Is the public cloud the only option?

This blog was published originally in Finnish in the Cisco guest blog.


The temptation of public cloud and SaaS services is hard to resist. Who would like to be a brake on technology and business development? Much of IT infrastructure is already in the cloud, and companies are eagerly increasing the use of the cloud. What could go wrong?

Security is not what you think

Security has become the number one priority in today’s business, or at least in minds. The cloud provider is responsible for the security of the service on its own terms, but the responsibility for applications and data remains with the user. The complexity and opacity of the cloud service leave questions about how things really are. The possibility of a misconfiguration is high and many live in the illusion that things are just fine.

Traditional security model changes when you enter the public cloud. The world of developers and applications does not work without dynamic and automated services, proper management and monitoring tools, and application and identity management. The zero trust model and SASE services are easier to implement in the cloud, but still require hard work and a new way of thinking about the entire IT environment.

Bumps in the wire

The public cloud is largely reliable despite recent major problems. The public cloud’s vague SLA guarantees virtually nothing and it is the customer’s job to design availability and distribute services to different zones. Cloud is often far away and its use depends on the reliability and quality of service provider’s connections. For long distances, many potential faults can occur and the delay can be greater than for local services.

The Middle Mile or Cloud On-Ramp has become an important part of cloud connectivity. At least in theory, the service provider connects customers more directly to the cloud through its network bypassing potential bottlenecks along the way. The cloud services themselves also offer their Cloud WAN network through the partners for customer’s use. SASE and SD-WAN services could integrate seamlessly into the cloud. The NaaS (Network as a Service) model will also move networking to the cloud and will change the traditional network model in many ways from technology to billing.

Applications evolve, company doesn’t

Thanks to scalability and decentralization, the public cloud is a good choice to ensure user experience, as long as user application traffic is routed directly to the cloud and does not roam around the corporate network. In the background, however, the application may be based on a database or application logic, which may still reside in a local data center. Traffic travels between the front and the backend degrading application performance and user experience, and adding cloud transport costs.

The public cloud provides comprehensive services for a wide range of needs, and more targeted offerings come out constantly. The benefits of the cloud are best realized when applications are upgraded to cloud-native and more advanced cloud features are used for business needs. This means a change in the entire IT architecture, which will inevitably be reflected in the company’s operating culture. Comprehensive change does not happen in a day. In many cases, traditional applications are so firmly attached to the enterprise operations and business that the renewal is not even worthwhile.

Control gets out of hand

The cost of a public cloud is difficult to predict. The cloud offers more flexibility and features if you can take advantage of them. The cloud can be good for starting and developing services and operations, but as the service grows and stabilizes, the cost of the cloud hits harder. The costs and features of the cloud services are beginning to define the application architecture and put pressure on wider changes in the IT architecture.

It is easy to set up services in the cloud and forget them. The independence of business units easily drives into uncontrolled shadow IT and that, of course, is also reflected in the cost, functionality, availability, and security. The use of the cloud should be governed by at least common rules of use. A large proportion of cloud users do not optimize the cost of the cloud in any way, even if significant savings would be available. There is no actual price competition in the cloud, but users are attracted by the constantly evolving service offering.

Commitment starts to terrify

The benefits of the cloud are gained when services and applications are built by taking advantage of the cloud platform’s features. However, portability to another platform is lost. Cloud usage easily expands to several different cloud platforms, and the variety of SaaS services is constantly increasing. The result is a distributed and complex operating environment. Tools are needed to manage the whole environment but multi-cloud is still far too much: heavy lift, difficult and expensive.

The cloud is good for locking data and users. Hotel California effect defines that the doors are open but you can never get out. The great growth potential of the cloud business lies in the established services of companies that are not easy to transfer to the cloud. That’s why cloud giants are trying to attract the last adopters to the cloud by almost any means.

The ideal of agility

The public cloud is a very large and complex entity for which the company itself often does not have sufficient expertise. The outsourced expertise may not best meet the business needs. The cloud is seen as a crucial productivity tool for digitalization, but it has begun to suffer from inflation. It is difficult for companies to reap the benefits of their cloud investments. The ideal of agility and traditional IT clash violently.

Time for reflection

The public cloud is a good tool for example public services, analytics, artificial intelligence, and modern micro-services. Global reliability, first-class user experience, and flexibility of services are great strengths. Unfortunately in reality, much of the IT environment is messy and layered with history. Moving it to the public cloud may not make sense at all.

Technology is a good tool when it serves a purpose. It should not be the master. Cloud must be weighed in terms of each own needs and realities. If you want to take the reins into your own hands, there are options for building your own capacity and cloud. Everything doesn’t have to be either-or, but a hybrid environment can be a viable model either. But whatever solution you end up with, it requires your effort and commitment to get good results.

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