Cloud vs. data center: How to know what infrastructure is right for your organization

Look I get it. Cloud, compliance, and security aren’t the sexiest sides of digital transformation. They are foundational to operational excellence. They allow you to develop shiny, sexy digital products and features.

A good analogy is that you don’t remodel an old house without updating the plumbing. The same concept is true to updating your legacy network before building new. digital products.

Most articles about cloud are one sided and biased…which is why I’m writing this article the way I’m writing it.

Broad strokes about being all-in on public cloud or on-premises data centers don’t make sense any more.

When it comes to the public cloud vs. data center, what has long been framed as an “either/or” proposition is increasingly becoming an “and” reality.

Over a year ago, in fact, IDC told us that 55% of organizations are using both.

To better understand my market, I’ve spoken with 100’s of CIO’s, CTO’s. All were generous to share their expertise so I can better serve my clients.

In this article I’ll focus on considerations for on-prem vs cloud networks. In a follow-up article I’ll share case studies of each.

data center infrastructure vs IaaS

On-premise data center

Cloud adoption is doing little to slow investment in on-premises enterprise data centers in the US, according to an IHS Market survey.

The survey suggests that, rather than scrap in-house infrastructure, organizations are likely to take measures to diversify their use of servers, increase their network speeds and adopt SSDs to enable a shift to software-defined storage.

Why stay on-prem

Organizations keep on-premises infrastructure to run productivity applications, general-purpose IT applications, and highly sensitive data.

Windows Servers dominate enterprise data centers for many core workloads. While many mission critical applications are likely to stay on-premise. The need for ongoing investment is driven by changing attitudes to application architectures.

Applications with an internal audience without wild demand swings and sensitive financial data is a better fit for hosting in an on-premises data center. Additional security can be layered in, and over the long term, the capitalization of assets works out to a better cost.

Use Cases: Campus environments like hospitals, regional school districts, Universities, banks and large financial services companies.


Hybrid network architecture

Microsoft’s deep enterprise expertise shines with the Azure Stack. Making the public cloud vs. data center experience as seamless as possible for customers.

It’s hard to argue against the case for a hybrid environment. Led by Office 365 migrations, CRM’s like Salesforce, VoIP/UCaaS deployments, and collaboration tools like Slack.

For example, business logic for an application can run on a Kubernetes cluster on-premises, but take advantage of stateless services from public clouds for augmentation. One example is using Google Translate to support any number of languages on the fly for content directed at customers. But using AWS Comprehend for sentiment analysis of user comments, to detect how positive or negative they might be.

Mixing and matching on-premises infrastructure with services from different public clouds in this way can lead to innovation for development teams without tying them to a specific provider for all the pieces of an application.

Use Case: Almost anyone. Most organizations are moving parts of their workload to the cloud. Moving applications like email, AD, SQL, backup, virtual desktops, and big data processing to the cloud.


Public cloud

Today’s industry leaders are turning to infrastructure and infrastructure services to help drive efficiencies and power digital transformation across their businesses.

Some applications, like a public-facing website, have huge swings in demand that correspond to different hours of the day when customers might be interested different products and services. For applications like that, which tend to have non-sensitive data on them, the public cloud makes perfect sense so that the elasticity of demand can be more closely matched with compute expenditures rented by the hour.

Best use cases for cloud (IaaS)

A successful cloud strategy can help companies focus on business growth and on meeting business-critical objectives. Let’s take a closer look at the best use cases for adopting IaaS:

  1. Enabling add-on services. In addition to providing day-to-day computing resources, IaaS allows users to layer a wide-range of services on top of the infrastructure. That might include computing-as-a-service, disaster recovery-as-a-service, analytics or BI-as-a-service, and more.
  2. Big data. Managing, storing and analyzing big data like structured data (i.e. SQL databases) and unstructured data (i.e., social media, images, web, emails, Internet of Things (IoT) sensors) requires a significant amount of processing power. A cloud environment is practical to manage big data because it can handle large workloads and can integrate with business intelligence tools. This delivers business insights that can help users predict trends, improve relationships with customers and create new products and services.
  3. Disaster recovery. With a robust and scalable infrastructure layer, organizations can consolidate their disparate disaster recovery systems into one virtualized environment for disaster recovery. This diversifying of the backup systems gives businesses peace of mind knowing that their data is secure.
  4. Testing and development. The computing and networking power behind cloud make it a perfect place to run and manage testing and development cycles. With SLAs in place from providers and a high-level of security, enterprises can trust IaaS to run business-critical projects and get to market faster with a higher scalability of computing resources.
  5. Networking services. Because the network continues to grow in complexity, many are turning to IaaS service providers to deliver networking-as-a-service support. This may be for a short-term big data project, or to support ongoing initiatives, freeing up internal IT staff for other priorities.


The bottom line

Broad strokes about being all-in on public cloud or on-premises data centers don’t make sense any more. Increasingly, the decision is made on an application-by-application basis, if not a component-by-component basis. Those choices need to be revisited for new applications frequently as demand changes. One size no longer fits all, but neither do the choices.

Choose the route that provides the speed necessary to iterate your way to innovation and achieve long-term cost controls.


The application I’m most excited about

Microsoft’s Power BI, a business analytics service that provides interactive visualizations with self-service business intelligence capabilities without the need for IT staff or analysts.

The initiative I’m most excited about

The Open Data Initiative By Microsoft, Adobe, And SAP Could Revolutionize Customer Experience.

The three industry leaders are working together on a new initiative to help customers do more with their own data.

Microsoft’s Dynamics 365, SAP’s C/4HANA and Adobe’s Experience Cloud will be among the first compatible services.

By operating in Azure as part of the new effort, applications can benefit from the use of additional technologies, including artificial intelligence. Microsoft provides cloud tools for image recognition, speech recognition and text translation, among other things.

The intelligent enterprise is leveraging artificial intelligence and predictive analytics as a competitive advantage.


About me:

Clients often choose to work with me because I put people first. I’m vendor neutral and unbiased. My approach is consultative by meeting you where you are. I apply constructive tension to stretch your perspective and lateral thinking to solve old problems in new ways.

At the end of the day, I want what is best for you and your business. I’ve structured my business philosophy and process to exemplify this and help others achieve their goals.

If you read this far, thanks. I’m secretly crushing on you ❤🤣.

Tell me what you thought about this article? What would you add?


How can I help?

I demystify the complexities of technology. If you are still reading, I didn’t lose you with the usual features and functions speeds and feeds jargon. That’s good news!

Let’s have a discussion about your views on digital transformation and what gets you excited?


I’m positioned to supplement the IT, security and compliance needs of mid to large organizations in regulated industries.

We align customers strategically with technology solutions that modernize and protect your business by:

✔Implementing security best practices in everything we do

✔Strategic cost containment and operational flexibility

✔Deep expertise in Microsoft technology platforms

✔Network connectivity and global SDN

✔Contact center expertise to improve customer experience and drive revenue growth

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