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Debunk 10 common public cloud myths

A range of public cloud misconceptions -- including those related to security and cost -- give enterprise adopters the wrong idea. Read on to dispel the myths and get the truth.

Despite the fact that cloud -- and its associated management tools -- has been around for years, some enterprises are still getting used to the concept. As with most unfamiliar things, misconceptions and rumors spread quickly, which creates problems when developers or IT professionals talk about the possibility of a migration.

Read through 10 of the most common public cloud myths to gain a clearer understanding of what to expect -- and sift the truth from the lies.

1. On-prem is always cheaper

If a customer believes the cloud is always more expensive, it's clear they haven't done a full total cost of ownership analysis, said Sean Feeney, cloud engineering practice director at Nerdery, an IT consultancy. It's also likely they have limited visibility and accountability of their own data center and application costs.

"This misconception is sometimes spread by business leaders who have gotten stuck in the cloud migration bubble and, with shortsighted financial targets or other internal pressures, attempted to change or reverse course midstream," Feeney said.

This myth can also account for some of hybrid cloud's popularity as a way to test the public cloud waters. If a company is midway through a migration to the public cloud, pushback from executives concerned about costs can stall the migration -- thus, a hybrid cloud strategy is born.

2. Cloud is always cheaper

On the other end of the cost spectrum, there's another misconception that cloud is always less expensive than on-premises deployments.

Some assume the cloud is always cheaper because of the lack of data center hardware and maintenance. This is similar to saying that renting a home is always cheaper than buying one. Sometimes, renting is less costly. But if the buyer plans to stay in the rented home a long time, owning is the better financial decision.

"A lot of people misunderstand cloud pricing. They assume that, because it's new and really popular, it must be cheap," said Mike Lloyd, CTO of RedSeal, a security risk scoring platform. Public cloud can be expensive when users buy a fixed amount of computing power for a long period of time. The cloud is best for users who are uncertain about what they will need in the long-term -- just like renting a home.

3. There is only one cloud

Another public cloud myth is the idea that there is only one cloud in existence, which would make infrastructure less secure. Public cloud providers, such as AWS, Microsoft and Google, have their own separate sets of cloud infrastructure resources that are completely isolated from each other. Each offering has different features in terms of management, application ecosystem and security.

4. The cloud will fix bad architecture

Another misconception is public cloud will magically fix poor application architecture.

For example, lifting and shifting a VM into the cloud will not add resiliency on its own. But, with a little extra configuration and careful image management, even the most brittle legacy workloads can benefit from auto-recovery and autoscaling groups. Enterprises unlock the benefits of public cloud when they move up the stack with the meaningful use of PaaS, serverless and other native services.

5. Transformation is required for cloud benefits

On the other hand, many executives believe they have to completely transform all of their apps into a cloud-native model to realize any benefits, said Sean Roberts, general manager of public cloud center of excellence at Ensono, a managed IT service provider.

While companies can reap more benefits if they refactor their apps specifically for cloud, this approach greatly extends the time to value of public cloud, and customers have limited time and resources. Once customers migrate, they can start to realize benefits immediately, while executing their innovation plans.

6. Multi-cloud solves vendor lock-in and other management challenges

Many enterprises believe if they hedge deployments across multiple clouds, they avoid vendor lock-in, according to Roberts. This belief is permeated by several third-party software vendors and consultancy firms.

On paper, it makes sense and is a common IT practice. Yet, once users start to deploy a multi-cloud strategy, they could face numerous challenges, such as security, compliance and cost management, that could offset the benefits of reduced vendor lock-in risks.

7. Containers always ease multi-cloud deployments

Containers and Kubernetes clusters can make it easier to migrate applications across clouds, and many executives believe these abstractions will enable them to be multi-cloud-ready.

"But the harsh reality is that not every workload can or should be containerized," Feeney said. 

The further away a legacy workload is from a 12-factor app, the less likely it could run in production in a container. Only consider multi-cloud in the context of SaaS or a poly-cloud strategy that separates workloads across cloud platforms, such as Google for machine learning, AWS for app deployment and Azure for .NET applications. Enterprises best realize the benefits of cloud when they go deep on a particular platform and use its native services.

8. Cloud is less secure than on-premises systems

This public cloud myth simply isn't true, because all of the major cloud providers are hyper-focused on security. AWS, Microsoft and Google alike are dedicated to infrastructure security and regularly perform external auditing to ensure full compliance and certification.

At the software level, providers apply security best practices and use a range of technologies, from firewalls and intrusion prevention to data loss prevention and rootkit detection based on machine learning. However, IT professionals must still set policies and configure applications properly.

"While the public cloud can be more secure, it's a shared responsibility," said Ashish Thusoo, co-founder and CEO of Qubole, a cloud data platform.

9. Cloud data is public

"Because the term public is used, many users have the false impression that the data that they store in the cloud is easy to get and is not private," said Engin Kirda, co-founder and chief architect at Lastline, a network security provider.

While it is true that data hosted for free is often analyzed by companies, such as Facebook or Gmail, and used for marketing purposes, any pay-to-play public cloud services have strong privacy and security guarantees as a part of their business model. It is in the provider's best interest to make the cloud as secure and private as possible.

10. Users lose control of their cloud data

While it's hard to debunk this public cloud myth, Erez Berkner, CEO of Lumigo, a serverless monitoring platform, believes none of the major cloud providers would risk their reputation to spy on customers, as the implications could be harmful to the business. Google even released Access Transparency, a service that enables enterprises to see the vendor's actions in their clouds.

The same goes for where data is stored in the cloud. Enterprise customers often fail to realize that various configurations make it possible to absolutely restrict where their data resides, which could alleviate some of the anxiety, Roberts said.

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What public cloud myth have you found to be the most outlandish?