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The Advantages of Keeping Mission Critical Workloads On-Premises vs Going to the Cloud


29 Nov 2018
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Several factors need to be considered when evaluating moving your Mission Critical workloads and processing to the cloud or keeping it on your premises under your own control. This article looks at the main reasons for keeping the software, servers and storage on your premises; these include, security, customization/differentiation, reliability/availability, cost optimization and control/compliance.

Change History

Changes in the November 29 update:

  • Added references to the report RightScale 2018 State of the Cloud Report.


When evaluating the decision to move your Mission Critical workloads and processing to the cloud or keep it on your premises, several factors need to be evaluated that aren’t commonly talked about that might change your mind about moving your Mission Critical software, servers and storage to the cloud.

ThinkSystem SR950
Figure 1. The ThinkSystem SR950 is Lenovo's flagship server for mission-critical workloads

What are Mission Critical Workloads?

A Mission Critical workload is a workload or application that is essential to the survival of a business or organization. When a Mission Critical workload fails or is interrupted, business operations are significantly impacted.

Mission Critical workloads support the business in every dimension, its organization, its employees, and its customers. These workloads are the most demanding types of applications and databases running on servers today. Mission Critical applications, such as ERP, CRM, business intelligence, data warehousing, and analytics, advance and support business in many fundamental ways. In the modern, global corporate landscape, it is almost certain that users will need to access these systems at any time of day, demanding around-the-clock, 24/7 availability. Any outage of Mission Critical server infrastructure directly impacts revenue and profitability, so downtime must be avoided.

Mission Critical workloads require systems that can handle demanding applications and databases, are high performing, easy to service, and have a high degree of availability. Read more about Mission Critical workloads in the article Lenovo Servers for Mission Critical Workloads.


Many companies view their unique and valuable intellectual property (IP) as the lifeblood of their business. With an on-premise solution, your critical data is stored in one of your organization's buildings with no third-party access. Putting your IP on a public cloud, relinquishing control over your own security, and needing to trust a separate organization to manage security can be tough to accept. Many businesses want to control and manage their own security.

The recently published RightScale 2018 State of the Cloud Report indicated:

  • 77% stated cloud security is a challenge
  • 29% stated cloud security is a significant challenge

Lenovo Mission Critical ThinkSystem servers incorporate the best industry-standard features, as well as a unique set of features that together create multiple layers of security. All security features are linked together into a “chain of trust” via a combination of hardware and firmware support.

Examples of Lenovo ThinkSystem Security features:

  • Systems Management Controller Management – ThinkSystem servers have an integrated Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 2.0 chip that helps protect the operating system apps from attack through external communications.
  • Boot Firmware – Lenovo’s Trusted Platform Assurance (TPA) program institutes rigorous security processes to all stages of firmware development, building, and validation to ensure that all firmware is secure. All firmware is designed, managed, complied and stored in a secure US data center before it is digitally signed and released.
  • UEFI Firmware – ThinkSystem servers provide secure UEFI firmware that prevents firmware updates to a previous authentic version, unless performed by a secure mechanism or authorized user. Also, firmware can only execute, boot or be updated if digitally verified with public/private keys.
  • Supply Chain – Lenovo closely controls the supply chain to ensure that suppliers follow industry-standard security practices for all active components used in Lenovo products.
  • Manufacturing – Lenovo owns most of its manufacturing facilities around the world (including North America) and all personnel in these facilities are Lenovo employees.

Customization and Differentiation

On-premise systems are much easier to configure, customize and modify. The ability to customize to specific needs and requirements is paramount for many organizations, especially in highly competitive industries. On-premise hardware and software puts control in the hands of the organization.

With on-premises systems, your IT team has full access to your dedicated server resources 24x7x365, which can be advantageous for high-demand or business-critical operations. Depending on your needs, the server may be located onsite or in a conveniently-located colocation facility. Your IT staff can fully customize and configure the server to your specifications and business requirements.

The Lenovo Mission Critical servers are high customizable. As an example, the SR950 can be configured from 2S to 8S, from 24 DIMM slots to 96 DIMMs slots and from three PCIe slots on the main system board to up to 14 PCIe slots with risers. Some configurations support a max of 12 storage bays and six NVMe while others support a maximum of 24 storage bays and 12 NVMe. The SR950 supports three series of Intel Scalable Processors (5100 Series, 6100 Series and 8100 Series) each of which provides varying levels of capabilities and performance.

By owning and controlling your own Mission Critical servers you can also take advantage of The ThinkSystem SR950’s impressive 77 Performance World Records as of September 14, 2018, more than any other server in the industry. These #1 world record benchmarks are based on a variety of workloads and include business processing, Big Data analytics, infrastructure virtualization, server-side Java, and general and technical computing.

Reliability and Availability

Server reliability, availability, and serviceability (RAS) are crucial issues for modern enterprise IT shops that deliver Mission Critical applications and services, and application delivery failures can be extremely costly per hour of system downtime. In addition, the likelihood of such failures increases statistically with the size of the servers, data, and memory required for these deployments.

Mission Critical applications such as database, enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer resource management (CRM), and business intelligence (BI) applications need to be available 24/7 on a wide area or global basis. These workloads require high availability and fault tolerance as well as low latency’s and response times. Migrating these workloads to the cloud has always proven to be difficult and you’re at the mercy of your ISP’s network performance which in some places can be slow or unstable.

The Lenovo ThinkSystem SR850 and SR950 servers feature advanced reliability, availability and serviceability (RAS) features. These servers drive outstanding system availability and uninterrupted application performance needed to host Mission Critical applications.

ThinkSystem SR850
Figure 2. The Lenovo ThinkSystem SR850 is a Mission Critical 4-socket server in a 2U form factor

The Lenovo Press article RAS Features of the Lenovo ThinkSystem Intel Servers provides further information on the cost of downtime, defining RAS and the unique RAS features of both the SR950 and SR850.

Cost Optimization

Cloud service providers offer fast start-up with low-cost entry points and pay-for-use pricing that is easy to scale up. For companies experiencing explosive growth or continually changing business needs, it is a good choice to optimize cost. For many companies that have more established business processes and predictable growth, the cloud economic model just doesn’t make sense. Large companies are realizing that once you achieve a certain scale, public cloud becomes very expensive and owning your own private cloud makes more sense.

There can also be hidden cost with cloud computing including:

  • Complexities in calculating charges – These cost include per GB and cost for ancillary requirements such as IP addresses, domain resilience and data transfers into, out of and between servers.
  • Over-provisioning – Cloud providers make it easy to max out a virtual server or you may increase provisioning for a certain project but forget to drop it back down, resulting in inflated ongoing cost.
  • User behavior - Untrained users may take advantage of the cloud environment’s new, fast service provisioning to access all kinds of services from virtual machines to storage capacity without thinking hard about the consequences.
  • Storage tiers – Not choosing the right storage tier for each application can result in overpaying for storage access.
  • Telecom cost – Paying for the necessary bandwidth to migrate data and use it if often overlooked.
  • “Free” but not really – Many “free” options have threshold limits or expiration dates. You can end up paying for things you believed were free.
  • Appliance charges – Renting a virtual appliance can be challenging to know how often and how frequently they will be used.
  • Pay to leave – The data you moved to the cloud for free will cost a lot to later move it from the cloud
  • Troubleshooting – As troubleshooting becomes more complex, it becomes more expensive

The recently published RightScale 2018 State of the Cloud Report indicated:

  • 76% stated cloud spend is a challenge
  • 21% stated cloud spend is a significant challenge
  • 30-35% of cloud spend was seen as wasted

With Lenovo Mission Critical servers, you can replace several older servers with much fewer new powerful servers with a payback in less than 12 months. Read the details in two TCO articles:

Control and Compliance

Some businesses have specific legal requirements, especially those in heavily regulated industries like law or healthcare. Laws like HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and other regulations that protect the privacy and personal information of the public are always changing and often have very strict guidelines as to where the data is stored. This is very difficult to do in the public cloud and can result in storing the data locally onsite.

Virtually every compliance regulation requires organizations to adequately protect their physical and informational assets. To do this, it is assumed you have the ability to control and prove all of the following:

  • What information is stored on a system?
  • Where is the information stored?
  • Who can access the system?
  • What they can access?
  • Is the access appropriate?

All of these questions imply some level of ownership of the assets in question, and that is where cloud compliance issues become apparent. In a public cloud environment, you are able to answer the first of those questions with certainty; the other four, however, end up posing a compliance challenge.


As you can see, moving your Mission Critical workloads and processing to the cloud has some obvious and not so obvious downsides. Security is in the hands of a 3rd party. Customization can be difficult or non-existent, depending on the cloud provider. Reliability varies by cloud provider and is out of your control. Many rising cost are hidden with cloud services. Compliance can be difficult to document.

Make sure you consider all the factors before moving your Mission Critical workloads to the cloud.

About the author

Randall Lundin is a Senior Product Manager in the Lenovo Infrastructure Solution Group. He is responsible for planning and managing ThinkSystem servers. Randall has also authored and contributed to numerous Lenovo Press publications on ThinkSystem products.

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