The Cloud: An And, Not an OrHey Cloud fans, this one’s for you. In many areas of our lives the emergence of a new technology leads many industry mavens to suddenly view the world as a zero sum game. The common argument typically looks something like this: “New technology A is so vastly superior to old technology B that B will quickly die a quick and well-deserved death”. These arguments, although long on hyperbole and viciousness—apparently a lot of industry observers have some deep-seated issues—are also usually wrong. Rather than one vanquishing the other, more often than not, A and B wind up in a state of peaceful coexistence. For example, as much as I enjoy TV, I didn’t watch it on my drive in this morning since there is a positive correlation between that behavior and on-the-road carnage. I did, however, listen to the radio providing evidence that although TV supplanted it as our primary method of home entertainment, radio still has a place in our lives. My iPad is great, but I still use my Mac. In short new is typically better, but rarely transcendent. Isn’t this really the case with the Cloud and data centers?

Unless you’ve been in a coma for the past few years, you couldn’t help but notice that there are quite a few folks who are making a pretty good living proclaiming that the Cloud will lead to the inevitable decline in data center demand. Leaving aside the fact that all the storage and computing capacity required for cloud implementation must reside in a data center—some people just can’t be bothered with facts—the cloud/data center relationship is evolving into one defined by “and” rather the “or”. For many organizations, the simultaneous use of both a public cloud service in conjunction with their own data center(s) enables them to capitalize on the advantages of both, rather than forcing them to choose between the two. The ability of public cloud services to expand and contract based on the situational requirements of a user makes them excellent solutions for virtually any company regardless of their size. While a new business can make use of a public cloud solution to support their requirements in the early stages of their growth, enterprise-sized organizations can use these same capabilities to support a new product launch or temporary campaign. In neither case does cloud utilization preclude either sized organization from operating their own data center now or in the future.

Data centers support companies’ mission critical applications. In many instances the requirements associated with this mission dictate security, connectivity or capacity needs that cannot be adequately addressed within a cloud environment. Many data base intensive applications, for example, require a degree of bandwidth that the shared environment of a public cloud cannot adequately address. In other instances, the initial needs of smaller organizations that cloud based services were able to address can become economically inefficient versus bringing them in-house. The key point here is that the use of cloud services and a company’s own data center operations are not mutually exclusive and can be complementary.

Although technological advancements rarely result in the total obsolescence of those that they are promoted as replacing, this won’t deter their avid supporters from making these claims anyway. While they may result in new or more proscribed roles for the “challenger” and the “incumbent”, these realignments are typically complementary rather than adversarial. While there may be those who anguish over the fact that the cloud will not be the data center killer they hope it will be, there are many more organizations out there who see how the symmetry between the two provides new opportunities for their business.

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