Today on Twitter, analyst Simon Wardley put out a series of provocative tweets regarding the value of the public cloud. The gist of Wardley's Tweet storm was that all of the value in the cloud is found in public cloud services and that the goal of every data center from this point forward should be to get to data center zero—in other words no more data center.
That's a bold statement.
Wardley began by suggesting all forms of the cloud, other than public cloud services, are simply marketing for the benefit of the financial markets:
... every other "cloud" paradigm shift -private, enterprise, hybrid, containers, SDDC, NFV - is more for the benefit of the stock market.— swardley (@swardley) February 23, 2015
In fact, he pulls no punches, referring to private approaches as "pure hokum" that play on the fears of companies that are slow to move to the cloud.
Every single one of these vendor promoted paradigm shifts plays on inertia companies have to the actual change, it's pure hokum.— swardley (@swardley) February 23, 2015
He believes that the only way to get real value out of the cloud is by making a full commitment to the public cloud. That's an interesting and somewhat radical viewpoint, especially in light of the way most companies are actually using cloud services today. According to a recent survey by RightScale of 930 technical professionals, the vast majority of companies are very much in the early stages of moving to the public cloud.
I would suspect that the only companies who are taking a fully public cloud approach are newer ones unencumbered by legacy hardware and software, that start out using cloud services and avoid the investment of building a data center.
As for the enterprises in the RightScale survey, while 88 percent reported using a public cloud service, 68 percent of enterprises reported running less than a fifth of their application portfolio in the cloud. On the infrastructure side, 13 percent of respondents run more than 1,000 virtual machines in the public cloud, while 22 percent of organizations said they run more than 1,000 VMs in private cloud.
A long road to data center zero
All of that suggests that we are still in the early days. Most companies find themselves somewhere along the journey in a hybrid computing world where they are beginning to make the transition to the cloud but are a long way from achieving Wardley's goal of data center zero.
Wardley actually recognized this when he tweeted
That doesn't mean you can become data centre zero tomorrow ... some have been working towards this for 4+ years. But that's the direction.— swardley (@swardley) February 23, 2015
It would really have to be because it wouldn't make economic sense to shoot for shutting down the data center in the near term. There's too much of an investment, and the transition is too hard to make it cost effective.
But Wardley may be onto something when he suggests that companies should not be in the data center business anymore than they should be in the power plant business. That said, there will always be companies where the cost reaches a tipping point and buying cloud services could become less cost effective.
As with anything, it's hard to make absolute assertions, but Wardley could be right that many companies are going more slowly than they should simply due to institutional inertia. The trick is making an honest assessment and figuring out where your company lies on this spectrum and making a sound plan—and that is not an easy to do.
Photo Credit: Damien Pollet on Flickr. Used under CC by SA 2.0 license.