Love it or loathe it (and I personally love it) the cloud is having a big impact on enterprise IT, but I don’t think I realised just how big until I got to see the results of a comprehensive survey looking at exactly what was going on in the enterprise cloud market.
Conducted on behalf of Nutanix by Vanson Bourne, a leading specialist in high tech research, this survey gathered some intriguing data from over 2,300 companies around the world. Not least the finding that over a third (36%) of enterprise workloads are up and running in the cloud already with the majority of those taking part expecting this figure to rise rapidly to over half of all workloads by 2020.
More than that, companies are increasingly looking to deploy apps across a blend of private and public clouds. Indeed, some 18% are already mixing clouds and that number is expected to more than double in the next two years to make this kind of hybrid cloud approach the most popular way of implementing IT by quite a wide margin.
Hybrid just makes sense
The reasons behind this move to a mix of clouds aren’t hard to fathom. In essence, companies are both switching on to the benefits of the public cloud – on-demand scalability, pay per use economics and so on – and, at the same time, becoming wise to the fact that not all clouds are the same. Indeed, putting all their application eggs in one basket might be counterproductive.
The age-old traps of vendor and platform lock-in, it seems, are still there waiting for the unwary and, as a result, many are now taking a much more application-centric approach to IT. As such, they are choosing the best home for each app they deploy – be that a public or private cloud – rather than standardising on just one and making their apps fit.
Moreover, this fear of lock-in isn’t the only reason a growing number of companies to want to spread workloads across clouds. Many would also like to be able to move workloads between clouds for both technical and financial reasons, leading to app mobility being ranked well above cost and security concerns by those taking part in the Vanson Bourne survey.
Making hybrid work
Unfortunately we’re some way off being able to turn this desire for free movement of apps into a reality. Not least because, as already mentioned, not all clouds are the same, added to which another finding from the Vanson Bourne survey was a real scarcity of staff with the cloud skillsets needed to turn this aspiration into a reality. Plus, while technologies such as containers, microservices and APIs are helping to make apps a lot more portable, deployment, monitoring and management capabilities are lagging behind, further compounding the skills shortage.
To be clear, tools and technologies to fix this are being developed, but not as fast as many would like, plus those that are available tend to be proprietary with few able, as yet, to reach out beyond the boundaries of specific cloud platforms and products.
The end result is a real lack of visibility when apps are deployed across a hybrid mix of clouds. And when you add traditional on-premise infrastructure to the mix, it becomes even harder to see what’s going on with knock-on implications for, not just performance and availability, but security and compliance too.
Simply put, if you can’t see an app on every cloud it touches, you can’t hope to manage it or fix it when things go wrong. It also becomes much harder to guarantee compliance, availability becomes a major headache and, if you can’t see into different clouds, you certainly can’t automate processes between them.
Give us the tools
Something clearly needs to be done and there are some promising technologies and solutions being developed to deliver this much needed visibility across clouds. Here are just three capabilities that I’d like to see included:
- Expert analytical tools that understand the technical, financial and governance nuances of public clouds to empower IT teams to select the best home for their apps. Tools that can also tell managers what their investments are, where they are and how they’re performing against agreed metrics that can then orchestrate migration to a new cloud or product instance based on the needs of the business
- Cloud-based disaster recovery (DR) services to protect critical business applications and data. Identified by Gartner as one of the most “technologically tedious” requirements of IT, DR across clouds is even harder to deliver but, if done right, has the potential to solve a whole heap of availability issues
- Cross-cloud networking tools and technologies able to manage connectivity between applications across different vendor clouds, services and product instances, plus identify bottlenecks and potential vulnerabilities and initiate remedial action
Delivering these and other hybrid cloud management tools will be far from easy, and will require a lot more cooperation between cloud vendors and service providers than we’re seeing at present. However, with growing numbers of enterprise customers moving to hybrid, it’s very much in everyone’s best interests to work together. It’s time to join up the dots between clouds and deliver the visibility, technologies and tools needed to make it easier to exploit this exciting – and soon to be de facto – way of provisioning and managing enterprise IT.
Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their experiences and use-cases? Attend the Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam to learn more.