‘Should I stay, or should I go?’ The rising trend of cloud repatriation and hybrid cloud solutions

‘Should I stay, or should I go?’ The rising trend of cloud repatriation and hybrid cloud solutions

Colocation is key to easing enterprise cloud repatriation concerns, according to Arpen Tucker, Senior Business Development Manager, UK, Vantage Data Centers. As the complexity and cost of public cloud environments accelerates, businesses are increasingly looking to hybrid solutions for optimal performance, control and scalability.

Arpen Tucker, Senior Business Development Manager, UK, Vantage Data Centers

Cloud repatriation is a growing trend. Increasingly, many businesses are finding it beneficial to remove workloads from public clouds, evidenced by a slew of market reports over the past year or so, such as Barclays’ recent survey which found 83% of enterprise CIOs looking to repatriate some or all of their workloads to on-premises and colocation data centres – almost doubling from 2020. 

The reason for this shift, following the stampede into the public cloud a decade ago, is that many CIOs are finding themselves coping with a complex and often costly cocktail of public cloud environments. This has been exacerbated by issues of interoperability, compliance and governance. 

Additionally, the growing focus on AI-enabled applications is a disruptor, many of which thrive on vast volumes of data which often perform better and more cost-effectively when compute, storage and data centre infrastructure are under the direct control of enterprises.       

Of course, not all have followed the cloud-first trend. IBM Consulting, for example, recently identified among its enterprise clients that 70% of mission-critical workloads had never been moved to the cloud. This was down to such factors as compliance and data residency requirements, costs and the innovation available in the private cloud sector.  

Either way, maintaining workloads on-premises is not without challenges for any enterprise, not least, building and overseeing infrastructure. And for many, the procurement of hardware servers, storage, network equipment and running of data centres has, until now, been the domain of their public cloud providers.  

Moving to hybrid cloud

From what we are seeing – as a colocation provider – is many enterprise organisations are becoming much more circumspect on which workloads to keep under their direct control in their data centres and what to retain in the public cloud. The key is ensuring both environments interoperate seamlessly within a ‘hybrid cloud’ model. 

Hybrid cloud integrates applications that run across potentially multiple clouds, moving data securely across the cloud estate and improve business processes and workflows. This has the potential to simplify and integrate diverse elements of a fragmented cloud estate into a single, unified IT environment. 

Modern data centres – owned directly or colocation – offer the benefits of security and cost control, which are also prerequisites for supporting hybrid clouds. For many enterprise organisations faced with ever-decreasing IT planning windows and the escalating costs, risks and complexities involved in designing, building and managing their own facilities, colocation will be the preferred choice. 

It offers the advantages of renting space and the associated power and infrastructure on a pay-as-you-go basis, funded from OPEX rather than CAPEX. 

But this is no time for complacency for the colocation sector and it doesn’t necessarily guarantee an easy ride for operators. Times are changing, driven by the power and critical infrastructure needed for supporting the growth in demand for IT delivery models and environments such as hybrid cloud and HPC, and new AI technologies. 

There is a growing focus by prospective and existing enterprise customers on levels of resilience, security, cooling, connectivity, as well as space, sustainability, energy efficiency and compliance. 

Those select few colocation providers which can expedite the delivery of a hybrid cloud strategy by virtue of direct on-ramp connections to multiple public cloud platforms and connectivity partners, will be in a stronger position by ticking more boxes for CIOs in cloud repatriation mode. 

Many may still be wary of lifting and shifting cloud workloads unless they can be assured of the same high-quality, high-speed user experience that they’ve enjoyed with Microsoft Azure and AWS, for example. Their respective low latency dedicated networks, ExpressRoute and Direct Connect, are only available as a direct ‘trunk’ connection to certain colocation and connectivity operators for ensuring core data centre speeds to largely eliminate latency issues and optimise bandwidth.

Key considerations

Along with high levels of connectedness, data centre power-to-space ratio will be increasingly critical to CIOs. Converged, AI and HPC deployments, for example, are already driving up rack densities; 15-20kW is becoming more the norm, and we are now seeing densities rise to 40, 50, even up to 100kWs. This has called into question a facility’s immediate and forwards power availability and ability to provide cooling solutions. But it varies considerably, as does available space and levels of M&E redundancy.

Security credentials and the operational regime are also important. However, there’s a huge variation in the thoroughness and regularity of relevant testing, planned preventative maintenance and reinvestment. The more comparable a colocation facility appears in this respect to the current or potential public cloud provider, the more comfortable a prospective customer will be in making a move.  

The availability and calibre of the on-site engineering resources on hand to assist with or completely manage customer server installation logistics and technical issues will be a further bonus. Location of the facility will be a major consideration too. Among other factors, space and service pricing is also influenced by location due to the cost of real estate and labour. Out of town locations that are free from the risks and constraints of metro locations are likely offer lower unit costs. 

In summary, as more enterprises reassess how and from where they manage and deliver their IT workloads, hybrid cloud solutions comprising colocation hosted mission-critical workloads and seamlessly connected public cloud applications and services will evolve as a highly compelling proposition. This places an even greater emphasis on the quality and scalability of colocation facilities. 

Colo evaluation checklist:

  • Avoid cost being the overriding decision criteria: The data centre is critical to delivering the overall project and its actual cost is often relatively modest by comparison. 
  • Don’t procure to a rigid specification: Let the operator demonstrate how they run their facility instead.
  • Space, power and connectivity: An abundance of all will be key to meeting future expansion.
  • Uptime: Investigate any historical failures; request a written response on long term history of service continuity and SLA conformance.
  • Check how the critical facility has been invested, architected and operated; meet the people and decide if they have the right attitude and will be good to work with.
  • Check the management reporting on service, capacity, utilisation and compliance is done in a transparent fashion; a good third-party operator should provide greater control and insights for managing the service than doing it yourself.
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