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March 27, 2017updated 28 Mar 2017 11:14am

Core computing and the challenge of cloud

Cloud services do not mean the imminent death of the data centre.

By John Oates

A few years ago the hype around cloud services predicted they would spell the death of the traditional data centre.

As connectivity improved, we were told, so the need for in-house hardware and storage would disappear. But the truth is that even the most enthusiastic adopters of cloud services, still find lots of reasons to run their own data centres too.

One reason is that even the most up-to-date technology infrastructures still have some legacy applications doing a perfectly good job for parts of the enterprise. Shifting such old and probably unsupported software to the cloud would be all but impossible.

A non-business example – you’re lucky enough to own one of the one hundred Mclaren F1 supercars you, or your mechanic, will need a Compaq portable computer from the early 1990s in order to service it.

But almost every enterprise has some similar legacy software and hardware which is still performing perfectly well. If the application is no longer supported then moving it to the cloud may be impossible.

Equally the typical data centre probably runs some applications which are used by very few staff – moving them to the cloud would not be a cost saving either.

And of course if you’re running your own applications you can worry less about losing internet access.

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The main claim for cloud platforms has always been price and costs are continuing to fall faster than for buying your own kit.

But better ways of purchasing and optimising in-house hardware mean this advantage is not absolute.

There are now dozens of different ways of buying hardware, and software, which mimic the ‘pay-as-you-use’ model used by most cloud providers.

Improvements in management and optimising systems also make it easier to get more out of existing on-premises data centres – very few run at full capacity for many hours a day.

Cloud services do have advantages which even the best supported data centre cannot match. They give you the ability to almost instantly scale up operations. While getting sign off on a new or enlarged data centre is a time consuming process in even the most streamlined organisation.

But for data heavy and especially time sensitive applications on-premises hosting will still give a better experience for the end user.

A data centre should give you better control of that experience than negotiating with one or more cloud providers.

Beyond the technology there are also strategic and financial benefits to cloud and data centre infrastructure. Capital expenditure versus operational expenditure being the key financial difference.

But the reality is that the argument between cloud and data centre does not have one answer.

Because different applications, and different users, have different needs so there will continue to be an important role for both cloud provision and data centres.

Companies are becoming more reliant on their key applications. Developing these applications, and better exploiting the data they create, will continue to justify the data centre. And a properly optimised data centre need not be the expensive option when compared to the cloud.

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