Despite the rapid rise of public cloud platforms and the various benefits they offer to enterprises, private infrastructure still remains an essential component of many IT strategies.

This is an idea that many enterprises have traditionally been hesitant to embrace, primarily due to the costs involved. However, recent research has shown that private infrastructure doesn’t have to require the vast investment it once did and can now actually be just as cost-efficient as the public cloud.

What’s more, running private data centers and clouds alongside public platforms enables companies to keep using the infrastructure that they have been investing in for years and which is customized to meet their specific needs. It can also provide reassurances around security and data protection, both of which are key considerations for every organization in the era of GDPR and stringent compliance requirements.

Adopting a multi-cloud approach that uses a combination of public and private platforms means businesses can run workloads where they are best suited. What’s more, they can be much more flexible in responding to capacity needs and maximize the return on their cloud investment.

As a result, we’re now seeing more and more enterprises turn to multi-cloud strategies, giving them the flexibility and agility required to operate in today’s digital world.

However, such an approach only works if businesses are able to run a cost-efficient data center themselves, which is not something that all enterprises are able to say.

Dirty data centers

dirty hard drive
– Adobe Stock

The use of private infrastructure is nothing new. Many organizations have been running their own data center for years, particularly in industries such as financial services that have strict regulatory requirements around the storage and use of sensitive customer data.

However, a closer look at the inner workings of these data centers often reveals a huge amount of over-expense, accompanied by a tangled mess of machines and wires that very few people properly understand or know what to do with.

This is not unusual when a data center has been operational for several years. We all know how cluttered computer wires can get in our personal lives and this issue is amplified exponentially when talking about a data center containing hundreds, thousands or even hundreds of thousands of servers. After all, taking the time to regularly tidy everything up is a luxury few businesses can afford, especially if it requires some system downtime.

Internal knowledge gaps can also be a problem. There may only be a handful of people within the business who are fully aware of the data centre’s inner workings, which could present some serious issues if these people leave the business or aren’t on-hand to respond to an emergency.

Finally, businesses with dirty data centers are unlikely to be getting the best return on their investment. Infrastructure inefficiencies can add significant expense to data center operations and internal processes, thereby impacting employee productivity and, ultimately, the bottom line.

The result is that many businesses are being tempted into ditching their private infrastructure in favor of public cloud platforms. That way, they can hand off the time-consuming and expensive maintenance jobs to someone else, leaving them to focus on growing their business. But is this really the best way forward?

Spring cleaning

So, data centers can get messy, that’s something no organization can avoid. For some, this creates the feeling that the public cloud is the only real option and that their own data centers are not worth the hassle.

However, thinking this way would be a mistake. Rather than neglecting them, businesses should be focusing on cleaning up their private infrastructures and re-crafting a leaner, cleaner data center.

Not only does this have the potential to significantly improve any enterprise’s return on investment, it can also bring private cloud economics back in line with the perceived cost efficiencies of using public cloud providers.

This is where automation plays a key role. Through automation, enterprises can simplify processes and eliminate time-consuming manual operations. The more day-to-day tasks can be automated, the more businesses can remove the administrative burden that has traditionally hampered many data center operations.

This would free up IT teams to focus on making improvements and bringing value to the business, rather than having to spend time fighting fires and getting bogged down in the nitty-gritty of data center management.

Other technologies such as machine learning or artificial intelligence can also be incorporated. This can provide insight into operational efficiencies, as well as enabling businesses to optimize their data centre’s performance and save money in the process.

Another option for businesses is to partner with providers and use their expertise to run certain parts of the data center, which can go a long way towards streamlining internal operations.

Ultimately, cloud economics simply don’t point towards private data centers disappearing any time soon. Moving exclusively to the public cloud would be about as sensible as a business selling all its buildings and only renting a property whenever it needs somewhere new.

Whatever enterprises may think about their cloud infrastructure, it just doesn’t make financial sense for private data centers to go away, it just makes sense to clean them up.

That way, businesses can reap the rewards that come from running an efficient data center and maximize the return on their cloud investment.

Mark Baker is field product manager at Canonical, the company supporting Ubuntu Linux and Ubuntu OpenStack