Businesses today are constantly trying to keep the innovation tap flowing. Factors such as rapidly changing competitive landscapes and developing consumer demands mean those firms that fail to innovate are likely to fall behind.

To stop this from happening, businesses in all industries are turning to cloud computing technologies and most are now realizing that a hybrid - or multi-cloud - approach is the best way forward.

A hybrid cloud strategy effectively gives organizations the ability to rapidly develop and launch new applications, adopt agile ways of working and run workloads in whichever way best meets their specific needs.

For example, workloads that aren’t business-critical can be deployed externally, while those that hold sensitive customer data can continue to be run in-house in order to meet compliance requirements – an issue especially relevant for organizations in highly regulated sectors such as telecommunications, healthcare and financial services.

A hybrid cloud strategy also gives businesses the option to move workloads between environments based on cost or capacity requirements and application portability means they are not locked into one platform.

However, not all firms are embracing third party providers. The desire to innovate as fast as possible means that, when it comes to the decision of going with a public and private cloud, many businesses are building when they should be buying. But is that the right move?

Navigating cloudy skies

Shakespeare with a computer
– Thinkstock/iofoto

There is little doubt that a hybrid approach will be the best bet for most organizations but the right mix of public and on premises cloud infrastructure is up to your business requirements.

As previously mentioned, if a business is heavily bound by compliance and regulatory constraints – and if they have the capacity to manage and maintain their own data centres – then a lean towards private cloud is probably the right option. However, for the majority of organizations, the advantages offered by public cloud providers are simply too good to ignore.

For example, many businesses tout the cost-effectiveness and flexibility benefits that public cloud provides, while others want to be able to access new services, so are keen to tap into the fast pace of innovation that public cloud providers have become known for.

Outsourcing certain workloads also means organizations don’t have to deal with technical issues that may arise with the underlying platform, instead handing off that responsibility to a team of experts and freeing up time for their own developers to focus on other things.

Whilst the benefits of public cloud are clear, many businesses that still need private infrastructure are choosing to build rather than buying from the experts. A common misconception is that just because they can build, they should build. But building infrastructure that works and building infrastructure that really makes a difference to the business are two entirely different things.

Developing, managing and operating bespoke cloud infrastructure is hugely complex and a substantial proportion of organizations simply don’t possess the technical skills to be able to achieve their lofty aims by themselves.

Furthermore, in some cases it’s worth considering what you’re asking your developers to spend their time on. If you’re buying your cloud from someone else, the developers have the time to innovate higher up the stack and potentially make more meaningful contributions to the business.

In comparison, if your developers are tasked with the main build they will likely spend most of their time on the base layers, and have less opportunity to add value by building new tools and services.

This level of focus is unlikely to be attractive to potential hires. Experienced developers are not easy to come by and will be more attracted to companies that offer them opportunities to be creative and experiment with new services.

Speed also needs to be a consideration. Public cloud providers are known for innovating rapidly and rolling out new features on a regular basis, a characteristic which is extremely hard to replicate to the same level of quality with an in-house developed platform.

In or out?

So, what’s the answer? Should businesses be looking to leverage the innovation and speed-to-market benefits offered by public cloud providers, or should they aim to keep things in-house and maintain control over their workloads?

Unfortunately, the simple truth is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Organizations should consider what is the best option for them, depending on factors such as the type of data they hold and their performance needs.

But one thing we can be certain of is that attempting to build cloud infrastructure without the appropriate levels of planning, investment and - most importantly - expertise will cause more harm than good in the long run.

If an organization can’t meet the demands, it makes more sense to outsource the job to third parties that have done this many times before using standardized tools and technologies. Very few businesses actually need to build and operate their own cloud infrastructure. Public cloud providers and vendors or specialist on premises cloud platforms can help to ease the strain, providing the skills, experience security and innovation to help businesses flourish.

Mark Baker is a field product manager at Canonical