Go back a few years and cloud was very different. It mainly existed in name, hanging on the lips of vendors and the IT channel. Today that has flipped nearly 180 degrees …
“When we started talking about cloud, we spoke about the journey to the cloud. Everyone wanted to get there and nobody knew how. There were all kinds of definitions for cloud. Many people built things they called cloud, but it wasn’t cloud at all. Nowadays we see a shift. It’s the complete opposite. Customers are actually pulling for features. Now we hear ‘Why can’t you support X, because that’s simple.’ Initially we dragged customers, now they are dragging us.”
So says Erik Zandboer, Advisory Specialist EMEA at Dell EMC. While visiting South Africa, he shared his views on where the cloud market stands and is headed. It’s a conversation all businesses should pay attention to, because cloud is quickly becoming the baseline for current and future technology investment.
No industry analyst or leader even disputes this anymore: IDC, Gartner, Forrester and all their peers are not even in favour of the cloud – they accept it now as a simple fact. If you ponder the cloud’s place in your business, you are as doomed as those companies that thought desktop PCs were a fad.
The reason is simple: cloud represents the rapid commoditization of IT infrastructure. The combination of distributed computing and high-speed connectivity is drastically reducing the cost of raw bit-crunching power, diminishing barriers of entry to such a degree that participating on a cloud platform is the equivalent of a personal (and affordable) supercomputer. Cloud is to industrial-scale computing what the smartphone is to the desktop computer. As a result anyone who wishes to remain relevant are building their applications and solutions in the cloud.
Fortunately the business is not ignorant and many large companies are already exploring the next stages of cloud adoption. “They are looking at this cloud native stuff. It looks very promising and interesting. It’s way easier to deploy anywhere. You can deploy services to multiple clouds and just connect them together. As long as the microservices can find each other over the network, the application will work. That’s a whole other mode of operation and a lot of companies are willing to go in that direction. There are a lot of questions around Openstack, cloud native, devops and such things.”
Companies are starting to take ownership of this new methodology, jumping between their own exclusive private clouds and robust public clouds as project requirements change. “We see companies that do development in their private data centres, and when they need to scale it out, they go to a public provider. We also see other companies do the exact opposite: developing in Amazon or similar, because it is so easy and flexible, then running their production on private cloud because most of the time it’s cheaper.”
Eventually workloads – the live versions of apps and data – will dynamically shuttle between various clouds, finding the best and most cost-effective platform for the job. Zandboer says this is already happening with VMware solutions.
“We see that with vCloud Air. You move your workload with very limited downtime from on-premise to off-premise and the other way around. There are complications: you need a low latency, high bandwidth network. The moment you move your workload, it needs to work. So there are a lot of implications. But VMWare is making great strides there.”
Zandboer is confident that in a few years this type of automation will be widespread. Companies will finally get rid of the headache of IT infrastructure they don’t need: “That would be very cool: to have a cloud marketplace and your workloads bound to SLAs, and a system looking at the SLA and the app, assigning the cloud that matches and is cheapest. That’s the ultimate dream for many.”
We aren’t there yet, which is why companies such as VMware and Dell EMC focus on creating seamless hardware and software environments. But that is the future of cloud: a world where infrastructure is irrelevant and the performance of business applications are all that matter.