Of late, I’ve been talking to Amazon customers who are saying, you know, AWS gives us a ton of benefits, it makes a lot of things easy and fast that used to be hard, but in the end, we could do this ourselves, and probably do it at comparable cost or a cost that isn’t too much higher. These are customers that are at some reasonable scale — a take-back would involve dozens if not hundreds of physical server deployments — but aren’t so huge that the investment would be leveraged over, say, tens of thousands of servers.
Most people don’t choose cloud IaaS for lowered costs, unless they have very bursty or unpredictable workloads. Instead, they choose it for increased business agility, which to most people means “getting applications, and thus new business capabilities, more quickly”.
But there’s another key reason to not do it yourself: The war for talent.
The really bright, forward-thinking people in your organization — the people who you would ordinarily rely upon to deploy new technologies like cloud — are valuable. The fact that they’re usually well-paid is almost inconsequential compared to the fact that these are often the people who can drive differentiated, innovative business value for your organization, and they’re rare. Even if you have open headcount, finding those “A” players can be really, really tough, especially if you want a combination of cutting-edge technical skills with the personal traits — drive, follow-through, self-starting, thinking out of the box, communication skills, and so on — that make for top-tier engineers.
Just because you can do it yourself doesn’t mean that you should. Even if your engineers think they’re just as smart as Amazon’s engineers (which they might well be), and are chomping at the bit to prove it. If you can outsource a capability that doesn’t generate competitive advantage for you, then you can free your best people to work on the things that do generate competitive advantage. You can work on the next cool thing… and challenge your engineers to prove their brilliance by dreaming up something that hasn’t been done before, solving the challenges that deliver business value to your organization. Assuming, of course, that your culture provides an environment receptive to such innovation.
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