Public Cloud Advantages and Challenges

Public cloud infrastructure can offer agility and scalability with strong monitoring and support capabilities.

By offering rapid deployment and extreme scalability, public cloud can be a tremendous boon to the rollout of brand new business applications.

Nonetheless, most enterprises make their first move to public cloud infrastructure seeking to improve resource and cost efficiency for applications and workload services they already use (Figure 3). A full 84% of enterprises deploying on public cloud IaaS start with traditional applications and use cases. These use cases span common enterprise applications such as business applications like ERP, CRM, and Human Capital Management or commercial collaboration solutions like email and document sharing.

Fig 3
Initial Trigger to Use Public Cloud
Need to scale existing application by using public cloud IaaS/PaaS
Desire to reduce infrastructure cost
Need to provide business continuity/protect against disaster
To support a new application
Retired existing infrastructure and migrated the application to Public Cloud IaaS/PaaS 

Another primary reason given by executives for moving to public cloud IaaS is to reduce data center management needs and reduce the overall cost of providing service (Figure 4). These cost reductions come from several factors:

  • Greater agility. By offering extremely fast deployment and scaling, public cloud can be a boon to enterprises’ agility as they seek to deploy and expand new capabilities. This improved agility can also help control costs for applications where usage is variable, unpredictable, or expected to grow or shrink rapidly. By paying only for actual usage, in these situations enterprises often find public cloud more economical than maintaining their own capacity.
  • Monitoring and control. Public cloud often comes with monitoring and support capabilities that otherwise would require the enterprise’s resources to develop, offering additional cost savings.
  • Better scalability. Finally, public cloud infrastructure can scale more efficiently than in-house systems, meaning that the economics of scaling up applications can be very compelling for enterprises. Improved scalability can reduce time to market for new capabilities.

Note that since most companies initially migrate existing enterprise workloads, capital cost avoidance, both near and longer term, is rarely a good incentive to adopt public cloud IaaS. If coordinated with a capital refresh, cloud deployment can reduce capital costs, but simply migrating existing workloads has little positive effect on CapEx. Rather, the promise of increased ongoing efficiency is what inspires companies to leap the gap.

Fig 4
Top Drivers in Choosing Public Cloud
Overall data center strategy refresh with cloud-first approach (top down IT initiative)
Cost advantages
Better performance than on-premises deployment
Better global reach
Leverage benefits of broader Public Cloud IaaS/PaaS ecosystem
Gain experience using cloud based infrastructure to build out these skills in our IT team
Easier to use and manage
Application has fluctuating infrastructure needs
Better data security than on-premises deployment
Better data protection than on-premises deployment
Ease of scaling
Able to quickly provision resources on Public Cloud IaaS/PaaS
Low upfront costs

Public cloud is also a popular architecture for enterprises interested in employing data analytics to improve their businesses. This propensity owes itself largely to the strong set of tools public cloud IaaS providers make available to their customers, particularly tools that help internal operations or provide better customer insights. Given scarce supply of IT skill sets and data analytics experts, analytics is a leading use case for public cloud IaaS, either on its own or in a hybrid cloud environment. Customers may bring their own licenses and deploy software on Infrastructure-as-a-Service or use adjacent public cloud services such as data warehousing and data analytics.

Despite these advantages, public cloud does offer its challenges. One of the biggest is concern over security. IT departments do not place the same trust in security and control for their public cloud applications as they do for infrastructure they directly manage. Furthermore, in the long term applications with predictable and relatively stable workload data volume are more expensive to operate in public cloud environments than on private cloud infrastructure.