The Trouble with Cloud “Repatriation”

Key analysts: Liam Eagle - Research Manager, Voice of the Enterprise: Cloud, Hosting & Managed Services, and Melanie Posey - Research Vice President and General Manager, Voice of the Enterprise

We have all known someone who regretted getting a tattoo. A seemingly permanent choice they loved ten years ago, is now covered up or removed. But who knows where they will be in another 10 years. In a nutshell, this analogy describes the phenomenon many IT analysts called “cloud repatriation” – the shift of workloads from public cloud to local infrastructure environments.

We have also called this phenomenon “cloud repatriation,” though not without some internal healthy debates about the validity of the phrase (yes – it rivaled the infamous “what color is the dress” debate for us). The debate focused on the word “repatriation” and how it suggests a transition to a permanent state of being. That doesn’t accurately describe an enterprise’s relationship with IT infrastructure. Much like our acquaintance full of tattoo regret, the priorities, needs and sometimes the entire business model of an enterprise changes and makes that new infrastructure less effective or appropriate than it was first deployed.
The Trouble with Cloud Repatriation fig 1The term “repatriation” takes a lot for granted. It assumes a permanent outcome or “permanent residency,” if you will. It assumes an improvement of some kind. And it assumes some failure to deliver on the part of public cloud. But what about the rolling back, for instance, of a failed cloud migration project? Is that repatriation? What if they try again in a few months?

In our Voice of the Enterprise (VoTE) Cloud Transformation, Organizational Dynamics 2017 survey, 34% of respondents said they had moved their workloads from a public cloud to a private environment (cloud or otherwise). Notably, when we asked them to cite their reasons for the move, many of those matched the reasons we know businesses ultimately decide to shift to the public cloud in the first place: performance/availability issues, high cost, latency issues, security and more.
The Trouble with Cloud Repatriation fig 2
These reasons appeared in our survey again when we asked respondents about their reasons for using multiple infrastructure environments to operate individual workloads. Forty-seven (47%) percent of them said improving performance/availability was one of the main reasons for leveraging multiple infrastructure environments.

What does this mean? For us at 451 Research, we believe this phenomenon we are all hinting at isn’t a repatriation or a reverse migration, but a cloud evolution. Our data shows more businesses see the value of a hybrid IT strategy. In fact, 58% of VotE survey respondents said that they are “moving toward a hybrid IT environment that leverages both on-premises systems and off-premises cloud/hosted resources in an integrated fashion.” Hybrid IT does offer the opportunity to build a framework for workload portability and mobility to match the ever-changing needs (or tastes, looking back at the tattoo analogy) of an organization. While this strategy isn’t the solution for all IT organizations, it is true that VMs are rarely stagnant because the best execution venue (our term for “home”) changes based on the available resources and shifting requirements around issues like performance, security and availability.

So, here is our problem: how will we rename cloud repatriation? We have played with many ideas like workload (re)balancing and liquid workloads (no, we are not suggesting you water your workload like a plant – water and electronics still do not mix), but those don’t sit well with us either. Tweet us your ideas for a new term, one that fits the "fluid" nature of the best execution venue for workloads and hybrid IT. 

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