As the pace of digitalization continues to increase, “cloud first” is on track to become the dominant strategy among established incumbents and digital natives alike. And without wishing to state the obvious, any company wishing to compete in the digital economy needs the speed, scale and agility that the ubiquitous nature of the cloud offers.
In many industry sectors, business leaders know that to take advantage of the opportunities in the always-on world, they need to up their game digitally. That awareness is almost inevitably linked with cloud platforms.
There is a consensus that cloud and digital transformation go hand in hand, with cloud offering the flexibility, scale and services to enable the most ambitious of transformations. Cloud native development and deployment is now so intrinsically linked with business success in a connected society that Gartner’s Milind Govekar recently noted that “there is no business strategy without a cloud strategy.”
According to Gartner, most entities – 85 percent – will have adopted a cloud first approach by 2025. By that time, over 95 percent of new digital workloads will be taking place on cloud native platforms.
In other words, there is little doubt that enterprises are no longer debating if they will leverage cloud for their business-critical digital development. The question we need to ask, rather, is how.
Let’s Be Clear About Cloud
Cloud is really a shorthand term for a range of options involving cloud computing: private cloud, public cloud, hybrid, and multi-cloud.
AWS defines cloud computing as the “on-demand delivery of compute power, database storage, applications and other IT resources through a cloud services platform via the internet with pay-as-you go pricing.”
So, what are the various cloud platforms that we need to consider?
With the private version, businesses have dedicated resources via either a data center or a cloud provider, but the key is that that these resources are solely for their use. By contrast, public cloud is a shared service and what we generally refer to when we talk about cloud computing.
In fact, the average person is aware of what cloud is – if you think about how the connected society has evolved in the last decade, the number of cloud-centric brands has increased exponentially – but they are less likely to know how it works in practice. For decision makers, that is not really an option.
Providers like AWS, Azure and GCP take care of all the infrastructure requirements associated with provisioning digital services and, crucially, allowing their clients almost limitless scope to scale up and down as needed.
Hybrid and multi-cloud are often used interchangeably, but they actually refer to slightly different approaches. Hybrid, strictly speaking, is the use of cloud infrastructure in conjunction with bare metal, – in other words, traditional datacenters. As such, it has been an approach favored by enterprises migrating to cloud in phases.
Multi-cloud, as the name suggests, involves the use of more than one cloud provider to provision IT. Many would argue it’s also the future of operating as a cloud first entity.
One Provider – A Risky Option?
As many of us in the digital engineering space are more than aware, last year’s high-profile cloud outages served to remind IT leaders why security and resilience consistently top the agenda when it comes to cloud selection.
Google, Slack, Venmo, Disney Plus, Facebook, Tinder, iRobot, The Washington Post, Sony’s PlayStation network …. these are just some of the big names whose services were disrupted in 2021 due to outages from their cloud service providers. They all experienced serious interruptions in service, causing damage to not only brand reputation for end users but also the reliance that these companies had on the cloud ecosystem itself.
While the outages do not undermine the overall reasons to move to cloud in the first place, they do make IT leaders think twice about putting all their eggs in one cloud provider’s basket.
Multi-cloud Enables Best-of-Breed Advantages
The cloud strategy that’s quietly taking hold is multi-cloud.
Learning platform provider, O’Reilly has been tracking cloud adoption for some time and in its 2021 survey concluded that 67 percent of respondents used a public cloud, 45 percent used a private cloud and 55 percent used on-premise infrastructure. Almost all those surveyed used cloud to some extent, however a very clear intention emerged: 48 percent planned to migrate more than half their applications to the cloud in the coming year and 20 percent planned to migrate all their applications to the cloud.
Outages may attract the wrong sort of headlines, but the reality is that cloud is still the goal for software development and deployment in a digital world. When you take that into account, many factors determine the decision to migrate to cloud – and what that cloud journey looks like.
For example, any enterprise is made up of many different applications with their own and different criteria for success. Cloud solutions differ in their offerings: technical, performance-based, security, compliance, disaster recovery … and, of course, cost. Understandably enough, businesses want the freedom to select the cloud solution that will help them attain or exceed their metrics.
Sticking with one provider has the advantage of simplicity, but it can also end up restricting an enterprise’s digital ambitions in future projects.
Speeding Up Digital Transformation
In the race to evolve digital services faster than the competition, enterprises find that multi-cloud and hybrid cloud solutions can accelerate that journey.
Technically, cloud solutions continue to advance rapidly, enabling increasingly large numbers of use cases to migrate to the cloud. Just as containers and Kubernetes revolutionized workloads on the cloud, fresh solutions are now being designed aimed at overcoming Kubernetes challenges. The net result is that many more apps are becoming suitable for cloud native development and deployment – stateful ones, for example.
Advances such as these helps dissipate cloud hesitancy and enterprises are now porting databases and mission-critical apps to the cloud. This trend ensures that while hybrid cloud may present itself as the best solution for some enterprises right now, the direction of travel is essentially one-way traffic towards cloud.
Choice, Flexibility and Functionality
Gartner’s Govekar has predicted that cloud revenues globally will reach $474 billion in 2022. And it’s a rapidly evolving (and expanding) market that’s dominated by a handful of big players, of which Amazon leads the pack.
Cloud is also a highly competitive, innovative ecosystem. And that means whatever makes a company’s use case distinctive, there is sure to be a cloud solution to match the requirements, whether that entails exceptional security arrangements, compliance designed for highly regulated sectors, resilience for your most critical systems and many other metrics besides.
In these circumstances, businesses can afford to shop around for the perfect solution to fit their needs. That makes the potential for multi-cloud options even more tantalizing.
Flexibility as a Strategic Imperative
As we noted above, cloud offers up an array of flexible options. However, it’s also a major, serious commitment.
The time to conduct your market research and due diligence is most definitely before you’ve signed up with the new provider and migrated your app(s) over. Understandably, cloud providers really don’t want their customers to switch, so should things not work out, it can be an onerous, costly task to move.
For their part, IT leaders are inherently cautious about vendor lock-in. Weighing up the shorter-term advantages of one arrangement versus the longer-term flexibility of an alternative deal is not anything new in IT circles, but it’s still critically important when businesses are considering how to map their cloud roadmap to their business goals.
Let’s consider one example to do with interoperability.
One of the key benefits of cloud is that, in combination with data engineering, it dispels the siloes that have hindered enterprises from gaining a holistic view of their data. Ensuring seamless interoperability between systems – whether under one cloud provider or multiple – should be a top consideration for data-driven decision-makers. That means enterprise IT leaders need to read the small print on their cloud service agreements in case they unwittingly create problems for themselves down the line when it comes to data portability.
The Cloud Meets the Edge
It can often be difficult to be predict precisely what the future holds, but the big trends in cloud suggest strongly that enterprises will be leveraging a wider range of use cases in cloud than ever before, working with multiple partners and technology specialists.
One such trend is edge computing.
Edge computing has rocketed in recent years, linked to the rise in industrial IoT and driven by the retail and manufacturing sectors. As use cases for edge processing have soared, so the boundaries between edge and cloud computing have blurred. Every cloud vendor needs to have an edge strategy and some (which includes market leader AWS, naturally) have their own specific suite of services targeted at making data processing seamless.
It is the task of making all aspects of data processing and transition as painless as possible, that is influencing how entities plan their cloud journey. This becomes even more important when you factor in the idea of digital maturity as a competitive advantage.
Preparing For a Multi Cloud Future
Multi-cloud or hybrid systems can also be the only choice for companies with regulatory obligations about how and where they process data.
Whether enterprises end up with a multi-cloud approach through necessity or by design, there’s no getting away from the additional time and resources needed to manage a more complex cloud environment. Multiple bespoke arrangements can deliver many benefits (compliance, security, efficiency, scale, performance) but they also take time and resources to research and maintain.
When you put together all the piece of the puzzle, the prospect of managing multi-cloud security, interoperability and added complexity can be enough for some enterprises to stick to the one vendor model.
This might seem to be initially appealing but competing in a digital ecosystem means delivering new products and services at speed and at scale. From a pure business perspective, that means that the prudent decision maker must consider every option available. And with the continued expansion of cloud’s capabilities and cloud providers’ service offerings, multi and hybrid cloud models are well on course to becoming the working reality of operating in a digital society.
Apexon is committed to helping organizations get cloud done right. Our teams of dedicated digital engineers are well-versed in all aspects of the cloud ecosystem, with a track record of enabling businesses to accelerate, scale and improve the performance of their digital initiatives. This focus ensures that their chosen cloud environment helps them prioritize reliability, agility and efficiency.