The Cloud Debate: Public vs Private?

The Cloud Question Is Hotly Debated: But How Do You Decide What’s Right For Your Organisation?

IoT? AI? RPA? DLT? XYZ? Ok, we made the last one up… but the point is that IT leaders need to constantly assess the benefits of new technology in the context of the businesses they serve. Cloud strategy is no different. Which is better – private, public, hybrid or none at all?

This article does not aim to provide an exhaustive technical analysis of private Cloud solutions vs the multiple public Cloud offerings now available. Such analysis is already well documented and available elsewhere. However, in this article we aim to identify the broad range of factors that should be considered when determining a Cloud strategy for your project or organisation.

Analysis of any solution should be led by stakeholder requirements – with the full spectrum of stakeholders represented. Such an approach will ensure Cloud solutions reflect the needs of external client expectations, internal sponsor requirements, regulatory obligations (where relevant) and multiple other factors including (but not limited to) risk appetite, corporate policies and commercial factors.

Basic analysis of individual factors – such as operational costs – could provide misleading results and could yield an inappropriate Cloud solution. For example, we have witnessed real world analysis in our client base that had determined private Cloud costs were substantially below an equivalent public Cloud footprint. However, the analysis hadn’t factored in aspects such as data centre hosting fees, cross-site connectivity costs, technology refresh costs, incremental cost of scaling or security operations cost.

Having advised a number of clients on IT strategy – from operating model design through to platform selection – we aim to offer here some of the factors relevant to Cloud selection. Such factors may be useful when determining the relevance of private, public or hybrid solutions. The factors to be considered include: technology, operating model (current and target) and resource capability, demand pipeline and inflight project portfolio, commercial factors, governance and opportunity cost.

Technology is perhaps the easiest on the list – but often gets the main focus. Assessment of the public Cloud offerings against immediate and strategic technical requirements is relatively straightforward to perform, and if the landscape changes, the switching ‘friction’ is often not prohibitive. True technical assessment of a private Cloud solution is often more difficult as it has to consider multiple factors that may be difficult to assess. Factors such as the existing data centre landscape including M&E infrastructure, physical security, hosting scalability, cross-site connectivity plus ‘ancillary’ infrastructure to support the private cloud such as security and monitoring infrastructure all require assessment.

The current state IT operating model and resource capability – and any target ‘future state’ – also require consideration. This may include: support processes, ITIL maturity, escalation models, support coverage hours, vendor dependency, service performance metrics, business continuity services, staff capability and capacity, key staff risk and the IT governance model.

The IT demand pipeline and inflight project portfolio is also of relevance to Cloud solution selection as these factors will impact IT capacity loading and the ability to implement new services such as hybrid Cloud solution. Transparency of the demand pipeline can also provide value by ensuring that future projects are able to appropriately leverage any implemented Cloud solution(s).

Corporate commercial factors also require consideration. An example of this being the availability of capital expenditure budgets – which may limit the up-front investment typically required to implement an in-house private Cloud solution. Many other commercial factors will affect cloud migration ROI – a simple example being the duration of existing contractual commitments that would redundant post Cloud migration. Transparency in the existing IT cost base will also form a key input to ROI determination.

Corporate and IT governance – clearly broad topics – may also impact Cloud solution design. It is not possible to do this topic justice in a short article – but factors such as decision-making pace, reporting expectations, approach to risk management, data governance, standards compliance etc, are all relevant.

Opportunity cost of change also requires consideration. Public Cloud will typically require lower levels of internal solution support when compared to legacy infrastructure or private cloud platforms. If such internal resource could be mobilised to focus on the delivery of projects with higher ROI’s this should be considered.

While this can’t be an exhaustive list of Cloud selection criteria, these broad categories that drive Cloud strategy show that ultimately there isn’t a one-size- fits-all answer. Public vs private vs hybrid – what is the right answer for your organisation?