Using a private cloud? Admit your error and go public instead

A year after planning a big private cloud, the former Yahoo reversed course and is moving to the public cloud. Here’s how you too can chart your path away from the private cloud

Using a private cloud? Admit your error and go public cloud instead
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Amazon Web Services has announced that Oath, the former Yahoo, has selected AWS as its preferred public cloud provider. Sounds like another routine “win” announcement from a cloud vendor, doesn’t it? But this one is far from routine.

Just last year, InfoWorld’s editor in chief, Eric Knorr, wrote about Yahoo’s grand plans to create a giant private cloud. Not even a year later, Yahoo (now Oath) has switched gears and is moving to the public cloud instead.

Why changing its cloud course was a very smart decision for Oath

This reversal is smart. Other companies with their own private clouds have dug in their heels, and I suspect they will wait until the market makes a decision for them. At least Oath is being proactive after clearly seeing the writing on the wall around private clouds. (Ironically, Oath’s owner, Verizon, once had ambitions of being a major cloud provider itself. It too correctly read the tea leaves and abandoned those plans.)

Proactive enterprises are shutting down their private clouds and migrating to the main public cloud providers: AWS, Microsoft, Google, and Alibaba.

If you have invested in a private cloud (including a hybrid cloud), or are using a private cloud provider (a so-called “private cloud as a service”), you should do the same. And don’t feel guilt about it: Technology evolves, and what seems like a good idea today may not be a good idea in a few years.

It goes to the survivability of enterprise IT to spot these trends and react proactively, which in this case means that private clouds will need to be scrapped and resources redirected to public clouds. Once again, IT must deal with application migration, data migration, and cloud-native security and governance. The good news? If you made a successful move to a private cloud, the move to a public cloud should be an easy step up.

This shift does not mean that private clouds will go away. I’ve always said that there are valid reasons to use private clouds, such as when dealing with special compliance and security. However, they are clearly not generating the value that many thought they would when private clouds were “all that” four to five years ago. Even the “hug your server” guys now see the writing on the wall.

What to do if you’re using a private cloud

If you’re on a private cloud now, what are your options? It doesn’t matter if you’re on one of the big private clouds that are now going away or on private clouds in your datacenter—both seem to be following the same three patterns.

1. Move to the public cloud. One common pattern is to move to a public cloud, as Oath is doing. It’s the path of least resistance, and the public cloud services are more than ready to provide the performance, security, and governance you need to operate your business workloads.

However, you are going with the crowd. So, make sure that your workloads are actually moving to the right place, not just to the place that’s popular.

2. Move to managed service providers. Another pattern takes into account the fact that you will always have managed services providers (MSPs) and colocation providers.

Although MSPs are not public clouds, they do help you work and they do play well with public clouds, as well as help support your own legacy system analogs. In other words, they let you outsource, have others manage your workloads, and also use public clouds when you need them.

Colocation providers are basically outsourced datacenters that you share with other companies. This approach could be a much better alternative to getting back into the private enterprise datacenter business, which just seems to burn money for no good reason.

3. Move back to your traditional on-premises systems. This pattern is like moving back into your parents’ house after stepping out on your own to make it in the big city. But moving back to where you were in 2010 may sometimes actually be the best option, such as if your private cloud foray resulted in performance issues and a lack of sound private cloud-native services such as security, management, and monitoring. Yes, you will likely have to eat crow; in many cases you’ve moved workloads to private clouds that should not have been moved in the first place. Going back to what had worked might be what you need to do right now.

However, I suspect that few IT leaders will go for this path given its optics. I can hear the jokes in the break room now.

Never forget it’s about what works best for you

The reality is that you should run your applications and data in the best, most cost-effective platforms you can find to meet your requirements.

If that’s a private cloud, so be it. But chances are that it’s not. It’s clear that private clouds are having difficulty keeping up with the market when compared to public clouds. In fact, you could find that the private cloud provider stops answering the phone. Or, worse, its phone numbers and websites suddenly disappear.

For most enterprises, the public cloud—including the multicloud variation—is the right technology path, even if taken in small steps. The icing on the cake is that the enterprises moving in the direction of the public cloud will free up some capital resources, such as servers, for other things. (And those servers do make good heaters!) Those saved resources might even help pay off any failed private cloud forays.

Note: Verizon, Oath’s owner, is a client of Deloitte, whom I work for.

Copyright © 2018 IDG Communications, Inc.

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