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The case for cross-cloud services

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Kathy Gibson reports from VMworld 2016 in Barcelona – The average enterprise runs workloads on four-and-a-half different clouds – and some companies may use even more – which makes their overall environment incredibly difficult to manage and secure.
The idea that a company will run its on-premise data centre, with the ability to run specific workloads in the cloud when needed is the basis of the hybrid cloud architecture – but it’s a scenario that has rapidly moved beyond such a simplistic architecture.
Guido Appenzeller, chief technology strategy officer: NSBU at VMware, says that just a couple of years ago, it was envisaged that IT departments would need few infrastructure services as they migrated to public cloud; the thinking being that much of the management and security would be supplied by the cloud provider.
“But it turns out that it is much more complex than that,” he tells IT-Online. “The average VMware customer is already using 4,5 different clouds. We asked them how many they would like to be in and the said it would be at least two.
“There are several reasons for this. Enterprises don’t like a single-vendor strategy, but mostly it’s because different clouds have different advantage: some are reliable, some has creative licencing, there could be data compliance or SLA issues.
“It turns out that not all clouds are created equal.”
With enterprise deliberately opting for multiple cloud providers in addition to their internal operations, a host of new challenges is created, Appenzeller says.
“You end up with an AWS team that runs the AWS workloads and knows the AWS APIs; and then you have the Azure team and all the other teams.
“The whole setup creates silos. We have finally got rid of silos in the data centre and now we are getting them again in the cloud environment.
“In the data centre, we use VMware to normalise the environment and get rid of the silos, so we need to do the same thing in the public cloud, using VMware to normalise that environment as well.”
Just as NSX runs on any hardware in the data centre, we had the idea of extending it to manage hardware across clouds.
“When we talked to customers about this idea, it resonated immediately,” Appenzeller says. “A quantitative survey showed us that 65% of our customers – rising to 75% in the enterprise segment – believe that having a consistent network security policy across all platforms in a must-have.
“So we realised that customers really need this functionality, but there was nothing on the market.”
VMware responded by extending its existing enterprise services into the cloud, and creating a new set of software as a service (SaaS) offerings.
With the technology available for multiple-cloud management, the biggest hurdle is change management within the IT department, Appenzeller says.
“When I talk to customers about NSX and SDDC, most of the time more than half of the conversation is about people.
“In a classic IT organisation you have nicely-defined silos based on the technology; but, because the cloud model automates across silos, you need to at least create a bridge.
“As a chief technology officer, I believe that changing technology is easier than changing people – and companies are really struggling to do this.”
But they really have to make the change if they want to stay competitive, Appenzeller says. “You just can’t keep the existing structure. Organisations have spent a lot of time re-imagining business processes, now they have to change IT processes as well.
VMware sketched out its vision for the future of the data centre extending from on-premise to multiple clouds, in a strategy that Appenzeller says is informed by customer needs and wants.
“We are going with our customers. They are moving to cloud, and we see we can add value to that so we are following them,” he says.
Appenzeller explains that the IT industry is currently undergoing only its second major disruption since inception. The earlier disruption was when mainframe computing gace way to more decentralised models enables by a deconstruction of hardware and software.
“Now we are having the second big transition, to the cloud model. These are very disruptive times; the change is happening and we have to follow where our customers are going.”
As with any major disruption, it’s still not clear what the end result will be. “I expect to see a mix of on-premise software and SaaS; and the customer will have migrated the majority of workloads to the cloud.
“I think a lot of the new growth for the industry going forward will be in the public cloud.
“We just have to keep on innovating,” he says.