by Andy Jonak
Does anyone talk about hardware anymore in our IT world? All that everyone is talking about today is cloud. What it is, what it does, why it’s important. I get it, I really do. It makes sense with the all of the advantages, agility, and flexibility that it provides. We all see it and know it. If I were starting a new business today, I would not, repeat, would not buy hardware for my firm. I would go straight to the cloud for all of my IT needs. However, most of the enterprises we work with today still use hardware. Lots of on-premise hardware. Firms still use hardware for many different reasons: cost, security, culture, familiarity, skill sets in house, and that’s just a start. I also recognize that this might not be the most politically correct discussion to have in today’s cloud era, but hear me out. Let’s see where it takes us.
The past few months, I’ve been thinking about why it’s almost become taboo to talk about hardware within our beloved IT world. But why is that? In fact, it is the foundation of what IT is all about. All of the cloud services and software-defined solutions that we use today—and pretty much have ever been created—have to run on hardware somewhere. No hardware, no place to run all of that software.
While the concept of cloud and it’s predecessors, IT hosting, Application Service Providers, etc. are not new, for most it started with using some sort of hardware for IT needs. Moreover, I’m not talking about endpoints here, as they will probably always need hardware of some sort, but enterprise IT that is used to run business applications and workloads. So that’s where it all started.
It all morphed into cloud over the past 6 to 8 years, and for a good reason. It absolutely fits a very important business need: those that don’t want to own and maintain enterprise-class IT infrastructure, but yet need the function and power it provides. Cloud does that, in abundance. But the rub is this: it’s the software and your applications that matter, and they can generally reside (and be moved) anywhere, but even with the cloud, the workloads still need to sit somewhere. That somewhere is always on hardware.
What about the firms that don’t want to go to the cloud or have ambivalence towards cloud? People that want all of the capabilities that cloud provides, such as quick time to value, flexibility and ease of use? Should they be ostracized? They want the best of what cloud has to offer, but keep it in house. Hence, as we all know, private clouds came about but have generally been lumped into the multi-cloud moniker we are all using today. We still see (and help) lots of firms who are doing that precisely today. Firms want the best of both worlds here, and they are getting it. They want “appliance-ized” solutions no matter where they sit, on-premise or the cloud—or both.
As mentioned above, there are still lots of reasons to maintain an on-premise infrastructure, which is, BTW, the polite way of saying hardware and software. In terms of costs, using the cloud over the longterm is more expensive than on-premise hardware, as we all know. If you are not good at managing your cloud spend, it tends to be much more costly; if you are good at managing it, it’s a bit more expensive. This is still a big reason why firms like to keep HW on site, especially if they have a lot of applications, data, and workloads that are used and updated frequently.
For the large cloud providers (AWS, Microsoft, IBM, Google), they have hardware too, as that is the basis of their cloud data centers. They have invested enormous amounts of money in creating these massive data centers for us to rent each month. So even the cloud is based upon hardware, just someone else’s hardware, as we all know, but I think tend to forget.
In terms of ease of use, cloud offerings provide very straightforward and easy ways to use and embrace their solutions. That’s one of the areas that firms really like about the cloud: the ease of use and simple and straightforward UX designs. That is a big deal today as firms are looking for simplicity in how and what they do. I believe firms will choose less viable solutions (in terms fo functionality) based on that ease of use and UX. They love the ease of use on the front end and couldn’t care less about the complexity on the back end. That back end complexity is the cloud provider’s problem.
A positive out of this a big value firms still investing in onsite hardware and software: manufacturers and hardware providers are now compelled to create cloud-like experiences and user interfaces. This is not done out of nicety, it’s what customers want, and frankly, demand, and if they don’t get it they’ll look for other solutions. This is a good thing. You see these hardware providers creating systems and solutions that are incredibly complex on the back end but simple and easy to use on the front end, with really great interfaces.
From our experience and our customers, we see them doing a mix of both when it comes to the balance of on-prem hardware and cloud. We have some firms that prefer to keep the majority of their workloads, apps, and data on in-house systems, while we see others that do most of their IT in the cloud, with on-premise relegated to backups and DR to help ensure compliance purposes. From what I know, I believe that our experiences with our customers are pretty indicative of the whole.
What does that mean for solution providers like Vicom and, more importantly, for you as a customer? From our perspective, we don’t really care where our customers want to put their apps and workloads, we can help them. We think of ourselves as a full-service multi-cloud infrastructure provider. That gives us the ability to help our customers with whatever infrastructure solutions they need, be it on-prem, or hybrid multi-cloud, or some combination thereof. And that generally means a significant part still involves hardware in some way, and we are happy to help them with it.
We happen to be one of these IT solution and services providers that understand and has lots of experience with both worlds: cloud and on-premise infrastructure hardware, and the combination of both. We believe firms are looking for providers that can straddle both of those worlds effectively. We don’t look at as two different worlds, as we see infrastructure as infrastructure, no matter where it sits, as it doesn’t matter. I see simplicity and comfort in that, and I believe our customers do as well.
So do firms still have a need and buy hardware? Absolutely, and we are happy to help them with it.
Until next month.