Will 2024 herald an on-premises infrastructure renaissance?

The storage market and buyer feelings have changed considerably in just a few years. Enterprises often see more benefits to on-premises infrastructure than the cloud.

The emergence of the public cloud model has utterly transformed the way organizations deploy, manage and consume their technology infrastructure and associated digital services over the last 15-plus years. Though this has undoubtedly driven substantial benefits for organizations, recent research from TechTarget's Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) suggests organizations are also increasingly recognizing the role and value of their on-premises technology investments.

Might this trend herald a renaissance in 2024 of the on-premises tech stack? A February ESG study approached the topic from multiple angles, and the responses were revealing.

Survey says: In many areas, on-premises storage over cloud

IT decision-makers emphatically recognize the strategic value of data center modernization, with 91% agreeing that modernization leads to competitive advantage. More notably, 78% of respondents agreed that their organization prefers to keep their proprietary, high-value data in their own data centers.

Almost all organizations use public cloud infrastructure services, such as IaaS and PaaS; in fact, only 12% of respondents said they don't use such services. Cloud-based storage services play a key role here and have evolved alongside other cloud offerings to deliver a comprehensive set of capabilities. Organizations have largely embraced those services.

Yet, in contrast to previous studies, the most recent ESG survey suggests IT decision-makers are much more divided about whether such cloud-based services offer a better experience than their on-premises equivalents.

More respondents identified on-premises storage infrastructure as better than public cloud native infrastructure in several areas:

  • Diagnosing or isolating issues.
  • Securing storage and sensitive data.
  • Cost transparency.
  • Availability.
  • TCO.
  • Meeting compliance requirements.
  • Ease of management.

When we last asked this question in mid-2021, respondents said public cloud offers the better experience across all these aspects.

Significant market changes since 2021

The findings warrant some consideration, though we'd caution against drawing too many conclusions from one data set. In addition, many respondents said they believe there's no difference between on-premises and cloud-based services.

The first observation is that the world has changed since we last ran the survey. Back then, still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, most organizations were still in work-from-home mode, with many defaulting to the public cloud to deal with capacity issues and build new digital services. Partly in response to the much-increased cloud-based costs that were associated with such moves, organizations might now be looking for a more balanced approach that can truly take advantage of their in-house resources, both physical and human.

More respondents identified on-premises storage infrastructure as better than public cloud native infrastructure in several areas.

Yet these factors alone don't fully explain an apparent shifting of sentiment toward on-premises storage. A better explanation might be the advancements we have seen in the features and capabilities of on-premises storage since 2021.

One such area is the availability and capability of on-premises infrastructure that can be consumed as a service. Dell's Apex service, for example, was only announced in May 2021, with the first services becoming generally available later in the year. And though HPE's GreenLake offering is older, it has also seen continued advancement in the last couple of years. The last two years have featured healthy adoption of such services that offer users a much more cloud-like experience from both a financial and technical standpoint.

Moreover, respondents tell us that these as-a-service capabilities deliver a range of business and operational benefits, including speeding up IT initiatives by freeing up personnel, improved personnel retention, reduced IT risk and reduced operational costs.

Storage infrastructure has had other advancements in recent years, including the continued development of flash-based technologies and persistent storage for containers. We also continue to see growth in the sophistication and richness of the storage- and data-related services offered by public cloud providers. Ultimately, this is all to the good of customers.

In aggregate, these new and evolving technologies and services might be helping to improve the overall regard for on-premises infrastructure. As ever, the overall picture continues to be highly nuanced, but the data serves to reinforce that, for most organizations, modern infrastructure remains a hybrid game. It looks set to remain that way for the foreseeable future. But the on-premises players have worked hard to improve their ability to cater to evolving on-premises requirements, and those efforts appear to be paying off.

Simon Robinson is a principal analyst at TechTarget's Enterprise Strategy Group who focuses on existing and emerging storage and hyperconverged infrastructure technologies, and on related data- and storage-management products and services used by enterprises and service providers.

Enterprise Strategy Group is a division of TechTarget. Its analysts have business relationships with technology vendors.

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