Cloud versus on-premises IT: getting the best of both worlds

Cloud computing is disrupting every sector and heralding new entrants into every market. It’s also presenting challenges to long-established companies. But rather than feel a need to make a rush for the cloud, they should consider other options

Netflix, Uber, Airbnb, the list of exciting, fast-growing new businesses that are disrupting their industries and leading, as much as responding to, customer demand seems to grow every week. Meanwhile, many will remember names such as Kodak, great brands that didn’t react quickly enough to technological change and the evolving requirements of consumers and suffered as a result.

Ross Fraser, vice president and managing director in the UK and Ireland at EMC
Ross Fraser, vice president and managing director in the UK and Ireland at EMC

Who will be the next Uber and, just as importantly, who will follow Kodak? Long-established businesses are currently looking at their legacy IT systems and trying to work out how quickly, smoothly and cost effectively they can migrate to the cloud. This new technology offers companies agility, scalability and reduced costs and it is, therefore, driving many of these dynamic, disruptive businesses. But should everyone be part of this rush to the cloud?

Ross Fraser, vice president and managing director in the UK and Ireland at EMC, a global leader in enabling businesses and service providers to transform their operations and deliver IT as a service, advises companies to take a more holistic view and consider all their options. IT departments can and should be taking a lead on this strategy rather than simply executing the decisions handed down by the board, he argues.

“People assume that because of this all companies have to move to the cloud and that’s not necessarily the case,” he says. “Many, especially when they get to a certain size, find that it’s more cost effective to base some of their IT infrastructure on-premises. One size doesn’t fit all.”

Mr Fraser gives finance and retail as two examples where this is particularly true. Customers might be increasingly banking and shopping online, but most banks and retailers have extensive legacy IT structures and they’re trying to reduce costs associated with these older systems in order to invest in new technology.

Some applications, such as latency and security, are best held closer to the user-base, whereas there are others with which you can burst out into the cloud, such as big data projects and archives

He points out that even some tech-based startups are taking the view that the cloud alone is not the only answer. “Groupon, for instance, has benefitted hugely from public cloud, but they’ve become sufficiently large that they’re not getting value for money with a pure cloud solution and so they’re now deploying their own data centres,” he explains.

Along with others, the company has developed a hybrid approach that provides the affordability, simplicity and scalability of public cloud without compromising safety and compliance, as business-critical applications remain in-house. “There are others that have grown and now also want control of their own IT rather than outsourcing it entirely because it’s an intrinsic part of their business,” says Mr Fraser.

EMC is finding that more companies with proactive, forward-looking IT departments are choosing its hybrid cloud/on-premises approach to transform their legacy infrastructure. They’re discovering they get the same agility and cost effectiveness offered by the cloud combined with the benefits that on-premises brings.

“They tell us that it’s a great option because some applications, such as latency and security, are best held closer to the user-base, whereas there are others with which you can burst out into the cloud, such as big data projects and archives,” he says. “In effect, they’re getting the best of both worlds.”

He advises companies to start by identifying their business goals rather than assuming their objective is cloud computing itself. “They need to have an open discussion,” he says. “For example, we have cloud offerings that are on-premises and others that are off-premises. A cloud vendor will tell you that everything needs to be on the public cloud and the premises vendor will say the same about on-premises.”

Companies’ needs and priorities change, and so EMC acts as a consultant, helping them to manage that change, rather than just as a vendor. IT departments must start being more proactive, says Mr Fraser. “They should aim to be seen as an innovation centre and not simply as a cost centre,” he says.

As Uber and Airbnb grow, he predicts they may well move towards a hybrid strategy. “Who knows who the next generation of these market disruptors will be, but having both a cloud and on-premises system can offer them the best of both worlds, as it can for existing companies with legacy IT that want to be able to compete with them and secure their future.”

To find out more about digital transformation please visit uk.emc.com

SAILS DATA

In February, EMC announced it had been chosen as the official IT storage supplier for Land Rover BAR, the British sailing team conceived by Sir Ben Ainslie to win the America’s Cup and bring it home to Britain for the first time in its 167-year history.

“Our primary goal at Land Rover BAR is to win the America’s Cup and we are focused on making the boat go faster. The ability to have all our experts, wherever they are in the world, quickly analyse our testing and race data is a key part of achieving that. EMC’s immense heritage in helping companies squeeze every ounce of value out of their data will make us more competitive,” says Sir Ben, team principal and skipper of Land Rover BAR.

EMC has delivered a converged cloud/on-site infrastructure for the team so that all this data can be downloaded on shore and analysed. “There are so many calculations from hundreds of gigabytes collected from data points around the boat that they need to do quickly themselves rather than sending them off somewhere,” says Ross Fraser, vice president and managing director in the UK and Ireland at EMC.

“We’ve also given them the ability to burst into the public cloud should they need to. Companies can do the same.”

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