In Big Companies, The Public Cloud Is Leaving The Private Cloud In The Dust

For years we’ve been told that enterprises wouldn’t put their sensitive data into the public cloud, particularly Amazon Web Services. We’ve been reminded, over and over, that companies value control and security too much to entrust their applications to someone else’s public data center.

Then when it became clear that Amazon’s cloud business was exploding, we were told enterprises were only running dev and test workloads there. The good stuff was still running behind the firewall, and always would.

Today, it’s clear that such reasoning is flawed and completely out-of-whack with actual enterprise computing trend, which heavily favor public cloud computing.

How did the experts get cloud so amazingly, patently wrong? Because in our rush to listen to what enterprises said they wanted, we failed to focus on what they demonstrably do, which is to buy convenience. 

The Amazonian Juggernaut

Nor is it just the private cloud providers that have struggled against Amazon. Despite (literally) billions of dollars being spent to create competitive offerings, Amazon’s domination among its public cloud peers hasn’t budged, as Gartner’s latest Magic Quadrant makes clear:

While Gartner analyst Lydia Leong cautions that “AWS currently has a multiyear competitive advantage, but is no longer the only fast-moving, innovative, global-class provider in the market,” a multi-year advantage and an immense amount of developer fealty pose difficult obstacles for Amazon’s rivals to overcome.

Couple that with the trickiness of making internal resources play nicely with private cloud roll-outs and you have a perfect storm for people giving up on internal resources altogether, as InfoWorld’s Eric Knorr suggests:

The common-denominator benefit of the private cloud is the move to commodity scale-out infrastructure. That sounds fantastic—but it’s not what most enterprises have in place. Bending your existing infrastructure to accommodate a vast private cloud, not to mention migrating the lion’s share of legacy applications to that cloud, is a losing proposition.

Convenience Trumps All

The reason for Amazon’s continued rise is simple: Amazon Web Services makes technology simple to acquire and offers a host of platform services that developers find easy to use. In short, convenience rules, and AWS delivers convenience. 

The signs are all around us that convenience trumps most everything. From the GitHub generation’s emphasis on licensing freedom to the trend toward open source (no need to get corporate bureaucracy involved) and the equally big trend toward software-as-a-service (remove IT from the purchasing equation), enterprise IT adoption is taking the path of least resistance, and is being driven by developers. 

In a conversation with Redmonk analyst Stephen O’Grady, he put it this way:

In almost every case, a physical server will outperform the virtual equivalent offered up by public clouds. And yet the adoption of public cloud has been sufficient to force Dell to go private, IBM to decommit from the x86 server market entirely and HP to try and charge for firmware upgrades. This is the power of convenience. Much like the camera you have with you being better than the high end SLR too heavy to carry around, developers—the new kingmakers within the enterprise—are heavily advantaging time to productivity when it comes to technology selection.

While this trend is perhaps easiest to articulate in relation to developers, a McKinsey survey of IT management reveals much the same. IT plans to spend much less on infrastructure (servers, etc.) and far more on “innovation.” 

While innovation is a very nebulous term, the survey data suggests that IT is divorcing itself from the idea that “innovation requires me to run my applications in my data center.”

Is ‘Hybrid’ Most Convenient Of All?

Despite the obvious rise of public cloud computing, some argue that the real cloud winner is hybrid clouds. For example, Eucalyptus CEO Marten Mickos, whose company makes blending AWS cloud workloads seamless with Eucalyptus private cloud workloads, argues that the distinction between “public” and “private” is fading:

In Mickos’ view, distinctions between public and private clouds become meaningless over time. He may be right. But if so, public cloud still trumps because enterprises looking to run workloads “in the cloud” will start with public resources like AWS and bolt on private cloud resources like Eucalyptus. The starting point, in other words, is AWS, not the data center.

And the reason? AWS delivers the convenience that developers crave. Only those vendors who manage to seamlessly combine the convenience of AWS with the sometime need of behind-the-firewall control of private cloud computing (which Eucalyptus aims to do) will remain relevant.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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