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If an app can’t go to the cloud, the cloud must go to the app

Insights from the State of Application Delivery 2017

Many (and I mean a lot) of folks push back on the very existence of the idea of private (on-premise) cloud.

This is not new; I’ve been fighting the “public is the only way” false dilemma for years. But there’s never been any real data around whether or not the private cloud phenomenon has been real or just imagined by “server-huggers” as they were pejoratively termed years ago.

app deployment preferences soad17

But thanks to our most recent survey, I’m armed with actual data that private (on-premise) cloud is not only existential, but preferred over its sexier cloud cousins. At least for the time being.

It’s always been arguable that some kinds of applications, particularly those that manage access to sensitive corporate information – like finance – would remain largely tethered on-premise. But mobile apps? Oh, those are going in the public cloud. En masse. Simply everyone is doing it, dahling.

Except they’re not. Or at least not in the droves implied by the voluminous blogs and articles on the topic. Of the more than 2100 respondents in our survey, only 17% are opting for public (IaaS) cloud for customer-facing mobile apps. Another 7% are targeting PaaS, and 11% SaaS. That’s a total of 35% targeting non-private cloud. The bulk of respondents (54%) are targeting private cloud, with 1 in 3 specifically preferring a private, on-premise, cloud.

The same story holds true across all application categories. Whether consumer or corporate, productivity or profit, line of business or not, respondents indicated a strong preference for private cloud, with on-premise being a clear favorite.

That may be why we saw such a significant year over year growth in the adoption of OpenStack, as organizations moved forward with their plans to implement a private, on-premise cloud. Last year only 7% of respondents had embraced OpenStack. It was amongst the lowest of the well-known frameworks, losing out to VMware, Cisco, Puppet, and plain old Python scripts. This year? OpenStack is amongst the leaders in framework adoption, with 21% of respondents telling us it is in use at their organization.

Now, I’m not averse to public cloud. But I am averse to those who remain largely deaf to the pleas of enterprises who have very clear requirements which continue to go unmet. I am also averse to “one size fits all” solutions that ignore the changing requirements for emerging markets.

Those markets are finding that the simplicity and “one size fits all” commoditized model of public cloud doesn’t actually fit all sizes. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), for example, has some fairly hardcore needs that cannot be met by a commoditized (general purpose) public cloud environment. This is one of the drivers behind GE Predix. IIoT has a need for cloud scale and agility, but its need for security, audibility, and performance is just as important. As pointed out by Dan Woods when exploring the topic, he noted:

The reliability, performance, and security of public clouds have improved markedly since their wobbly beginnings but still, the reliability is not sufficient for industrial applications (see “Why GE is Tackling a Harder Problem than Amazon”).

It’s no surprise, then, that they turn to other options.

On-premise private cloud is one option. Colo cloud, which is rising fast, is another. And we see that in the preferences for deployment. IIoT leans heavily toward those environments that afford organizations the best opportunity for both scale and agility without sacrificing control and performance. Even consumer IoT shows little interest in public cloud at the moment.

In our latest survey, private cloud topped the list as having the most strategic impact (39%) and a significant percentage (45% to be exact) of organizations are investing in private cloud over the next twelve months. It is foolish to ignore that private cloud is not a passing fad. It’s not a “phase” that temperamental enterprises are going through. It’s a deliberate business strategy designed to enable the organizations’ digital transformation. A transformation that must include data-center bound apps, too.

Yes, public cloud is on the rise. We see that, too. The change in strategic impact of public cloud was a year over year gain of 4%. The change in interest for app service deployments in public cloud? You guessed it, on average 4%. Public cloud is growing in adoption, yes, but it’s still got a long way to grow.

There is, and will remain, a data center market for many, many years to come. Until apps are no longer tethered to massive data sources or leashed by the digital kraken-like tentacles of integration, there will be a need for private, on-premise cloud to enable the digital transformation businesses need to undergo in order to succeed and grow in a digital economy.