When to Embrace Cloud Repatriation — and When to Stick with the Public Cloud

It's not always obvious when you should perform cloud repatriation. Here are things to take into account when considering moving workloads back on-prem.

Christopher Tozzi, Technology analyst

May 23, 2023

5 Min Read
cloud unplugged

Table of Contents

Sometimes, deciding to perform cloud repatriation — the process of moving workloads from the public cloud back to an on-premises environment — is straightforward. Cloud workloads may be severely underperforming or running far over budget, for instance, creating a clear and present need to repatriate.

But in other situations, the case for repatriation is less obvious. There may be no huge red flag pushing you to repatriate. Instead, you might be experiencing smaller issues that could potentially be reasons to repatriate — but that could also simply mean you need to tweak your public cloud settings or strategy.

This article explores the latter cloud repatriation scenarios. It highlights small signs that could be reasons to leverage cloud repatriation, while also discussing alternative strategies for achieving your goals without repatriating workloads back on-prem.

Minor or Moderate Overspending

Finding that your cloud workloads are costing a little more than you anticipated — and by "a little more" I mean that they're running 10% or less over budget — it may be time to repatriate. But it could also simply be an impetus to reduce cloud spending in other ways, without moving the workloads out of the public cloud.

Related:How to Repatriate a Cloud Workload: Four Essential Considerations

Repatriation makes sense if your cloud infrastructure is seeing high utilization rates — about 80% or above — on a regular basis. This means that your higher-than-expected cloud bill isn't the result of inefficient use of cloud resources; it's because the resources themselves cost more than you anticipated, even when you use them efficiently.

On the other hand, if you haven't yet optimized your cloud configurations to avoid unnecessary spending, it's worth doing so before pulling the plug and moving back on-prem.

Slow Performance and Cloud Repatriation

Cloud workloads that are not performing as well as you need may be candidates for repatriation. If your workloads are slow to respond to user requests or (worse) are unavailable on a frequent basis, you may be able to improve performance by moving them back on-prem.

But before you do so, make sure that you can't improve performance by modifying your cloud configuration. Sometimes, simple tweaks like optimizing cloud load balancers or moving workloads to a different cloud region that's closer to your end users could improve performance without significantly increasing costs.

Related:Cloud Migration: A Recurring, Never-Ending Process

On the other hand, if there are specific reasons why workloads would perform better on-prem — which they might if, for example, they can take advantage of bare-metal on-prem hardware features that aren't available in the cloud — repatriation may be a better route to performance optimization.

Solving Security and Privacy Woes Through Repatriation

Modern public clouds can be just as secure as on-prem environments. Still, it turns out that the majority of businesses are not taking advantage of all of the cloud security tools available to them, according to data from late 2022.

In an ideal world, those businesses would learn to master cloud security so that they could keep their workloads in the cloud without worrying about compromising on security and data privacy. But in the real world, it's likely the case that for some organizations, getting up to speed on cloud security is just too much of a challenge. Their IT teams have spent decades mastering on-prem security, and it will take years before they can bring the same level of security maturity to the cloud.

Depending on which category your business falls into, it may or may not make sense to repatriate cloud workloads for security and privacy reasons. If you can take advantage of the rich tools and strategies available to improve cloud security, by all means, do so. But if moving at least some workloads back on-prem is the path of least resistance for enhancing security, there's no shame in cloud repatriation.

Manageability Challenges in the Cloud

In a similar vein, some cloud workloads turn out to be difficult for IT organizations to manage, simply because their engineers aren't as experienced in working with cloud environments and tools as they are in managing on-prem workloads. If that's the case at your company, and if it's unrealistic to expect your team to master cloud technologies and administration in the near future, repatriating the workloads may be wise.

On the other hand, if you can hire the talent you need to manage cloud workloads efficiently or teach your existing team members to do so, repatriation may be overkill.

Conclusion: Think Before You Repatriate

When the cloud is not working out as you expected it to, repatriation may be the answer — or it may not be, depending on how severe your issues with the cloud are, and whether you've sought alternative solutions. Repatriating workloads is no simple feat, so before you decide to give up and move back on-prem, be sure that doing so is definitely the best solution to the challenges you're facing in the cloud.

About the Author(s)

Christopher Tozzi

Technology analyst, Fixate.IO

Christopher Tozzi is a technology analyst with subject matter expertise in cloud computing, application development, open source software, virtualization, containers and more. He also lectures at a major university in the Albany, New York, area. His book, “For Fun and Profit: A History of the Free and Open Source Software Revolution,” was published by MIT Press.

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