For the past few years, IT Pros have been besieged by the vendor-driven Cloud. What is the vendor-driven Cloud? The vendor-drive cloud can be aptly defined as a marketing push by Public Cloud services and offerings vendors trying to sell businesses on a completely outsourced, entirely hosted technology model. Vendors have been pushing hard to show the value and economy of a world where they can successfully manage every aspect of business IT by imprisoning it in their Cloud server farms. Some of have been successful – for a time – but the last few months have seen many companies pull back. Many vendors have approached business leaders to sell them on the idea that IT is changing. IT has changed. But, not in the way the vendors were hoping, or how they intended through manipulation.

While technology has definitely advanced enough to be able to supply much of IT in the Cloud, due to many things, NSA oversteps, constant outages, high profile hacks, existing infrastructure investments, and others, the tug-of-war between vendors and business has altered the outcome. Businesses are now less interested in relinquishing control of their IT assets, and instead are looking to bring the value of the Cloud inside. They are ignoring the pleas of Cloud vendors and just getting back to business. The Public Cloud is just too chaotic for many businesses to justify the value, so they are building private, internal Clouds at an increased pace. In the end, companies are becoming less willing to hand over corporate data only to have access to it rented back to them.

The IT Silk Road

The Silk Road was a 4,000 mile route along the Asian continent opened to enable trade and cultural exchange and began during the Han Dynasty in 206 BC. Many early human inventions are attributed to the Chinese, so while the great Asian society controlled, protected, and managed travel along the route, the value of exchange became extremely more important to those able to interact with the rich, inventive culture. The Silk Road has been attributed as the single most important factor for the development of surrounding civilizations such as India, Persia, Europe and Arabia. The Great Wall was created, in part, to protect the trade route from nomadic forces. But, ultimately the wall became something else. As trade continued, new religions and philosophies also infiltrated the Chinese culture, enhancing, but also diluting the Chinese identity. Around 1453 AD, toward the end of the Mongol Empire, economical, religious, and cultural disintegration forced China to close down the Silk Road. The Great Wall, once used to protect trade, became a dome of protection against the loss of cultural and religious identity. However, the Chinese people had already been altered into a completely different culture. Once a very open society, China closed its doors to outside influence because it had lost control over its own people.

There’s many similarities between the Silk Road story and the current state of the Cloud market. There’s huge value in what the Cloud actually represents. Many people consider the Cloud as a physical thing, as in, it’s a place or a datacenter somewhere “out there.” But, in truth the Cloud is a set of processes to improve IT and bring value to the business. Virtualization has given way to elasticity, scale, performance, and automation. Public Cloud vendors should be commended for helping improve Cloud processes, but just like China did eventually, IT is now shutting down its borders to better protect the business identity and culture and bring order back to environment by taking the hardened concepts of the Public Cloud and building Private Clouds on existing infrastructure. The borders were open just long enough for IT to exchange ideas and absorb value.

Infiltration of half-envisioned industry buzzwords, like BYOD (which is a Cloud component), have caused the business environment to become uncontrollable, chaotic, and costly. Companies who have tested the new methodologies are pulling back and developing solutions that can be managed internally, instead of losing control to outsourcing. And, whether they realize it or not, vendors’ heavy-handed marketing has cost them.

Taking Back IT

As an analyst, I’ve talked to many companies recently, most of them startups, who are still pushing forward with the Public Cloud mentality and completely host-based services and solutions. Unfortunately for them, the market suggests that the Private Cloud, with maybe a little Hybrid Cloud sprinkled in here and there, is what is catching on. There are those that do “get it,” though. I was speaking with a well-known hardware vendor this past week that also offers Cloud-based software solutions through acquisitions a couple years back, and even they admit that an entirely Public Cloud model is drying up. A large vendor can absorb failure, marketing solutions no one wants right now, but the smaller, startup-like companies cannot. They’ll likely fail ultimately, or become targets for acquisition.

After a couple years of testing the Public Cloud and its components, customers are taking back their IT. Vendors like Microsoft are well-positioned to still be a viable source of value for the new IT, since they are one of only a few vendors still providing resources to help customers improve their internal infrastructure. It doesn’t take long looking through Microsoft’s recent earnings report to see that the majority of revenue still comes from their Commercial areas (Server and Tools, now renamed to Infrastructure Management). Microsoft understands that the vendor-driven Cloud has lost out and the customer-driven Cloud is the new norm.

It wasn’t always like this, though. Evidence can be seen in the changing of Windows 8 and, eventually, Windows 9. Microsoft forced their technology ideas on the public.  The public responded emphatically, and since, Microsoft has been back-peddling to cater to customer needs, once again.

Same Message, New Result

Make no mistake, there will still be plenty of Public Cloud marketing assaults, but the borders have shutdown, and many have stopped listening. IT has become smarter through this whole process and they actually now better understand their own needs through the open exchange. More customers are saying, “I know what you are offering, but here’s what we actually need.”

Customer-driven Cloud.