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The siren song of private clouds

Big companies — the computer industry calls them ‘enterprises’ — want cloud computing.

They get the cloud premise. Cloud computing replaces expensive infrastructure with pay-as-you-go services. Cloud providers charge commodity prices.

The recipe is to flip IBM in favour of AWS; free up capital, slash costs. Information technology instantly becomes more flexible and responsive.

That’s the siren song they hear calling.

Is public a bad thing?

But public clouds are… well… public. This scares the pants of corporate boards.

It shouldn’t. Public clouds are often far safer than internal IT in almost every department.

In this context 'public' does not mean 'available to the public'.

And then there’s the need to accommodate existing applications, infrastructure and systems.

So private it is then?

Pretty soon, someone floats the idea of a private cloud. Private means higher margins for suppliers.

Bang goes that tempting commodity pricing. Bang goes that flexibility. Bang goes the ability to tap into the latest innovation on offer from AWS or Azure. Bang goes the opportunity to be free from capture - an opportunity that enterprises often overlook.

Expensive, dependent

Moving to a private cloud needs a lot of expensive hand-holding. It means hanging on to existing relationships. It can mean lock-in. Vendors love it.

The lesson of the 1990s Business Process Re-engineering movement was that wiping the slate clear and moving on is cheaper and more effective in the long run despite massive disruption.

Businesses will be disrupted anyway as they move to private clouds. Smarter ones are learning to take the pain on the chin and go the whole way to the public cloud.

Anyone who has read or heard the Greek myths knows what happens when people listen to siren songs: they end up on the rocks.