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Lots of “Cloud Benefits” Aren’t Cloud Benefits

Lots of so-called cloud benefits aren’t really cloud benefits. They’re benefits of well-run infrastructure that you can get in your own data center.

Let’s take a look at some of benefits frequently touted to come with the cloud:

  • Disaster Recovery/Geo-Redundancy
  • Security
  • Mobility
  • OpEx
  • High Availability
  • Collaboration
  • Document Control
  • Cost Savings

Vendors market all the above as “cloud benefits,” but in fact all are benefits you can attain on premises.

DR/Geo-Redundancy: Most cloud offerings, whether SaaS, PaaS, or IaaS, come with some built-in DR through replication across multiple, geographically dispersed data centers. But you don’t need the cloud to get DR. And unless you’re fully in the cloud, you should be investing in a DR site anyway.

Security: Many cloud providers offer great security features, and the idea that public cloud isn’t secure (if used properly) is fast becoming a quaint notion. But you can get good security on prem.

Mobility: Cloud vendors often tout the ability of users to access cloud services and resources from anywhere (with internet access) on any device. But organizations can achieve the same thing with on-prem apps and services by using a combination of MPLS, SD-WAN, or even VPN over the public internet.

OpEx: The shift to operating expense instead of capital expense is often touted as a benefit of cloud. After all, finance departments in many businesses prefer gradual and frequent smaller operating expenses to large capital outlays, for both accounting and cash flow reasons. But there are two problems with the idea that a key benefit of cloud is the shift to OpEx:

  1. Capital expenses are not necessarily bad in themselves. The issue with CapEx has been organizations’ mismanagement of hardware refreshes due to poor alignment and communication between infrastructure and operations groups and the business. CapEx doesn’t have to be painful when it’s planned for appropriately and budgeted for in advance.
  2. OpEx is attainable with on-prem hardware. You don’t have to buy hardware and amortize it – you can lease it. It’s the same for facilities: you can use a Co-Lo. If OpEx is what’s wanted, it’s just as attainable on prem as in the cloud.

High Availability: Lots of cloud providers boast extremely high availability. So do many organizations with fine data centers and well-run infrastructure and operations groups.

Collaboration: The cloud allows for file shares! So does an on-prem file server on your corporate network.

Document Control: The cloud allows for document control. Wait, why do we need the cloud for that?

Cost Savings: The cloud might save you money. Or it might not. Either way, any cloud migration involves a good deal of effort up front and it can be difficult to estimate cost savings. If you’re going to invest time and money to achieve cost savings, you can likely do that with projects for your on-prem infrastructure too. Cloud isn’t the only way to save money, and simply moving to the cloud won’t magically make IT less expensive.

Our Take

I’m not knocking the cloud. The cloud offers two valuable benefits: 1) the ability to rapidly provision infrastructure resources with on-demand self-service, and 2) the ability to scale workloads up or down rapidly in response to fluctuating demand, paying only for what you use. These features rock, and they’re also features that are NOT available from traditional on-prem infrastructure.

The cloud has real benefits. But there are many “benefits” that might happen to come with the cloud, but aren’t defining elements of the cloud’s characteristics. Don’t let vendors sell these value-added inclusions as differentiating cloud secret sauce. You’re still paying for them, they’re just included.

Before making any cloud migration decisions, focus on the inherent benefits of the cloud you’ll be taking advantage of (self-service and elasticity), rather than being blinded by all the additional nice-to-haves that are perfectly attainable on prem.

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