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Public versus private cloud or on-prem: Match the right tool to the job

October 2, 2023
Read Time 3 mins

Public versus private cloud or on-prem: Match the right tool to the job

By Chris Larkins, Business Unit Manager: Enterprise, Tarsus Distribution

Hyperscale public cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud have levelled the playing field for small and medium businesses (SMBs). They’ve freed organisations from the need to make large capex investments in technology, given them unprecedented levels of flexibility and scalability, and enabled them to vastly increase the speed of provisioning new services and infrastructure. 

Yet, despite the undoubted advantages of as-a-service, consumption-based cloud computing services, the public cloud isn’t a perfect match for every workload or application. In some cases, SMBs haven’t been able to migrate workloads to the cloud at all because of legacy architectures, skills shortages or compliance requirements. In other cases, they’ve moved applications to the cloud only to discover that the expected cost efficiencies aren’t there.

Covered in this article

When the cloud is not the right fit
Instances where on-prem isn't an optimal solution
The growth of on-prem and private cloud as-a-service solutions in South Africa

When the cloud is not the right fit

In fact, there are several good reasons that not every workload, application or organisation is a good fit for the public cloud: 

Think about the costs of moving your data

Most public cloud providers charge a fee for data egress—moving data out of their cloud—and some bill for data ingress—moving data into the cloud. These costs can quickly add up for workloads where companies need to move a lot of data between different cloud providers or sync it with an on-premises environment.

The application depends on low latency

Moving data between end-user devices and the cloud takes time. The delay might be less than a second, but that’s often not good enough for artificial intelligence, analytics, customer experience and Internet of Things use cases where speed of processing is essential.

Data sovereignty and compliance are concerns

Public cloud providers can offer higher levels of security than an efficiently managed data centre and most have a presence in South Africa, so this isn’t as much of a concern as it used to be. However, some organisations in highly regulated industries may want more direct control and oversight over data and security.

Cost predictability is top of mind or governance controls are lacking

Hyperscale services can be more expensive and less predictable than expected because of exchange rate volatility and variable usage. Furthermore, it’s all too easy for teams or employees to run up costs by spinning up new servers unnecessarily or leaving unused instances running. Public cloud is thus not always the best fit for companies without strong FinOps capabilities. 

It’s a legacy system that can’t be easily or efficiently migrated

Many companies have invested heavily in legacy systems that can’t easily be rebuilt, refactored or re-platformed for the cloud. Lifting-and-shifting such applications can be less efficient than running them on-premises.

But there are also instances where on-prem isn't an optimal solution

The demands of the workload are unpredictable

One of the major challenges of running one’s own data centre is that it can be difficult to forecast future demand. A growing business can easily under- or over-provision capacity when running on-premises infrastructure.

Building out capacity will require large amounts of capex spending

Running technology on-premises might mean earmarking significant amounts of capital for hardware and software, reducing funds available for other strategic priorities.

The company doesn’t have sufficient access to technology skills

Most SMBs run small IT departments and may lack access to the skills they need to run a resilient, secure 24/7 data centre. Access to skills might be especially tight for areas such as cybersecurity and artificial intelligence.

Speed to market is essential

Procurement and implementation of in-house computing capacity is usually far slower than acquiring services from the cloud. On-premises options can slow a business down when speed to market and agility are priorities—for example, for a company rapidly rolling out new stores and branches.

The workload supports a distributed workforce

If an application is to be deployed to a remote workforce or distributed branches, an on-prem installation may hamper the user experience. Users might need to access the application with a clumsy VPN, for example.

The growth of on-prem and private cloud as-a-service solutions in South Africa

Having experienced the agility of the cloud, many SMBs are reluctant to go back to on-premises models with the associated upfront hardware costs, refresh cycles, risks of over- or under-provisioning, and need to recruit rare and expensive skills. This is where a range of emerging private cloud and edge options are starting to gain traction.

These offerings enable SMBs to access on-premise or private cloud infrastructure and services delivered in a consumption-based model, with predictable costs and no upfront payment. Organisations pay for what they use and have the freedom to scale out at speed to meet business demands. They can self-serve resources through an intuitive user interface that offers the same ease of use as the public cloud.

This new business model sees vendors and value-added distributors (VADs) work together to help the channel deliver a range of business solutions to SMB markets. Distributors will run the secure private cloud platform - own, operate and manage the software and hardware - and provide a billing engine to their resellers. Such an approach increases speed to market and reduces the risks of entering the as-a-service space for resellers.

Resellers will be able to go to market with basic infrastructural services such as backup, disaster recovery, networking, storage and computing as well as solutions that enable end-clients to accelerate artificial intelligence (AI), analytics and other complex deployments. In the background, the VAD and vendors will run the platform as a full enterprise service with robust service-level agreements.

For on-prem or cloud infrastructure solutions that suit your business’ specific needs, contact Tarsus Distribution

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