The range of tasks being run on cloud services continues to grow richer and more complex on a daily basis. The key reason for this, is the fact that the core technologies underpinning them all remain broadly the same. The only thing that is really changing, from the point of view of that core infrastructure, is that it is being layered with more and more of the software tools, applications and services that are common to nearly every user.
This raises the level of abstraction at which users interact with a cloud service, which means users can now begin their interaction with cloud services well above most of the technical detail of setting up, resourcing or managing the cloud operations. In the same way that one could use a pen or pencil to communicate information effectively, few would think to argue as to whether they should use a fountain pen or a 2B pencil.
There are of course parallels with cloud technology. One of the most common themes circling around cloud computing are arguments as to which types are best for what purpose. The choices are at first glance quite distinct, from private, on-premise, through private/co-location, and out into public cloud services. Then of course there is hybrid cloud, which is not something different, but a combination of any or all of the other cloud types, so there is not really a question of which vendor’s hybrid cloud one wishes to choose.
There are important signs that the growing range of apparent choice and complexity is having an impact on the take up of cloud services, particularly across the EMEA region. Take the latest Nutanix Enterprise Cloud Index as an example. The EMEA data in particular shows that, while 2018 showed that a significant number of businesses had well formulated plans to move away from on-premise data centres towards hybrid cloud operations, 2019 saw them move, if only slightly, in the opposite direction.
More recently, multi-cloud has come along. This is essentially hybrid cloud, but more specifically targeted at the ability to use lots of different Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) and share tasks between them. All together this looks like another classic IT muddle of differing technologies that will require hundreds of committees and working groups, holding thousands of meetings if a business is to sort out what is best for their situation.
One of the main subjects discussed at any such meeting, would surely be how to share and move tasks between the different types of cloud and CSPs. However, automating and managing this is now one of the key services being layered on to cloud services infrastructure. This creates a user environment where they set the policy of what should happen to every business process at any point in its operational cycle. That could be time dependent such as a process related to quarterly results, or workload dependent such as processing orders in response to a successful marketing campaign.
Setting up resources and services of that complexity by hand, is now, quite simply, a non-starter. This is why cloud platform vendors such as Nutanix have put so much effort into developing and providing the management tools users will need. This now also includes the availability of other essential tools such as Kubernetes to manage the heavy lifting of moving the applications, tools, and data that make up complete business processes.
It is now possible to have a business process running on the most appropriate platform for its immediate needs – be that a low cost, average performance public CSP while the process is working in low-priority mode, through to high-performance on-premise systems when the requirement is maximum service access to sensitive data and operations. It is also possible to have the transition between platforms managed automatically and seamlessly.
At that point, there is little or no need for users to spend time considering and comparing the technical capabilities of the different types of cloud service. It will no longer matter whether an application or service never moves from a platform, or is moving several times a week, for automated systems will manage the entire process according to dynamically defined policies set by the user.
Evidence from the 2019 Enterprise Cloud Index, however, suggests that immediate interest in such capabilities in the EMEA region is lower than in the Americas or the Asia Pacific countries (36% against 42% and 43% respectively). However, EMEA interest in the longer term idea of application mobility is higher than the Americas, and only just beaten in the Asia Pacific region.
In the end, users will only have to consider one fundamental question: do they feel it is best to operate in ‘The Cloud’ or not? For most, the answer is likely to be ‘yes’, if only because saying ‘no’ will be far more difficult to establish and manage unless they are already heavily committed to running specialist on-premise applications.
But even then, the majority of widely used business applications are now able to run effectively on cloud services. Nutanix, for example, has invested a significant amount of time, money and effort to test and certify that all the major business applications and tools not only run unchanged on its hyperconverged technology, but can be moved between existing on premise systems and a full-on multi-cloud environment.
Unlike some vendors, this does also mean that existing business applications, running long-standing production operations on premise, can be moved to a cloud environment seamlessly and without recourse to ‘engineering’ or ‘optimisation’. This not just about the ability to run the latest, ‘cloudified’ version of such applications, it is about having the ability to take the entire IT production environment and make it available in the cloud.
It is also about no longer spending precious time huddled in meetings, trying to manage tasks so that the business stands a chance of attaining some of its business goals. That is the traditional model all companies have had to work with, compromising on their business goals as they balance their IT resources, current skillsets, budgets and timescales to the best subset of their ideal business objectives that can practically be achieved.
With ‘the cloud’ addressed as a single, holistic entity, it is at last becoming possible for companies to move their thinking beyond what they hope they might achieve, and on to what this technology now can make possible. ‘No limits’ is a classic marketing cliché but it has some merit here. The cloud, as a singular, broad church of allied technologies and approaches, now offers users a challenge: what are the limitations of their own goals and aspirations and what is needed to achieve them?
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.