Is This the Year of the Public Cloud?

Greater scalability and availability of computing, storage and networking capabilities are a few

After years of shying away from the public cloud due to perceived security and compliance concerns, organizations of all sizes are now making public cloud computing a core component of their IT strategy.

They also can select public cloud providers from a rapidly expanding field that includes a number of big-name players like Amazon, Microsoft and Google.

Public cloud benefits

Among the benefits organizations hope to realize by embracing the public cloud are greater scalability and availability of computing, storage and networking capabilities compared to relying on on-premise IT. Many use public cloud services as a platform for testing and developing web applications, or for delivering point solutions — products or services, like Google Analytics or Marketo, that address a specific business need. Decreased availability of trained professionals has become an issue for some companies looking to leverage cloud services as part of their IT infrastructure. For example, a leading hospitality group is rewriting its core reservation system to support cloud infrastructure in the future. Once complete, the group will be able to reduce its reliance on expensive-to-maintain mainframe hardware. And its technology managers can worry less about recruiting and retaining mainframe programmers, who are in short supply.

Private or public cloud — or both?

Though some perceptions about the public cloud may be shifting, the public versus private cloud debate continues. In an opinion piece for Wired, Tim Yeaton, infrastructure group senior vice president at Red Hat, underscored the challenge of figuring out how to take advantage of the flexibility promised by public cloud providers: “Enterprise workloads are not one size fits all.” He also notes that different needs may require a combination of cloud strategies, including a hybrid cloud approach. Advances in Software-as-a-Service offerings and cloud-based utilities and monitoring systems are enabling new ways to link public cloud work processes with data stored and encrypted in private clouds. Still, for many companies, regulations that govern data privacy and security are a cause for caution. Dealing with the complexity of changing corporate governance and updating operational controls to address such hybrid solutions won’t happen overnight.

All costs to be considered

Companies need to answer this question before deciding to move traditional workloads to the public cloud: Will it be cost-effective? For years, cloud providers have touted the financial benefits of shifting capital expenses to operating expenses. Large organizations already heavily invested in maintaining an existing IT infrastructure are now taking this proposition more seriously as they reach the end of warranty periods on network and server hardware. Recent price competition among the big three public cloud providers may help sway those who are still reluctant to try it out. As you consider your operating expenses, remember to also analyze what you spend on hiring, training and retaining your team. The demand for workers skilled in cloud computing is high and projected to increase. A staffing firm that specializes in IT can help you find qualified tech talent to support your cloud initiatives.

Download the Robert Half Technology 2015 Salary Guide to read about current compensation trends for a wide range of technology roles.