Does the future of information systems really lie in the public cloud?
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Veolia’s spectacular announcement of its decision to migrate its entire information system (IS) to the public cloud raises the issue of the ideal information system model for companies. Axians believes that the right solution is a hybrid public-private model.
Are private data centers, which concentrate a company’s information systems, intellectual assets and valuable data, obsolete? Should a company abandon its own servers and transfer the full range of its data and applications to the cloud in a move to modernise? Veolia’s decision, announced at the end of 2017, to undertake a radical migration, shifting its entire information to Amazon Web Service, exemplifies this approach. But does the move set an example that other companies should be following?
For Veolia’s Chief Information Officer, quoted in L’Usine Digitale, “the public cloud alone offers the group’s business lines the best way to meet the increasing need for agility and innovation.” He added that there were two further objectives driving the strategy: “changing the security paradigm” and “reducing costs.”
“Unquestionably, in some cases agility and innovation do call for the Public Cloud,” says Yves Pellemans, CTO of Axians, a VINCI Energies brand focused on ICT. “Therefore Axians recommends that customers adopt the public cloud for some purposes, such as business development, mobility, web portal access, etc.”
Made up of server networks open to any company wishing to rent space and functionalities, the public cloud enables the customers of a company as well as its employees to easily access services from a smartphone or tablet. Additionally, the increasing number of cloud servers makes it particularly easy to manage peak activity, says the Axians CTO, adding that “the public cloud has substantial scalability for expansion.”
But wait, cautions Yves Pellemans, this doesn’t make the public cloud a panacea. The cloud cannot meet all the company’s needs. It is not suitable for specific business applications because “it does not meet all the very high data availability (at least 99.99% at Axians), system auditability, or even security criteria.”
The public cloud does not meet all the very high data availability or even security criteria.
It is easier to ensure optimum data protection (of the company’s intellectual capital) in a private cloud, i.e. a next-generation data center, than in Amazon servers that are “wide open to the entire world,” says Yves Pellemans.
As for costs, they may be higher than expected when a public cloud operator ends up building a VPC (Virtual Private Cloud) for the customer in order to meet the customer’s availability, security, and software corrections management requirements, warns the Axians CTO. The public cloud is like a hotel, which is fine for spending a few nights a year in (easy to access and without commitment) but not to live in full time (unsuitable, too expensive, too risky).
The right solution, he says, is to “take the best of both worlds,” to have the benefit of scalability and server farms that pool all resources. “You can move 20% of the information system – the part that constitutes the ‘front-end’ – into the public cloud in order to rapidly innovate and enable the user to easily log on. And you keep 80% of the IS in a data center that you transform into a private cloud (Automated Datacenter) in order to protect the company’s intellectual capital and sensitive information. Axians considers the 80/20 split to be the ideal hybrid model that all companies should aim for going forward.