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Hey! You! Get off of My Cloud! (A Rock 'n' Roll Perspective on The Public vs. Private Clouds)

How The Rolling Stones encapsulated the attitude of CIOs everywhere
(half a century early & entirely unintentionally)

The Rolling StonesImage Source

There is a tension in today’s cloud environment. While thousands upon thousands of businesses are further leveraging cloud technology each year, not all are particularly enthusiastic about sharing their new IT environment with others. This has created a bit of a bumpy migration road for some, and a fierce division between two main sectors of cloud technology. Fortunately, a lot of what we’re seeing today is best understood through a Rock ‘n’ Roll lens. Let’s find out why.

The cloud can be divided into 2 sectors: The Public Cloud and The Private Cloud. We’re going to take a quick look at each, as well as try and understand the sentiments and reservations so many CIOs are expressing. Throughout, I’ll do my best to incorporate as many Rock ‘n’ Roll metaphors as possible (because why not). But before we dive into fun metaphors about The Public and Private Clouds (and some playful bashing of the record industry) there are a couple things worth clarifying. To start, what is The cCoud?

To answer this we need to consider how we define “The Cloud.” Data is always on a server somewhere. It may be transmitted via The Cloud, but there is no such thing as data that literally lives “in The Cloud” with no physical server home. Figuratively speaking, The Cloud is like Rock ‘n’ Roll music. It has a physical home (instruments & speakers), but for the listener, it seems as if it merely exists in the air. It also, like Rock n Roll, gets you amped up and excited. Well… some of us. But just as music doesn’t exist without a physical place of origin, neither does data in The Cloud. In reality, one could argue:

No Such Thing as CloudImage Source

So what is the nature of these computers where cloud data lives, and, more importantly, how can we relate this to Rock ‘n’ Roll?

Breaking it down: Public vs. Private

The Public Cloud: The Ed Sullivan Show of modern IT

The Public Cloud refers to a multi-tenant (multiple businesses and organizations) environment utilizing the same infrastructure (the same servers). Popular examples are Google, Microsoft, and Amazon cloud offerings. Each of these tech giants offers a given business a small slice of their centralized infrastructure. Think of it this way: Ed Sullivan was absolutely instrumental (pun intended) in the upcoming of many of our favorite classic rock bands. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Dave Clark five, The Animals, The Doors; all landed spots playing on the Ed Sullivan show and all reaped the benefits (extensive publicity, mainly). What do they have in common? They all used the same infrastructure (the show).

The Beatles on Ed SullivanImage Source

Each band was allotted their own slice, their own episode(s), if you will, as a part of something centralized and bigger. That is The Public Cloud in a nutshell: Many businesses each attain a slice of a larger infrastructure and reap the plentiful benefits. Because Ed Sullivan had the necessary resources (time, money, notoriety, & experience), he was able to provide up-and-coming musicians with the infrastructure and opportunities they needed to succeed. Sound familiar? It should, because it is exactly the same process offered by Public Cloud providers. Businesses leverage Google, Microsoft, and Amazon‘ s extensive resources and experience to propel themselves forward in their own industries.

The Private Cloud: The record industry of modern IT

The Private Cloud, on the other hand, is much more proprietary (duh). Think of it this way: instead of sharing the same infrastructure, like The Ed Sullivan Show, Private Cloud users want their own infrastructure all to themselves, like a record. Businesses actually purchase (lease) the servers offered in someone else’s data warehouse. This gives them cloud functionality without having to share server space with anyone else. That being said, like a record, leased servers have drawbacks. To start, what if a record is scratched, broken, or stolen? You’ll need a new one, and the replacement will cost just as much as the original. In server terms, you’d better hope that you purchased the backup server originally, or your server going down means bye-bye data.

Furthermore, a record can be sold, but a record, unfortunately, has a set amount of space that can’t be broken up. Whether you’re recording “Her Majesty” (The Beatles, 00:23) or “The End” (The Doors, 11:41), you’ll still need to buy an entire record to do so. This is also what happens in Private Cloud setups; you need to purchase your storage space in full servers, regardless of whether or not you fill the final one up all the way. This is less efficient than the Ed Sullivan show that could be scripted to fit the timing of the song performance perfectly, and less efficient than Public Cloud offerings in which server space is optimized by businesses sharing.

So why the fuss about The Public Cloud?

The Stones wrote a song about people harshing their vibe, about people intruding on their space. While they might not have been referring to the exact same type of cloud, the sentiment is very similar to how modern day CIOs feel about The Public Cloud. The idea of sharing servers with other businesses is off-putting to some. CIOs want their own servers, their own cloud, with no one else on it.

In reality, this fear of The Public Cloud is misplaced. While numerous businesses are indeed all sharing the same server infrastructure, there are still strong divisions between their data. The Beatles weren’t spilling over into The Rolling Stones performances on Ed Sullivan (although that would’ve been sweet--”Can’t buy me satisfaction,” anyone?), likewise everything is kept neatly separated on Public Cloud servers. Efficiency of storage doesn’t put your data at risk. Moreover, the redundancy offered by Public Cloud organizations is harder to accomplish with Private Cloud setups. Google, for example, securely stores and encrypts your data across numerous data centers throughout the entire world. For the same effect from a Private Cloud vendor you’d have to purchase hundreds, maybe thousands of servers and have them be spatially dispersed.

In other words, Ed Sullivan’s publicity and notoriety would be hard to match without a huge, expensive record deal, and that isn’t feasible for all bands (businesses). Comparatively, you may technically ‘own’ your servers, but let’s be real, do record companies have a reputation of contracts that always work in the band’s favor? Not exactly, and Private Cloud vendor’s might not always work in your favor either. They tend to cost more upfront, require you to purchase additional servers in order to backup your data, and they incur additional costs in order to scale (think renegotiation of a record contract---not pretty).

A few things to consider before concluding this strangely metaphorical post

Obviously the great Rock ‘n’ Roll bands didn’t have to ‘choose’ between Ed Sullivan and a big time record deal--that’s not what I’m trying to say. But the reality is that Ed Sullivan was instrumental in getting bands to the point where a big time record deal was even an option, The Beatles being an iconic example (see #4 here).

Similarly, many businesses today are leveraging The Hybrid Cloud, which is understandable. Certain industries require specific security measures to maintain compliance with regulations. In terms of not being totally biased, it’s worth noting that some Private Cloud vendors do have that edge over some Public vendors (elaborated upon here), but even this is an edge that is slowly waning.

In the end, the takeaway I’m trying to push is this: CXOs harboring deep disgust & fear of The Public Cloud are misplacing their convictions. There are huge benefits to The Public Cloud, especially to SMBs (younger bands, fresh on the scene) who are trying to ramp things up as quickly as possible.

And, with that, I think it’s time to wrap this up & blast some tunes. Metaphors aside, it's a classic...



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Originally published on August 08, 2016

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