Blog September 4, 2023 Mark Zwenger

Does the cloud mean the end of hardware?


cloud tips

The cloud: much discussed, much praised. More and more organisations are using the cloud. Some even suggest that the days of hardware are numbered. But a critical look reveals that the "end of hardware" is not yet in sight. In this blog, you'll read a more nuanced and realistic view of the future of hardware.

First things first:
the cloud can offer important benefits to your organisation, that's undeniable. Applications and data are accessible everywhere and at all times, cloud services are flexible and scalable, and cloud providers also take care of maintenance and backups. In 2015, Microsoft conducted a global survey on the popularity of the cloud among SMBs. The results speak for themselves: while 37% of SMBs were already using cloud apps in 2015, it is predicted to reach 78% by 2020. No wonder, then, that many voices in the industry are preaching the cloud gospel.

Considerations to make

As more organisations transition to the cloud, hardware seems to be becoming less important. Because why would your organisation set up and maintain its own expensive IT infrastructure when a cloud provider can take that burden off your hands? However, this assumption is based on a misconception. As we explain in our blog about digital transformation, using new technology is not an end in itself. The added value of transitioning to the cloud depends on the goals and ambitions of your organisation. Not every organisation benefits from transferring its entire business process to the cloud. In some cases, an on-premise IT infrastructure (or private cloud) with its own hardware even has advantages.

To start with, IT resources such as performance and stability also play an important role when transitioning to the cloud. When working from the cloud, high-quality and stable connections (such as a stable internet connection) are essential. Good hardware - for switches, firewalls, routers, and more - is indispensable. However, it may happen that your internet access is temporarily interrupted, for example, due to a disruption at your internet or cloud provider. An on-premise IT infrastructure provides a solution in such cases, ensuring that your employees can continue working. And even though we have stable and fast internet access in our country, bottlenecks can still occur with SaaS services without you, as an end customer, being able to influence them.

Costly data

A second important point to consider is costs. Cloud providers often offer a pay-as-you-go model, with SLAs of many shapes and sizes. But be aware that as your data usage (or your compute intensity) increases in the cloud, so do the costs. The cloud is not necessarily cheaper than your own IT infrastructure. It depends on your requirements and wishes and the consumption of the resources you take from the cloud.

For example, in 2016, Dropbox decided to switch from AWS to their own data centers, a move that saved Dropbox about $75 million within two years. Opting for the cloud may lead to vendor lock-in. Once in the cloud, it's difficult to move your data back to local storage. Migrating from one cloud provider to another or back to an on-premise environment often entails high costs. With on-premise hardware, you retain control over your own data and costs. But let's be honest: that also requires significant investments.

The importance of privacy

Finally, also consider privacy and protecting your own IP (intellectual property). The average cloud provider meets high security standards. But when working with sensitive data, such as medical records or personal data of your customers, as well as your IP (intellectual property), you might prefer not to use public cloud services for privacy reasons. Here too, a private cloud in the form of an on-premise environment with local hardware provides a solution. By using your own hardware, you have full control over shielding data from third parties.

The best of both worlds

The cloud offers unprecedented new possibilities, but there's also something to be said for managing your own IT infrastructure. Fortunately, it's not a matter of choosing, but of combining. For example, with a hybrid cloud tailored to the precise needs of your organisation. For example, using the public cloud for storing bulk data or handling spikes in traffic to your website. But in addition, you use your own hardware to set up a private cloud, for example, for sensitive data or running heavy applications. With all the benefits of the cloud, but shielded from third parties. No wonder Gartner has been insisting for several years now that a hybrid infrastructure is the future. So, is the end of hardware coming? That's still a long way off.

Good hardware is important for your organisation, even if you're considering transitioning to the cloud. A smart IT infrastructure supported by a good digital strategy gives your organisation a competitive edge.

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