More and more enterprises are moving to the cloud at a faster pace than ever before. However, some clouds are different to others, and we’re seeing different variations of cloud-solutions being adopted by the enterprise.
Historically, many larger organisations have wanted full control over their hosting environment, security, data and updates. To this end, they have established their own ‘private clouds,’ which are locally managed while still offering some of the same benefits of a ‘true’ or ‘public cloud’ solution. Software as a Service (SaaS) that runs on private clouds can often, but not always, offer the customer more flexibility around updates and upgrades to happen on demand.
The alternative is a multi-tenant environment where the SaaS supplier hosts several (preferably all) customers in one hosting instance (often in partnership with a public cloud provider such as AWS or Azure), with, of course, proper security separating data. The supplier manages all the updates and patches for all customers at once. It’s this set up we call the ‘public cloud.’
Now, there’s obviously pros and cons with both types of cloud and in the short-term private clouds may offer some compelling advantages, however in the long run the public cloud will offer far more value and efficiency.
This is why:
1. Always up to date
Customers falsely believe they benefit from deciding and managing updates of their software. What happens in practice is the customer is often too busy to run the regression tests and quickly end up running an outdated version of the system difficult to support by the supplier. Organisations fear that not being in control of their updates might be risky if features are launched or changed without their consent. What’s important to point out is that most modern SaaS platforms have proper feature flag systems which allows the customer to activate certain features when the time is right for them.
2. The speed of innovation
The pace of innovation in cloud computing is faster than ever. For customers and suppliers to fully benefit from this revolution, in features and capacity, a multi-tenant architecture is much preferred. In modern application development infrastructure and code blends together and the modern clouds. Cloud computing depends on the sharing of resources to achieve coherence and economy of scale, similar to a utility (like the electricity grid) over an electricity network.
3. The use of big data
As you may have noticed the next big cloud trend all software providers work with is around big data. Making use of large data sets to analyze patterns, draw conclusions and, ultimately, improve the user experience and make smart suggestions to the customers. A private cloud can limit the application developers to single data sets, whereas in the public cloud data from thousands of users and customers is potentially available for analysis. As an example, Spotify’s hugely successful feature “Discover Weekly”, the playlist that magically adapts after your preferences, could only be produced by utilizing the data from thousands of users, to track their individual music preferences as well as patterns between users that help propose the next tune. The large volume of data from millions of users help Spotify’s engineers to make clever conclusions around music preferences for you - the same type of smartness needs to be developed in business applications over the next years and it will be difficult in private non multi-tenant environments.
4. Better integrations
Integrations are nowadays easy to maintain and quality assure in a multi-tenant environment. One might even say that they are probably better quality assured in the public cloud where an entire engineering department maintains and monitor these crucial APIs, whereas in a private cloud the testing of single integrations of one customers may easily be forgotten by both the customer and the software provider.
5. Improved security
If applications are built properly security and quality assurance is easier to achieve in a public cloud rather than private clouds, with the available automation it’s simply more efficient to assure one big environment rather than many smaller.
Now, in addition to the above points, I’m also convinced that public cloud solutions will be able to use its advantages to innovate at a much faster pace. In five years the above list will still be true but plenty of additional benefits will have evolved as engineers continue to explore the vast opportunities that the public cloud has unlocked.