Most organisations today use the cloud, whether knowingly, or in the case of shadow IT, unknowingly.
Commonly accepted thinking dictates that the public cloud can be used to store and process non-sensitive data, whilst the information you're most concerned about often remains on premises, possibly in a private cloud set-up.
And many firms use both cloud flavours, resulting in what's often termed a hybrid cloud.
However, a panel of experts at a recent webinar from V3's sister title Computing: 'Cloud mix and match, getting the balance right' have suggested that a private cloud which shares many public cloud characteristics would be preferred by most IT leaders.
Jon Forster, global programme director at Fitness First explained that he has used this strategy at previous firms."I've been moving companies from [hosting their IT] on premises to various forms of cloud," said Forster.
He continued: "One public sector organisation had everything on premises on tin boxes. I moved them to having a private cloud setup which was outsourced to a third party, so they got the benefits of the supplier dealing with compliance issues.
"They couldn't take data out of the UK or to the public cloud [due to compliance issues], and they didn't want to be slow to deploy [which they felt would have been the case remaining with a purely on premises strategy]. Moving to that private cloud model gave them speed and the ability to add more compute power when they needed it, and to reduce their physical footprint. It was very successful for them.
Forster explained that another firm he worked with moved to a hybrid cloud model, using both public and on-premises cloud.
"On premises cloud is a virtual environment you're running yourself, the same as it would run in the public cloud. It gives you speed. The company I'm with now have gone from taking weeks to be able to stand up a new server to taking half an hour to do it. That's a complete step change, and gives you the advantages of public cloud, even though you're doing it on premises," said Forster
He added that one challenge they experienced in moving to a hybrid cloud was in being able to move seamlessly away from a pure on premises strategy, but still being able to fail over to the public cloud, or use it for backups.
"Both types of cloud have to follow the same technologies. You need to reduce the amount of technology you're using, and the different types of hardware as it all adds complexity."
Forster said that he uses cloud provider Nutanix the help reduce the number of different technologies used, to enable his teams to focus on their jobs, not focus on the hardware. He explained that he is unconcerned by the issue of vendor lock-in, as it's outweighed for him by the advantage of reducing complexity.
"If we decided to go down the Microsoft route [using Microsoft software], then we're going to use the Microsoft cloud, as it should all work together and run at the same speed. As soon as you mix technologies you have to run at slowest speed.
"That's the reason we went Azure instead of Amazon as we went fully Microsoft on premises so we could manage it better. Does it lock us in? Yes, we can't easily go from Azure to AWS again as you can't move without more kit in the middle, and then you're increasing complexity again," he argued.
He concluded by saying that he feels comfortable that he's in good hands, using one of the world's largest cloud providers, explaining that competition will keep the providers honest.
"As long as AWS and Azure are competing and trying to be the best, then one of them isn't going to suddenly fall behind or triple their costs," said Forster.
Also on the panel was Trevor Kelly, systems engineer director for western Europe at Nutanix. He explained that the idea of deploying public cloud-like solutions as a private cloud is attractive to most organisations.
"What if you've got IT infrastructure you can deploy as a private cloud in your data centre, but it uses the same technology as employed at public cloud providers? So it's web scale, enables agility and speed, and enables the enterprise features you'd find in traditional architecture, but also provides the control and performance you'd expect. And all of that at a commercial advantage.
"Organisations move their workloads to cloud because it allows them to focus on the applications. It can be a big distraction if you put everything on more traditional architecture as it can be far more complex," said Kelly.
The panel went on discuss the need for IT to engage more with the business, or risk facing widespread redundancies.
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