Physical Space In The Time Of Clouds

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Are customers really moving everything into the cloud, or is something else going on?

Energy management and automation company Schneider Electric commissioned some research to find out where workloads are going. It’s a little limited, as it only deals with the Australian market, but keep in mind that Australia is one of the most highly virtualized markets in the world and tends to adopt new technologies very rapidly.

“The findings suggest that approximately 15-20% of workloads are now in the cloud. The fastest growing area of cloud is Software as a service (SaaS) growing at about 20%. Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and Platform as a service (PaaS) has slowed,” said Andrew Kirker, General Manager for Data Centres, Schneider Electric, Pacific.

“The co-location market in Australia grew approximately 16.9% last year, with around 15.5% growth outlook this year,” said Kirker.

This echos what I’ve heard from various data centre providers in the region in the past year. The driving force behind the trend is people doing away with managing their own physical data centres, but workloads aren’t all moving directly to cloud. Many are being moved into professionally managed and run data centre spaces with high-speed connections to cloud services.

Brand new things can always choose whatever the latest and greatest technology might be, but existing workloads need to be migrated somehow, and that migration takes time. Even AWS poster child Netflix took seven years to move from its own data centers into the cloud. Some things might never be suited to cloud, but the equipment it runs on still needs power, cooling, and physical security. And networking.

Unless you put all of your workloads in a single cloud, you will be dealing with multiple cloud systems as well as whatever existing infrastructure you have in data centers and offices. If you use Salesforce.com for CRM and Office365 for email, you already have two clouds before you even consider any custom applications your business might need. Connecting to these disparate systems has to happen over a network, and that’s where things can get complicated.

Rather than using the public Internet for all their connectivity, most enterprises invest in private network links between systems, and so it is with cloud. AWS has DirectConnect and Microsoft Azure has ExpressRoute for exactly this reason: high-speed, reliable, secure networking between systems. Since you need this kind of connectivity anyway, it makes sense to place your own physical gear somewhere that has all the connectivity you need, even if you’re not going all-in to cloud.

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