As the world begins to open up again, we’re faced with something that we haven’t had much of over the past year – choice.
By Lee Syse, cloud tech lead at VMware SSA
Choice of where to eat, drink, exercise, socialise, shop. It’s something we’re seeing more of in a technology that has been fundamental to our lives over the last year, too – the cloud. The range of cloud options available to businesses has expanded rapidly as the use of modern applications – which rely on the hybridity and flexibility that multi-cloud environments provide – has exploded to cater to and deliver on shifting customer expectations.
In theory this greater array of options should cater for every potential need and put paid to many commonly cited barriers to cloud. But there’s a catch. Many organizations are still battling legacies of unrestrained, unmanaged, unsupported choice and this has created cloud diversity and complexity in equal measure.
Andrew Cruise, MD at Routed Hosting recently summed up perfectly why this complexity has become such a problem: “The risk right now is that people are losing control of their businesses,” he said.
To get back in control, he argues, “they must bring much more transparency to the cloud. They also need to develop things that are reversible by design and will enable roaming between clouds.” The challenge facing businesses today then, and particularly their IT teams, is how to find that perfect balance between control and choice.
Lead from the app
Modern applications will soon outnumber traditional applications, and as a result, an organisation’s ability to keep pace with this shift is becoming the most important differentiator when it comes to business success. Businesses and their IT teams need to figure out how to take advantage of this innovation without introducing more risk and uncertainty and do so quickly.
In its purest form, cloud is the answer, because it’s the de facto way to modernise applications. But in many businesses, the ability to innovate and modernise with cloud is being suffocated by complexity. It’s affecting the pace at which they can modernise applications and move them to the cloud and deliver the experiences that end users demand. Not only that, but it’s also making the lives of the IT team harder by creating silos of management and security and complexities at the edge.
To unravel this complexity manually would take IT teams too long and be far too expensive, leaving organisations with a decision to make. Many businesses are instead choosing to adopt a multi-cloud strategy that allows their IT teams to break down the complexity rather than continue to increase it, by affording greater consistency and enhanced flexibility. But how exactly does multi-cloud achieve this?
The cloud comfort blanket
The hybridity of multi-cloud delivers consistent infrastructure everywhere, that evolves and extends a modern cloud infrastructure to thousands of other cloud partners. It also ensures operational consistency by delivering unified management and security, which enhances flexibility while also avoiding complexity and preventing cloud lock-in.
Why is this important? Each cloud provider has their own software toolkits, provisioning portals, management software and monitoring capabilities, all of which work perfectly well within that cloud environment. If you’re using one cloud provider, they’re simple enough for your IT team to manage.
But using one cloud provider for everything isn’t feasible anymore. Each cloud has its own unique attributes, and each business will have their own motivations for using them, whether they be technical, economic, geographic or regulatory. That’s why Forrester research predicts that companies will be running on average 8,7 public clouds by 2023.
The existence of these cloud sprawls helps explain why a strategic approach to cloud – one which focuses on the role of each environment in delivering business outcomes – is so important.
Without it, IT teams would need a different team of people with the skills to manage the specific requirements of each cloud that their company uses – a prospect that is unrealistic both in terms of likely cost, and also of enough talent being available with the appropriate skillsets.
But with one cloud management platform, IT teams have the comfort blanket of a single toolkit that enables them to manage all clouds within their estate. As well as reducing complexity and simplifying management, this also makes cloud environments reversible by design.
Let me explain what I mean by this. We have seen – and continue to see – many of our customers who move to the cloud quickly be taken by surprise when it grows faster than they expected, which in turn spawns too much usage, and incurs far greater costs than they had budgeted for.
Businesses like these need to be able to reverse decisions and have the flexibility to move workloads both into and out of the cloud, based on their needs.
A consistent cloud approach allows IT teams to wrap security, latency and governance policies around a workload so that those policies then exist wherever that workload goes – whether that be into private or public cloud environments, or on-premises – and that application or workload performs optimally wherever it is hosted.
One of our customers, Salvatore Cassara, CIO at SGB-SMIT Group, explains how his organisation has benefitted from multi-cloud, and the consistency it provides, when it comes to everyday data access.
“We have a multi-cloud solution that is made up of various cloud providers and a private cloud solution, and VMware helps bring these elements together,” he said. “It allows us to confine the data that is more sensitive within our private cloud, and then distribute the rest through the other cloud providers. That reach makes the data available for those that need it, when they need it.”
The benefits of application modernisation for IT
The practical benefits of this consistency for businesses, including both the ability to facilitate seamless use of the cloud, and to enable application modernisation, has been discussed. But there are also key operational benefits for IT teams.
Having the freedom to take existing applications, move them to their preferred cloud and use the native services of that particular cloud, removes the need to maintain older instances of applications, making it easier for businesses to avoid downtime as they move applications to newer platforms.
This portability also allows IT teams to deliver better services to lines of business because they don’t have to worry about that element of the application, and can instead focus on providing underlying support of in the form of back-up services, networking, security, governance and so on.
Adopting a multi-cloud strategy makes it technically, commercially and strategically easier for businesses and their IT teams by delivering consistency, not complexity.
This acceleration of cloud capabilities, and the subsequent impact that it will have on application modernisation, is one positive from the last year that we need to hold on to and continue to build upon.
Cloud shouldn’t be seen as a take it or leave it trend, but one that needs continual nurturing during its growth and is enhanced, not restricted, by choice.