubators to explore new technologies, datasets, and integrations. This can deliver new high-reward innovations such as the New York Times ‘TimesMachine’, Netflix’s streaming model, and many many many others.
- new communities – public cloud is a fantastic shared sandbox, allowing businesses to connect with and through new audiences, workforces, behaviours, collaborations and more, at massive scale and with global influence, to attract and retain customers at fractional acquisition costs.
- higher availability – with some clairvoyance; the luxury of spare time, money, skills, and people to (re-)design your applications to survive extended catastrophic infrastructure failure; and some ongoing reliance on private infrastructure; you can achieve better uptime even from a limited 99.95% uptime guarantee. No, really – average enterprise uptime is actually even worse.
- competitive advantage – all of these benefits ultimately drive significant competitive advantage, measurable in outcomes like higher customer attraction and retention, better customer satisfaction, increased revenues, and improved shareholder value.
All these benefits are applicable to large enterprises. Some are even more applicable than for smaller organizations, due to the larger benefits of scale. And no doubt you all can think of many more.
Of course there are also many challenges. Public cloud may not work for every service, or even for every organization. For some services, the issues will be insurmountable – maybe forever, maybe just for now – while for others they will be trivial. Similarly, some cloud providers will be unacceptable for certain services, where others pass with flying colours.
The key is in evaluating which services in your portfolio are suited to public cloud; and evaluating the public cloud providers where you may migrate them.
To maximize the benefit for any public cloud deployment, evaluate each service’s requirements for cost, risk, performance, portability, security, uptime, recovery time, visibility, control, compliance; and measure these against the ability of cloud service providers to meet those requirements.
Easy to say, harder to do – but there are solutions (from my employer, CA Technologies, for example) to help you evaluate both your service portfolio and possible cloud providers, so you are not on your own. Which also means you have no excuse.
Because one thing is certain – if you avoid the public cloud altogether, even if you are a large enterprise, then you will miss substantial benefits.