Choosing an appropriate deployment model for applications and services is not a black and white scenario and is unlikely to be for the foreseeable future.
Organisations need to look carefully at the requirements of specific applications before choosing to move off-premise, meaning that in-house infrastructure will continue to have its place.
These are the conclusions from an expert panel discussion about the future of enterprise infrastructure at the Data Centre & Infrastructure Summit hosted by V3's sister title Computing.
Key points from the discussion included the fact that network connectivity can be an issue, with the volume of data traffic generated by some applications making it impractical to move them off-premise, while security and corporate governance issues were also held up as key concerns.
The overall conclusion is that it is a question of "horses for courses" on whether services are kept in-house or migrated to an external provider, and organisations need to carefully weigh up the benefits versus the costs of the deployment options for each application and service they operate.
Jeff Aberle, portfolio proposition manager at Colt Technology Services, said that moving to a hosted model is not so much about cost cutting, as being able to shift what the budget is spent on. Colt operates data centre hosting as well as network services around the globe.
"When you look at the enterprises moving to a co-location model with us, the discussion is about moving from a capital expenditure model to an operational expenditure one," he said.
In other words, Colt customers are offloading the provisioning and maintenance of servers and infrastructure to Colt, while still effectively having their own data centre.
In contrast, Ben Naylor, IT technology manager for vehicle glass repair firm Belron International, said that his firm is in the process of moving as much of its IT as possible to public cloud services.
He explained that applications are being switched or migrated to software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings from commercial providers where possible, with only the core customer-serving applications and data being hosted internally.
Meanwhile, Brian Roche, head of IT infrastructure for Hamad International Airport in Qatar, touched on the difficulty of moving data offsite when you are dealing with large volumes of it and there are regulations controlling where data can be stored.
"In the aviation world, outsourcing is a problem, because there is a lot of legislation around governance of data. In the Gulf, for example, nothing is allowed out, similar to the situation in Europe," he said.
"The airport generates a huge amount of data - about half a petabyte a day - and you can't easily move that from one location to another. If we could lay fibre between sites, and have fibre to a separate site for high availability, that would be an ideal situation," he added.
Naylor made the key observation that data traffic between services needs to be considered when implementing a hybrid cloud approach, where some services are operated from an organisation's own data centre while others are running in a public cloud or hosted elsewhere.
"With applications using SQL databases, in practice it is better to run it all on-premise or put it into the cloud and run it all off-site," he said.
The trap that organisations need to avoid falling into is to imagine they should simply replicate their on-premise infrastructure onto a public cloud environment somewhere. Some IT functions may be best migrated to SaaS offerings, such as Office 365 for email and collaboration, while others may not be suitable for moving off-site at all.
"You need to consider governance, and the risks to data," said Steve Watt, chief information officer at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. "For example, we retain research data and student personal data in-house, because we can't yet demonstrate [cloud] is entirely secure," he explained.
This latter point was disputed by Aberle, who countered that the data centres operated by service providers are typically much more secure than those run by their business customers.
"For most enterprises still running stuff in a data centre on-premise, physical security is often not there at all, as it is in a purpose-built data centre operated by us," he said.
Overall, the trend is for more IT services to be migrated to the cloud, a move that will have an effect on the skills required by enterprise IT departments. Panel members saw there will be fewer hard-core technical staff required to manage data centre infrastructure in future, and more staff needed who are capable of managing suppliers and cost management.
"We need to constantly review and assess what the cost model is and how it affects our business. It's about understanding the total cost of ownership, and putting that to the business," said Naylor.
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