Electronic Products & Technology

On premise vs. Cloud

Avnet serves up the final word

June 9, 2015  By Michael Rosenthal, marketing enablement manager responsible for Avnet Embedded's Sales Mastery Program

Either you already have your own opinions about the great cloud vs. on premise solutions debate, or you share the laissez-faire attitude where ‘other people’ are tasked with deciding on ‘those’ sorts of things. These days, it seems the most vocal advocates for one position or the other seem to be already heavily entrenched in a particular solution – thereby hollering to justify their decision.

And, just like the outcome of other epic technical position wars we have seen, such as VHS vs. Betamax (where ‘Beta’ was undeniably the better product), these debates often do resonate within the marketplace. But it’s not necessarily the best technology winning, with Betamax’s early demise serving as a notable example of that.

At the end of the day, we would like to think that the modern world would allow for better solutions to supersede opinion polls; nevertheless, no one will be surprised if the cloud vs. on premise debate is ultimately settled in the court of public opinion. (That’s the one dictated by consumers and largely based upon performance and cost – and that’s not a necessarily a bad thing either).

So, while the debate rages on, let’s have a small discussion here – one light on emotion and heavy on pragmatism. All we really have to do is ask, “What makes the most sense?” and then answer our own question by carefully examining both options.

Um, just a second … what IS the Cloud?

If we are going to talk about ‘The Cloud,’ we had better be specific about what we really mean for the purposes of this discussion. Let’s ditch all the amorphous terms like grid, peer-to-peer, distributed, on-demand, cluster, utility, virtualization and SaaS for just a moment.

More specifically, we are discussing the cloud where end-users connect to scalable applications running on a set of shared servers, rather than an in-house dedicated server. This cloud operates in stark contrast to client-server computing from the last 30-years where each application was assigned to a specific piece of hardware residing in a data center. Cloud computing enables end-users to connect to applications of their choice at any day, any time and on any Internet-connected device.

Whether the average Joe realizes it, the cloud is now ubiquitous. We use the cloud on a daily basis whether accessing bank accounts, checking Gmail, connecting on LinkedIn, or placing last-second bids on eBay. What’s more, we are neither responsible for it (as the cloud is managed and maintained on our behalf), nor do most of us understand the power and freedom cloud computing delivers to the majority of the modern world. So, when we say ‘cloud’ you can think, ‘shared resources’ and you’ll be in the right ball park.

The power of Cloud computing

Just two years ago, technology’s ‘know-everything past, present and future’ institution Gartner estimated the cloud computing market will be worth in the neighborhood of $200-billion by this year (2015). In fact, cloud security today is already worth more than $3-billion (and could easily knock on the $9 billion door by 2019).

How is such colossal growth possible?

Most of it has to do with its architecture, where innovative models remove the need for end-users to setup hardware or install software. This method of delivering functionality has and continues to transform how applications are conceived, created and managed for individuals as well as companies of all sizes, across countless industries.

It was in the 1960s that cloud computing emerged from the primordial, on premise and legacy software soup that submerged the lands. It was the undeniable need to improve service levels that sparked the evolution. Instead of having IT staff dedicated to the minutiae of maintenance and issues, the cloud enables this staff to work on strategic projects and leave keeping the lights on to someone else. Sigh. In turn, the cloud offers lower costs, no hardware to manage, no software to manage, and also manages to keep websites universally available from virtually anywhere in the world.

On-premise software

Looking back at the history of software delivery, it is the client-server computing of the last thirty years that is often referred to as on premise because it is installed and run on computers ‘on the premises’, i.e. – in the building of the organization using the software. All networking, power, database and application servers reside on location rather than at a remote facility.

This customary approach to software management was very popular throughout the early 2000s because it afforded a great deal of control. Businesses felt safe having all their data on their own property, with the added assurance of owning all of the hardware and being able to support the software right there. IT teams were afforded maximum control and accessibility with no concern of outside obstacles.

Another important factor was reliability. Companies could fully lean upon their internal teams to ensure up time, data security / protection / restoration, customer service quality, new technology and data center management practice.

Enabling internal IT teams to retain complete control included the company’s ability to choose third-party applications that worked best with their internal technology setup.

In previous years there were not many managed service providers or application vendors that could support reliability concerns and/or assist with external/internal hardware and software systems integrations … ones critical to a company’s operations.

As we sit here and look around in 2015, we can already see that most all of this has changed. That is not to say on premise software did not serve a purpose and, in some cases, still does in today’s business environment. However, since the emergence of cloud computing, on premise software has often been referred to as legacy or ‘old-style’ software. Don’t expect that to change or revert back – ever.

Now consider content management

Even if you’re not your company’s digital marketer, you probably realize that such individuals are much better off if they have the ability to quickly and easily update web content. For this reason alone, reliability and scalability are paramount.

A cloud-based web content management system allows modern marketers to update and optimize their sites in real time – without ever even harassing the IT folks with requests for new software or more dedicated infrastructure to support their growing needs.

Moreover, cloud web content management solutions can easily integrate with existing services and applications. And, by keeping the web host separate from the application, cloud content management systems often serve to create agility and innovation during challenging business environments – particularly when time-to-market and cost savings are C-level, short-list hot buttons.

Here’s a quick list of cloud web content management ‘pluses:’

* Speedy Deployment – The release process for a new template involves QA only. A multi-week release cycle with integration testing across staging and production environments is no longer necessary.

* Simultaneous Development – Developers can make website changes and push them live without having to coordinate a centrally managed release process.

* Improved Economics – Instead of developing new code, configurations changes are made to existing technology thereby decreasing related training and staffing costs th
e development team.

* Global Scalability – The distribution of content across multiple servers around the globe occurs instantaneously once published. No added step necessary for synching content across zones in order to render content from any geographic location.

* Interoperability – Advanced web service protocols designed for standardization allow applications are to communicate seamlessly with one another.

A few more ideas to chew on

Are there any corporate leaders vehemently against having some extra cash on hand?

Well then, while cloud hosting is not free – it is becoming more cost effective by the day, particularly when compared to hard costs associated with on premise options (think initial hardware purchase or systems’ lease down payment). Not to mention, there will be the additional expenditures that come with paying additional onsite IT people or even a consulting service to jump in should you run into problems.

Good cloud solutions are hosted in secure datacenters, many of which possess security beyond that which you could ever hope to recreate on your own, including such precautions such as physical security, man traps, 24/7 server monitoring, etc.

Really, how safe is your on premise ‘janitor closet’ or mini-datacenter? The full cloud infrastructure convert will benefit from quick response times from highly trained datacenter engineer – not to mention an extra hard drive backup in case something fails. One goes down, another goes up. Virtually no small- to midsize- on premise business set-ups are so well equipped – particularly when it comes to backing up and disaster recovery.

When it’s all said and done, a business may save up to 60% in IT costs by moving the bulk of their data and infrastructure to the cloud. What’s that? We haven’t spoken about what it costs to transition from one’s existing on premise set up to the Cloud? Oh yes, that the much maligned ‘transition.’ After all, isn’t this precisely what this decision is really going to come down to for so many who already have skin in the game?

Migration

The misnomer about this feared and largely misunderstood transition is that there will be significant and costly downtime. Then there are those who think this downtime will be met with inflated security risks, and worse, will be unmanageably expensive.

Perhaps that was the case as cloud computing began to catch on. It is certainly true that first impressions are hard to shake.

In today’s market however, top data centers are poised to transition and serve small, medium, and even enterprise-level businesses. They have the resources, experience and manpower to make the transition quick, seamless, cost effective and really quite painless.

Depending upon the type of business, the average ‘physical’ transition of data and operations from an on premise solution to a cloud environment can take 24 to 48 hours (not including planning) with no downtime.

What’s more, when the transition is complete, it is almost universally reported that businesses require far less from break and fix from their onsite or on-call IT specialist. They can enjoy better strategy from their IT leaders while enjoying the ‘don’t even give it a second thought benefits’ that come with having all critical data backed-up with nearly failsafe security and limitless scalability. In some instances, there are probably a few folks who are excited about the extra space they gained for a few new vending machines and a foosball table.

The final word

Much of this on premise vs. cloud environment debate, particularly once the migration-based terror has been alleviated, is really about what is best for business. Of course, we realize that change can be scary, not to mention ‘sometimes’ difficult to manage operationally. For this reason, we recommend removing emotion completely.

Think about it like this – purchasing on premise equipment is akin to buying a car or any other depreciating asset. It loses some of its value immediately and then continues to lose value while newer and better versions come out seemingly with each passing week.

Operating in the cloud is more like renting a luxury car with all the services included, for a minimal monthly fee – one that’s totally up/down-gradable to a van, bus, or a compact car on days/seasons that you need more or less.

Frankly, the industry is moving in a direction that makes migrating to the cloud pretty much inevitability from just about everybody. Now, if you have just purchased on premise equipment you may wish to stay put for now, opting instead for a slower, step-by-step migration.

If, however, you are considering new on premise equipment now or will be in the near future, it’s probably time to make a move. And, when you do, keeping your head in the cloud isn’t such bad idea.

*NOTE: Michael Rosenthal is also a regular contributor to IntelligentSystem.com.


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