Cloud Isn’t Always the Answer: Highlights from the Gigaom “Application-defined Data Center” Webinar

IO’s Chief Cloud Architect Lindsay Salisbury joined Rich Morrow, founder / head geek at quicloud LLC and Paul Burns, Principal Analyst at Neovise on a webinar hosted by Gigaom and moderated by data center expert David Linthicum. The title of the webinar: “Future-proof your data center by leveraging the application-defined data center.” That’s a theme we’ve been talking about a lot lately, including in interviews (George Slessman in The Stack) and on stage (Nick Jefferson at DCD Converged). Here, we recap highlights from the webinar.

If you’re consuming services in the cloud, does the infrastructure matter?

Opening the webinar, Linthicum asked the panelists about the importance of the infrastructure that sits at the foundation of the cloud. Neovise’s Paul Burns had this to say: “To some degree, if you’re getting the services you want – e.g., compute instances that are right-sized with the right performance parameters – then on one hand you don’t ‘care’ about what’s behind the scenes. But if you care about availability and reliability, then it absolutely matters how the infrastructure was set up and is maintained.”

IO’s Lindsay Salisbury said the poll results reflected what he hears from prospective customers: “Security is generally one of most pressing issues we communicate with prospects about. But we talk about how security affects costs. You have to take into account the cost associated with implementing security, but you also have to address the cost of a breach. Customers are looking for providers who can help them understand that tradeoff between the cost of security and the cost of not being secure.”

Data center v. cloud computing: mutually exclusive?

“There is a whole generation of developers who have been raised on public cloud and taught to demonize the data center,” explained quicloud’s Rich Morrow. “But enterprises are beginning to realize that if they don’t have manic workloads – if they’re not Intuit processing tens of millions of tax returns in a few weeks – then it might not make sense to move to the cloud. Enterprises are beginning to realize that for workloads that operate within pretty normal parameters, hosting is often better financially. Companies can be surprised by the bandwidth costs they incur going to the cloud; colocation often offers better bandwidth deals.”

“The data center and the cloud aren’t mutually exclusive,” Salisbury explained. “It’s about having the right tool for the job. Rely on cloud-based assets for variable workloads like high performance computing and big data pipelines and rely on the data center for predictable workloads. Having the system running in the data center provides a baseline of performance you can rely on, then expand into the cloud as needed. Take small steps. In the future we’ll see enterprises relying more on the cloud but colocation and the data center aren’t going to go away.”

Morrow agreed. “Moving to the cloud first is not the answer for everything. A lot of businesses are starting to realize that a hybrid model – a combination of on-premises, colocation, public and private cloud is the best model. It gives enterprises the ability to move workloads around, to burst up or do disaster recovery in a public cloud. You can build a much better house with screwdrivers, power drills, and hammers than you can with just a hammer.”

How can the ability to gateway into public cloud services help an organization?

“A lot of organizations start with the public cloud. Ultimately it’s about network transit costs and what it costs to burst into clouds – and that cost is changing,” IO’s Salisbury explained. “Especially since the Snowden revelations, data security is a new world. So the public cloud is an entry point but for many organizations a private cloud is a more viable long-term option as they figure out how to scale their applications. The private cloud allows organizations to scale more securely and with more control.”

It’s about options.

Why is integration with existing applications and systems a critical decision factor?

At the end of the day, Salisbury said, one of the key questions customers ask about cloud is “What do we do with our existing applications and systems?” He explained, “Part of what a hybrid model allows organizations to do is move certain applications into the cloud where and when it makes sense, without having to re-architect their entire system. That way, their existing applications and systems integrate with new ones. They can move incrementally into the future.”