Opinion: Is the use of public cloud ‘fundamentally disempowering’?

Speaking at the OpenStack Summit in Boston last month, Edward Snowden warned that the use of public cloud providers is ‘fundamentally disempowering’.

As reported by ZDNet, Snowden told the audience – through video conference, of course – that ‘we can’t let people be mindless when they’re building clouds.’ “You give them money, and they provide you with a service, but you are also providing them with more than money. You’re giving up control, influence.”

But what does this mean in terms of keeping vital workloads in the public cloud? Below, industry experts weigh in on the issues:

David Griffiths, VP of EMEA, Tintri

Many have been quick to recognise the benefits delivered by public cloud, but what is also clear are the sacrifices made when it comes to control over data. The public cloud provides agility and ability to scale, however, as Snowden explains, often at the cost of freedom to shape an environment to specific workload requirements.

Put simply, pouring money into a third-party infrastructure that companies have no real ownership of doesn’t make good budgetary, business or security sense – especially when the technology exists to provide the same scale and efficiency within their own data centre.

Enterprise cloud, however, provides public cloud-like agility allowing organisations to benefit from similar applications and services. Additionally, it allows for massive scale-out with the security, privacy and governance levels you would expect from a private environment. Alongside predictive analytics, granular-level abstraction and the ability to automate, it ensures organisations know exactly where their data is at any given time.

Gary Watson, founder and VP of technical engagement at Nexsan

One of the main points Snowden addresses is the ability for third party providers to access encrypted user data. Trusting a third-party provider with data is a step that should be very carefully considered. In today’s digital age, data is the lifeblood of any organisation and it is fundamental that organisations can guarantee control, security and locality. However, there is no doubt that organisations require the flexibility and agility of the cloud, as it promotes a more collaborative way of working and we are certainly seeing an uptake in cloud-based solutions.

On-premises private cloud solutions are available, which allow organisations the benefits of the cloud while keeping data on site through a privately-owned appliance. Forward thinking organisations that can incorporate the agility and flexibility of the cloud while still being able to maintain control over security and data locality will be in a far better position in the market. In order to do this, it is key that businesses understand their unique data needs and opt for a solution that will enable secure, reliable access.

Jake Madders, director at Hyve Managed Hosting

No one can deny that public cloud is a hugely successful IT innovation that shows no signs of slowing down. While there are numerous benefits to entrusting your data with one of the big public providers, there are also considerable drawbacks when it comes to performance, security and compliance with an unmanaged public cloud. AWS-like auto-scaling cannot identify bottlenecks and over-used resources in the way a Managed Service Provider (MSP) can, nor can an unmanaged public environment provide the same level of security and adherence to regulation, which is especially important with big changes surrounding GDPR about to take place.

Working with an MSP can guarantee optimum service levels across all platforms, taking the best aspects from each, all while offering continual support for business looking to make the best out of cloud computing.

Paul Mills, group sales director at Six Degrees Group

Edward Snowden’s comments raise some interesting considerations, but adopting public cloud should not be about giving up control.  Public cloud services have an important role to play for organisations of any size and can provide a significant springboard to business transformation when used in the right way.  

However, in choosing any type of cloud service – public, private or hybrid – privacy, governance and regulation need to be at the forefront of the decision-making process to keep you in the driving seat and to ensure the correct services are chosen.  There are many options available and organisations should plan this activity carefully, seeking advice from their trusted technology partners to ensure they find the best solution to meet their needs.