So pervasive have public cloud services become over the past few years that it’s almost impossible to imagine life without them. So, it was interesting to discover during our research programme for Computing’s Data Centre & Infrastructure Summit 2014 if attitudes have changed and whether the arguments for and against the use of public cloud were still the same.

“Two years ago people were saying they would never put their data into cloud or outside the country. I think people’s views are changing. They are getting smarter to make sure the contract is safe. Slowly they are testing this. They may put email in the cloud, they feel comfortable with it and then move on and put more and more into the cloud,” said the head of infrastructure services in the education sector, indicating how attitudes are shifting.
Among the 500 IT leaders from companies with 100 or more staff who were involved in our primary research, 48 per cent had deployed some sort of public cloud solution, over and above the type of self-service SaaS applications often deployed by individuals and departments. This is up from 41 per cent a year earlier. So, the deployment of cloud continues to rise, with some more reticent adopters now seeing its value as the business case is becoming easier to prove. 
At the same time, however, as the model matures it has become apparent that the security, contractual and flexibility aspects of public cloud make it unsuitable for many tasks and workloads. 
Nebulous savings
As with so many IT interventions, one of the primary drivers behind utilising cloud is the possibility of saving money. Whether this is valid, however, is far from clear. We asked those who have adopted cloud whether savings have been achieved as expected (figure 1 – see next page). Only 15 per cent gave an unequivocal yes.
“It’s difficult to compare the price of them all; it’s hard to work out what the right deal is, it just takes a lot of effort,” said the global head of e-commerce infrastructure, at a major bank.
Certainly it can be hard to know what you are paying for. It was generally felt that pricing policies by service providers are unclear, with no standardised benchmarks and a huge variation in the way consumption is charged for. 
In addition, setting cloud against on-premise operations in terms of cost does not make for an easy comparison. For example, opportunity savings such as those that might result from redeploying operational staff to potentially more valuable tasks are extremely hard to evaluate. 
There are many other issues too.
“Eighteen months ago, our calculations showed that services from our internal data centres were as competitive as Amazon and the rest,” explained the chief infrastructure architect at an oil and gas firm. 
“Since Amazon and Google reduced their prices that no longer holds true, but what are the additional risks associated with cloud, and what are the additional costs I may be exposed to in order to mitigate those risks?”
Good question. One of the risks is the question of the longevity of the cloud service provider (CSP) itself. Many of the largest CSPs are engaged in a price war that could result in some very significant casualties.
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