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The Public / Private Cloud Matrix

Cloud is fast. Cloud is everywhere. Cloud is flexible; versatile; elastic. Cloud is the future. At least all of us probably expect this from the times to come. Previous disruptions promised similar realities: the advent of the Personal Computer, or the Internet. And they all delivered unseen dynamic capabilities. 

It is also noticeable that in order for those technologies to end up being not only dynamic, but reliable as well, years of work around protocols, standards, languages, etc, were required. Some parts are today more integrated than others, but we can send emails, you can read this post on your pc, device, or whatever, probably with little or no problems at all. But again; it required lots of work for it to be this way. This brings us to an idea that holds true not only for IT, but for almost any business: The “and” rather than the “or” required between Speed and Stability.

Organizations have been urged to become Agile for years. They have been required to speed up their business processes, to change, to evolve, to respond quickly to the ever changing markets. Not so much has been told about their need to grow up stable as well; though stability in the end usually plays well with investors, provides reliable frameworks, brings sustainable and risk-averse operations, reduces volatility. Nevertheless the center of importance has usually been utterly inclined towards dynamism.

When the versatility of cloud comes to change everything, I find inevitable to think about the analogy with Versatility and Stability in Business. In a recent article, McKinsey & Co. showed this very well: 

The analogy I mention around IT, comes when public clouds are usually thought of as the enablers of dynamism, and private clouds as the enablers of stability and control. If we then build the previous matrix thinking about IT providers and their offerings, we will find those who are week all across the board, then quadrants for players strong on either the public or private sides of the house, and finally players with strong offerings all along. Let’s look at this in more detail:

  1. These may be Niche cloud providers, with point solutions to address specific business needs, usually deployed along broader solutions. Hardware vendors providing little or no integration/convergence may also fall in this bucket. Many of the latter still have an important footprint at our customers’ data centers, but their business strategy is unclear when cloud and the future of IT come into discussion. They divide, divest, and desperately move trying not to lose the faith of their investors.
  2. These are some big new fish we all hear a lot about today. With some few years in the market, they were born in the cloud, and they remain up there. They still haven’t descended though, to complete their offerings with compatible private clouds, and they won’t give you a complete IaaS, PaaS and Saas solution. They will therefore flunk the “Hybrid-Cloud test”, limiting their customers’ flexibility, and leaving question marks to address issues concerning latency, or data sovereignity (we will go more into this further down).
  3. This quadrant hosts some other HW vendors which started envisioning some time ago the advantages of integration. They are “blocks” known by all of us, which present versions of convergence that have been quite successful in the market, in an effort to reduce TCO, simplify administration, among other advantages of integration. But time went on, and there is a piece of vital importance today that they have not integrated: The public cloud

What brings us to…

4. What happens when you can offer public and private clouds as one? “As one” means fully integrated. It means that your whole IT footprint can live on the public cloud, on-premises, on both, moving as the time of the year changes, as your needs evolve, as your customers’ needs evolve. There are customers which are focusing entirely on the previous quadrant (3), for they are being pushed to think the future will be entirely on the public cloud. Wrong. What’s the Oracle approach? 

First of all we understand there are several reasons why 75% of workloads out there are still running on-premises: 

  • Latency: An airline develops an app in the cloud to increase its flight occupancy rate, and gain some share from the competition. They need the app to interact with their billing numbers on their ERP system, hosted on-premises. Latency is not a possibility. Integration is a must.
  • Data Sovereignty: Laws on data protection specify that data should be hosted within specific jurisdictions. Since October 2015, for example, the Telecoms Data Retention Law obliges all Telecom operators in Germany to retain all traffic and location data within the boundaries of the country.
  • Control: Your revenue generating systems under your own requirements and service levels. Let us say you are a retailer, and you want to shift your e-commerce platform to the cloud to benefit of the inherent flexibility SaaS solutions provide. But you also want to be sure that you are in absolute control of the availability of your mission-critical systems, maintenance windows, planned down-times of this cloud infrastructure.
  • Choice: One of the most popular uses of the public cloud today is Developing and Testing. These are the first candidates to move to the cloud. Customers are risk-averse, and also want to make DevTest operations more flexible. Now, what happens when you try to bring to production in your data-center what you developed and tested on the cloud? The answer is you need a common infrastructure both-ways. You could opt having different infrastructures, standards, protocols, but you will assume this risk, not your provider.
  • Economics: Capital Expenditures and Operating Expenditures play very differently on your company’s finance. True (integrated) hybrid clouds let you optimize this mix, and give you a big deal of flexibility when talking about seasonal capacity needs, pressure to take IT footprint off balance sheets, and generating healthier financial indicators for your investors. 

It is fair to assume, under a business rationale, that companies need both stability and agility to succeed. It is also fair to assume, under an IT rationale, that public-cloud-only vendors, just like private-cloud-only ones, are missing an important part of the game. Sticking those two together at the customer side won’t do the job, for they won’t be integrated. Translating it to business equivalents, you would be choosing agility in some processes, stability in some others, but not agility and stability across your entire business operation. It is not, nevertheless, hard to understand the hype going around the public cloud. Business literature pondered for a long time speed/flexibility over stability, though evidence has proven successful companies have both. Let’s hope IT follows...

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