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The Dark Side Of The Public Cloud Is Bright!

Ajay Pherwani,CTO,Tata Capital Financial Services Limited

Ajay Pherwani, CTO

,Tata Capital Financial Services Limited

When we think of the public cloud (AWS, Azure, etc.) we have- the believers and the sceptics. As a Technology Officer, I have been personally responsible for leveraging the public cloud offerings, and have a few pointers to, hopefully, convert a few of the non-believers into believers.

Dark Side #1: Security of the Data Stored on a Public Cloud
Cloud data centers have an enormous security setup around which they are built. This is from physical security, through geographical security, upto logical security. On the contrary, an internal data center would not have the same level of security, and if it does, the costs would be prohibitively high. The cost of securing a data center is large. Due to the large volumes, public cloud companies leverage on economies of scale to get the same products/ solutions cheaper.

Closely linked to security is compliance. Public clouds are certified on almost every standard, which is difficult (if not impossible) and costly to implement on a private cloud.

For cloud service providers, security and compliance is their job and core competence. Any failure here and they are out of business. Hence their security (especially below the hypervisor) is likely to be superior. What happens above the hypervisor is anyway left to us, in both the models.

Dark Side #2: Making a Cloud Solution “Enterprise Class” is not as Cost Effective
When the public cloud (IaaS mainly) was first introduced, people spoke of 70-90 percent cost reduction. Whilst this happens in some cases, the general business models do not normally see such cost reductions. This is attributable to multiple reasons which include redundant backups, over

provisioning of resources, etc. Making a setup “Enterprise Class” is not difficult, but involves some amount of additional resources (example multizone databases). However, the DR setup would be extremely minimal, and hence cost advantages would still accrue, possibly as high as 40-60 percent. Also, the costs have shown a consistent downward trend.

The decision to move whole-hog or incrementally is a choice you need to make

An often underrated saving is in the operational resources (manpower) needed to manage the public cloud infrastructure. Scripts can be used to automate the creation of entire networks, along with servers, scalability, database, storage, and applications. Creating such environments can be as simple as the proverbial “click of a button”. An example is AWS Cloud Formation.

So yes, there is a different skill set needed to make a public cloud “Enterprise Class”. However, the same can be done with fewer skilled resources than one would use within a private data center. An Enterprise Class public cloud will still be cost effective.

Dark Side #3: Database Licensing is Complex on the Public cloud
Many databases allow us to use a BYOL option (Bring Your Own License) and there would be minimal impact. For new projects, open source databases such as MySQL, Aurora, etc. can be used. This is a great way to start leveraging the benefits of the cloud databases and moving towards a non-restrictive, open architecture. There is also a marked shift (driven by open source alternatives and customer demand) for popular database companies to review and relax the restrictions they place on public cloud usage of their products.

Dark Side #4: The Cost Savings of a Public Cloud are not Apparent
While some CIOs swear to 90+ percent savings, others find it difficult to justify even a 10-20 percent saving. One of the main reasons for this is that the comparison is not on equal terms. Assume you have a mandate to make a business case for moving the private cloud to a public cloud. Have you factored in reduced operations manpower, a very low sized DR setup, the impact of scalability (lower compute at night time, for example), etc.? Is the DR on the public cloud assumed to be for 100 percent capacity and the DR in private cloud at 60 percent? If the private cloud data center is on-premises, is a notional rental cost included in the business case? Have the additional costs (networking, availability of load balancers, physical security, etc.) been factored at the private cloud setup? Has growth in capacity and the cost of refresh (of servers, network equipment, SAN storage, etc.) been factored in the private cloud?

All said and done, the journey to a public cloud is a necessity and bound to hit you at some time in the near future. The decision to move whole hog or incrementally is a choice you need to make. The public cloud is not dark, and has a more than bright silver lining.

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