The Risks Associated with Jumping on the Public Cloud Bandwagon

Nov 8, 2019

The following article was written by Paul Ponzeka, CTO at Abacus Group, and originally appeared on VMblog.

As the public cloud continues to evolve, we are seeing software vendors that are struggling to keep up with the rapid pace and adoption that the public cloud introduces.  We are poised to see an influx of customers who are going to accelerate their migration to cloud services, not because they are ready for it, but because they are being forced to by their vendors, and that's leaving them vulnerable not only from a client experience standpoint, but from a risk and cybersecurity standpoint.

Software vendors are pivoting more aggressively to their cloud service offerings, and that means customers are getting stuck with outdated software that has several tiers of problems.  For example, they are not being developed with the same feature-set in mind as they once were.  Some are barely seeing any new features added to the on-premises software (on-prem) version, with same fresh paint being applied to the "new versions."   In addition, software vendors are getting increasingly more strict and tighter around the lifecycle of their deployed software.  Microsoft and Citrix have moved to long term service release options for their versions of on-prem software.  This means that if a client wants support, they are forced to use a version that by design will lack new features and productivity, or go to a software release model that forces the client to upgrade every three months or so to maintain supportability. The third and final reasons are the most troubling, leaving clients scrambling to migrate their workloads, and that's security patching.  As vendors increasingly leave the space of on-prem software, or maintaining their on-prem software, clients are stuck with a business decision.  Do they run software that is no longer being actively patched and developed, particularly around security patches?  Or do they shut down a line of business application that the company relies on?  Most of them are looking for that third option, which is to pivot to the vendors' public cloud service version. While migrating to the SaaS version of the software removes the business risk of running the software on-premise, it does so at the cost of an intrusive migration.  

We are going to see a big push for legacy software vendors into this model over the next 12 to 18 months.  We will see an increase of third-party vendors who continue to ramp down development and upkeep for legacy on-prem software and accelerate their Software- as-a-Service (SaaS) based model.  Why are the software vendors making such a hard push into the public cloud and away from on-prem? Obviously with public clouds, flexibility is the name of the game, as well as scale.  On-prem software is incredibly more difficult to scale, particularly on the support side.  To be able to properly support customer environments, where the vendor is blind to the rest of the infrastructure ecosystem is time consuming, and a reputational risk to them in comparison to the public cloud SaaS based model.  One of the most evident areas of this is with Microsoft, and their flagship on-prem email platform, Microsoft Exchange.  With the recent version release, Exchange 2019, both the technical requirements of running the software as well as the licensing requirements are aimed at keeping Exchange out of most businesses that don't find themselves in the Enterprise class.  Microsoft finds that it is dramatically cheaper to support customers who would have previously deployed Exchange on-prem, through their Exchange Online service, a function of Office 365.

Customers need to start planning their line of business applications lifecycle deployment with a keen eye and focus on what these software vendors are planning for their on-prem deployments.  They may find themselves push further into the cloud for some unexpected reasons.


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