The Cloud Chronicle with Elias Khnaser

On-Premises Cloud Is a Failure. Google Has the Fix

Sorry, Azure Stack.

Welcome to the first installment of "The Cloud Chronicle with Eli Khnaser." This is a monthly column that will tackle various cloud topics from cloud strategy, multicloud, exit cloud, cloud skills, cost optimization, workload placement, comparing the hyperscalers and much more! Follow my column and let’s lead the cloud conversation together!

I wouldn't be revealing a secret if I said that private on-premises clouds have failed.

It's not because of a lack of technology available to organizations; rather, it's because of the operational complexity of managing a public cloud-like environment on-premises. Additionally, the success of hyperscalers like Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud is largely attributed to their user experience and their access to cutting-edge innovation and capabilities. However, public cloud adoption has had its challenges, and after attempting to migrate everything to the public cloud, hyperscalers have concluded that organizations will remain in a hybrid model for the foreseeable future. So, instead of continuing to force full cloud migration, AWS, Azure, Google and others now offer a public cloud-like user experience on-premises to capture use cases that refuse to migrate, for reasons including strict rules and regulations, latency, privacy and/or connectivity (to name a few).

The hyperscalers are extending the cloud to the edge, bringing compute power closer to where the data is generated and consumed. However, there are differences in their approach. Microsoft has Azure Stack and Azure Arc and AWS has Outposts. Google, meanwhile, has the Distributed Cloud portfolio, offering a broader range of options to customers across the connected edge (Google Distributed Cloud Edge and Virtual) and disconnected edge. Recently, Google announced the general availability of Google Distributed Cloud (GDC) Hosted, a full-stack (hardware and software) managed solution that aims to address organizations' most stringent security, privacy and regulatory requirements, including classified, restricted and top-secret workloads and data.

One of the most compelling selling points of GDC is the user experience. It is almost indistinguishable from that of Google Cloud. For customers who have operationalized Google Cloud, using GDC in any of its flavors will be straightforward. Of course, not all services available on Google Cloud are available on GDC, but that should be expected. Google Cloud has also made it easy to get started. With flexible hardware options, customers can start small with as few as four racks and grow to hundreds as their workloads grow.

What Are the Benefits of GDC Hosted?
GDC Hosted has the following benefits:

Full Isolation: It is an air-gapped solution that operates entirely disconnected from the Internet and Google. This allows you to run the software disconnected for an unlimited amount of time and without any dependency on provider software.

Data Sovereignty: Customers can ensure complete control over their data and comply with strict data security and privacy requirements. Organizations have full control over encryption keys, admin access, service deployment location and partner services (e.g., logs reviews, BYOID).

Operational Sovereignty: GDC Hosted empowers customers with visibility and control over provider operations.

Software Sovereignty: GDC Hosted is designed around Google Cloud’s open cloud strategy. It is built on the Kubernetes API and uses leading open source components in its platform and managed services. This makes it easy for developers since they don’t need to learn or maintain new, proprietary systems. 

Managed Services: GDC Hosted offers several services, including compute, storage, networking, security, monitoring, AI/ML (Vertex AI, translation API, speech-to-text or optical text recognition) and database services.

High-Availability and Redundancy: One of the leading differentiators of public cloud is the ability to deploy highly available and redundant configurations. Although no on-premises solution can ever rival the HA and resilience capabilities offered by the public cloud, not every organization needs that level of HA. GDC Hosted offers an HA and resilient design and implementation on-premises.

Who Manages GDC Hosted?
I mentioned at the beginning that private on-premises clouds have failed due to operational complexity, not because organizations lack the technology to deploy on-premises. One thing I like about GDC Hosted is that it is offered as a managed solution by either Google or a certified third-party partner.

To answer the burning question, yes, you can deploy and manage it yourself, but as someone who has advised many clients over the years, I suggest outsourcing it. Operating like a public cloud provider requires skills, rigorous processes and a different design and implementation mindset. Instead, I advise focusing on becoming a broker of IT services, cost optimization, governance and automation, while retaining autonomy and oversight over operations

What Is the Bottom Line?
While private on-premises clouds like Azure Stack have had their challenges, there is still potential for success. However, I believe they need to utilize technology from hyperscalers that can offer an almost identical user experience to that of the public cloud. Additionally, proper management is crucial to efficient deployment and operation.

Ultimately, it is important to recognize that organizations will continue to operate in a hybrid world for the foreseeable future, utilizing a combination of private on-premises virtualization and cloud, public multicloud, SaaS and managed services.

About the Author

Elias Khnaser is a thought leader in the areas of cloud computing and digital disruption. Until recently, Elias was research vice president at Gartner, where he focused on private, hybrid and public cloud computing. Today, Elias continues to conduct research and advises customers and vendors on all aspects of cloud, edge and datacenter transformation strategies. Elias has written and co-authored six books, dozens of online video training courses and hundreds of articles for, InformationWeek and Forbes. He is a frequent keynote speaker at leading technology conferences like Gartner Catalyst, Citrix Synergy and others. Elias publishes weekly on his YouTube channel (@ekhnaser) and hosts "Let's Talk Shop with Eli," a biweekly podcast dedicated to cloud, data and analytics, and technology trends. He also publishes a monthly column, "The Cloud Chronicle with Elias Khnaser," on Redmond Magazine.


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