A closer look at traditional solutions and cloud

As the cost and efficiency of traditional on-premises solutions become more attractive, compare the two options carefully to find the best one.

A closer look at traditional solutions and cloud
Robert Couse-Baker (CC BY 2.0)

Throughout my career, I’ve rarely fallen for the hype around emerging technologies. Historically, I’ve learned that it pays to take a skeptical approach and make sure the technology can prove its worth on its own. I pay attention, but I don’t give out “hype” points to what the tech press currently covers.

This gets me into trouble from time to time. When I first started writing this blog almost 12 years ago, I was frequently asked, “Do you even like cloud computing?” It’s my nature to question things that everyone assumes to be true. In many instances, it turned out that I was right to be a bit skeptical. I still believe that good technology should prove itself worthy for each business problem each time we want to leverage that technology—cloud included. 

Here’s a core question that seems to have faded away: Is it more cost-effective to leverage traditional IT resources (such as storage and compute) on premises rather than as a service from a public cloud provider? 

We all know about the momentum behind the cloud. Spending on cloud infrastructure was up 13.5% in the fourth quarter of 2021, year on year, to $21.1 billion, according to IDC. Within the previous quarter, we saw spending on cloud infrastructure reach $18.6 billion after a year-on-year decline of 1.9% in the second quarter of 2021. It blipped down, and now it’s blipping up. 

With the growth and innovation clearly behind public clouds, should you even consider more traditional solutions?

Take storage for instance. If you don’t buy traditional storage for a data center, you may not have noticed the price drop of HDD (hard disk drives) during the past 10 years. This is the raw commodity storage that most enterprises install in their data center. At the same time, public cloud storage costs have remained relatively the same.

Of course, these are apples and oranges. When you pay for public cloud storage, you also get maintenance, power, administration, usage tracking, and other services built into the price you pay per month. However, considering the fall in traditional on-premises storage pricing, there might be business problems that can be solved more cost-effectively by buying traditional HDD storage versus storage in the cloud. As HDD prices continue to drop, this may become even more obvious. 

Those who purchase storage and compute services should compare the loaded costs of traditional on-premises technologies (meaning the cost with all maintenance and administrative costs added in), with cloud services that provide the same technologies.

Which is better? Like many questions connected to cloud versus on-premises computing, the answer is “it depends.” It depends on how much you value agility and the ability to scale up. Public cloud providers do a much better job at providing agility. If that is a huge value driver for your business, cloud computing will likely be the winner. Other things in cloud’s favor include the ability to leverage other native services along with storage and compute, such as artificial intelligence, databases, serverless, and containers as a service that can spin up with just a mouse click. 

Other businesses don’t prioritize agility so highly. For companies with rudimentary uses for storage and compute, cloud may be overkill. Lower prices for traditional on-premises IT resources will be too compelling to ignore—even though it’s not what the cool kids are doing.

When your business has a technology problem to solve, all solution types should be on the table: cloud and non-cloud. As costs and capabilities change over time, the “obvious” solution with the most hype and momentum may not be the optimal one for your specific business problems. Consider the value drivers that will offer the best ROI in the big picture. An open mind is the sign of a good enterprise solutions architect. 

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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