Is cloud repatriation dead in the water?

A “repatriation” buzz is being tossed to and fro in the cloud industry, mainly associated with climbing costs of cloud services and the digital transformation imperative that’s turning more companies cloud-centric. But, is cloud repatriation really happening? Or is it dead in the water?

In layman's terms, “cloud repatriation” refers to moving workloads from public clouds to a private cloud. The idea of cloud repatriation is not new — it was first thrown around in 2016 when Dropbox ditched Amazon Web Services (AWS) for its own on-premise infrastructure.

“For years, the mantra of the cloud was fairly straightforward: put everything in the public cloud and keep it there forever. This model made sense as businesses optimized for elasticity, developer agility, service availability and flexibility,” wrote Anand Babu (AB) Periasamy, MinIO co-founder and CEO, to Silverlinings. 

Once businesses reached scale, however, “the benefits were swamped by economics and lock-in. This is leading many enterprises to re-think their approach to the cloud — with a focus on the operating model of the cloud — not where it runs,” Periasamy added. 

“There are times when the best option is to leverage the public cloud. There are times when leveraging the private cloud makes more sense… Nonetheless, sophisticated enterprises are increasingly taking their own counsel on determining what is best for the business — and that is driving the repatriation discussion.”

The net of it is companies are upping funds on cloud costs — a pattern that cannot compute long term, according to Periasamy. Instead, he thinks this spending signals a shift in the direction of the private cloud — a.k.a. “the direction of repatriation.”

Public or private: who takes the cake?

A recent survey by IDC showed that over 80% of organizations have migrated applications or data from a public cloud to an on-premise data center or private cloud. Plus, respondents said they planned to move half their applications in the public cloud somewhere else in the next two years.

While the public cloud is “an amazing place to learn the cloud-native way and to get access to a portfolio of cloud-native applications,” said Periasamy, “It is not an amazing place to scale — unless of course, you are the landlord (AWS, GCP, Azure, Alibaba).”

Instead, companies looking to scale will find their best bet on the private cloud, “using the same technologies that you used on the public cloud: S3 storage, dense compute, high-speed networking, Kubernetes, containers and microservices,” added Periasamy. 

Although a private cloud is more costly to startup, a well-run, efficient private cloud provides needed services at a price point that is more attractive than public cloud, said Periasamy. 

“Think of the difference between the private cloud and the public cloud as the difference between a hotel stay and an apartment lease or mortgage payment. Hotels are nice places to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there. In a hotel, you can change rooms, get maid service, and when something breaks, you simply make a phone call and someone else promptly arrives to fix it,” said Periasamy. 

“The tradeoff, of course, is cost. Those benefits of living indefinitely in a hotel are going to start wearing off as soon as you get the bill. Conversely, your apartment lease or home comes with a predictable cost. Yes, you may use more energy one month to the next but the overall bill is pretty consistent and a fraction of the cost of the hotel.”

So, maybe a “public cloud repatriation” is happening, but it’s ultimately individual companies choosing to optimize what they may or may not need in their cloud portfolio — “the time to repatriate is when the cost you pay for the ease of use and dynamic provisioning of public cloud is overridden by the markup those companies are taking per resource.”

Repatriation eye-opener

Periasamy also noted that enterprises should really be thinking about optimization. This is often “the easiest and fastest way to achieve near term cost savings,” by eliminating cloud waste to correctly size the cloud resources an organization consumes.

“Again, some workloads are born in the public cloud. Some workloads grow out of it. Others are just better on the private cloud. It will depend,” wrote Periasamy. “The key is to operationalize the new processes in such a way as to achieve ongoing cost savings. This will include adhering to best practices from the DevOps team to the Cloud IT team.”

If companies really are shifting from the public cloud in favor of the private cloud, a smooth transition within organizations could be faulted by a talent shortage — “those that believe ‘cloud is easy’ may get a real eye-opener if they need to hire consultants to on board their workloads.”

Enterprises have a greater ability to attract and retain top cloud talent, said Periasamy. But, small-to-medium-sized businesses lack the resources needed for successful repatriation.

Do we really know if repatriation is dead in the water or just a buzzword? Depends who you ask.

“Short answer: buzzword,” wrote TelcoDR CEO Danielle Royston to Silverlinings. “l don’t think [companies] will repatriate. Or it will be a very dumb decision to do this… by using the public cloud you leverage all of the big tech’s resources for your benefit. So I say — do that instead.”

“There will always be movement toward and away (repatriation) from public clouds, but with a likely net increase in workloads migrating to public clouds for the foreseeable future,” added AvidThink founder and industry analyst Roy Chua. 

One thing is for sure — “waiting to get whacked with a big bill and then adapting will be painful,” according to Periasamy. At the end of the day, organizations should worry about optimization rather than repatriation to determine where to run their workloads, whether it’s private, public or on Mars.

Want to learn more about data strategies for the cloud? Register for our Cloud Data Center Strategies virtual event here.