Data is the new oil. Applications must be available anytime, anywhere. Yes, everyone agrees on that. But what does the optimal solution look like behind the scenes? Is the preference for on-premise infrastructure? A local data centre partner? Can everything be in the cloud? Or does the hybrid model prevail? Data News brought together five specialists to discuss availability, connectivity, costs and compliance.

In life, few things are really black and white. This is no different in the world of IT. In practice, a company rarely rigorously chooses only on premise or only full public cloud. The reality is often a hybrid story. Is that also where we should position the local data centre?

"It is true that companies no longer want to keep their infrastructure completely under their own management", says Laurens van Reijen, managing director at LCL. "So why not move to a data centre, as an alternative for the servers in their own broom cupboard? Moreover, we do not exclude the road to the public cloud. We recently drew up a proof of concept in which the customer purchases its computing power via Microsoft Azure, but stores the data in an LCL data centre."Likewise, local system integrators are building out a private cloud for customers. That offers more insight into what happens to the data and where they are physically located. There are now various integrators who offer such a local cloud through a local data centre partner. Digital transformation is a key driver of growth for many companies today. "This is changing the importance of IT," says Hans Witdouck, CEO at Eurofiber Belgium. "There is much more emphasis on a smooth user experience. This in turn drives demand for good connectivity and short response times." The shift in the market is clearly visible. "In the past,  companies like a bank, a federal government department, an industrial concern or a local cloud provider have two data centres, with a redundant low-latency data connection between them," says Marc Vandeputte, CTO at Arcadiz. "This remains the case today, although we are increasingly being asked to include a public cloud and local offices in this story. Thus, hybrid solutions, which include both local data centres and the large public clouds, are emerging more and more frequently." As the boundaries between the various models blur, we wonder what type of customers are coming to the local data centre today. Companies who want to get rid of their on-premises infrastructure? Or those who are somewhat disappointed to be withdrawing from a cloud?


"It can be both," says Friso Haringsma, managing director at Datacenter United. "In practice we often see that the customer is rather pragmatic. He thinks it's less important to be able to choose where his applications run or where his data is stored, but that there is a workable and affordable solution." These customers are often shocked by the price proposals they receive from Microsoft, Amazon or IBM. "For starters, however, the public cloud is often low-threshold and not expensive," Friso Haringsma continues. "However, for intensive and more complex solutions, the prices quickly skyrocket. With a local data centre partner, it is easier to agree on a good price, also in the long term." In this way, the local data centre not only offers operational reliability, but also a price guarantee. The public cloud, on the other hand, has the stubborn reputation of being primarily driven by the relentless hunger for more revenue and profit. "Companies hardly ever negotiate an exit strategy with the cloud players," says Marc Vandeputte. "Small companies don't have the clout to enforce anything in that area either.

As is often the case with the adoption of new technology, we are also seeing a pendulum swing around the public cloud. Many companies that have gone to the cloud are now taking a step backwards for certain applications. "In general, we can say that about fifteen percent of the total IT workload is not cloudifiable," says Janjoris van der Lei, CEO at DC Star. "In addition, we should not forget that even in the public cloud there are sometimes availability incidents. However, really hard guarantees about uptime are often not easy to obtain there. And when things go wrong, the fine print usually applies or you, as a customer, hit the corporate wall." It's a reproach that often hits the public cloud: that there is no involvement on the part of the supplier. "If there's a problem, as a customer you can't do much more than file a ticket," says Janjoris van der Lei, "to which you will receive a neutral answer at best." And yes, a contract contains penalty clauses. As a customer, you can indeed invoke these. And yes, a contract contains penalty clauses, which you can indeed invoke as a customer, although in practice this is not very effective. The customer mainly wants to keep his factory running.


In short, as a company it is better to think twice about your hybrid strategy. It is very important to carefully weigh up which applications and data you keep on-premises, what you can move to a local data centre and what qualifies for the public cloud. "The principle of colocation - where companies place their own machines in an external data centre - is gaining maturity in this respect," says Laurens van Reijen. "At the same time, the cloud is only now really breaking through. But I wonder whether the cloud players will be able to keep it up in the long run. The fact is that the suppliers of public cloud services are strongly committed to automation. "That will only increase everywhere," says Janjoris van der Lei. "That will also make it easier to work with a local data centre and shift jobs there in an easy way." In addition, hardware prices continue to fall. That allows companies to scale more with their own hardware, as cost is no longer the main determining factor.


Often, data centre strategy is limited to the question of which data and applications the company can and may distribute locally over on-premises infrastructure, a local data centre or the public cloud. "Very often, a company loses sight of screening the need for connectivity in the process," says Hans Witdouck. "A company switches to the cloud, but then finds that the network is not geared to it, that there is no guaranteed bandwidth and so on." It is precisely because of this need for connectivity that few truly business-critical applications end up in the public cloud today. "You also see it in companies that are growing rapidly," continues Hans Witdouck. "They know that they will eventually relocate physically and therefore prefer not to invest in their own data centre. They opt for colocation, but with a strong data connection between the company and the local data centre." The fact that connectivity is sometimes the poor relation continues to amaze. Shouldn't we gradually assume that data awareness in companies today is a lot better than it was, say, five or ten years ago? And thus also the insight that just about everything stands or falls with connectivity? "Yes, of course it does," says Laurens van Reijen. "The dependence on IT has also increased sharply over the years. A company knows that a day without e-mail or a web shop immediately leads to enormous costs and damage to image." That too comes down to a plea for more and better connectivity. "Operate completely autonomously and guarantee operational safety based on your own infrastructure without connectivity to the outside world? Some factories still operate in this way, but it is no longer feasible for most companies," says Marc Vandeputte. "Nevertheless, this guaranteed reliability is what the business needs. Besides, apart from the technical aspect, companies are also finding it increasingly difficult to find the right profiles on the labour market for managing their on-premise infrastructure. "The IT manager of a company usually wants to concentrate on the business-critical applications," says Friso Haringsma. The management of the data centre is often a historically grown responsibility that the IT manager prefers to relinquish in the short term.


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