By John Roese, Chief Technology Officer, Dell EMC
Cloud – a simple word that carries a lot of complexities for anyone in IT. Cloud computing has been a game changer over the last decade for nearly every industry looking to push the boundaries of what’s possible with technology, providing organizations with more power and scale than previously thought possible from their IT systems.
The last decade has also brought an evolution of “cloud” itself…in fact, we’ve moved from considering “the cloud” as a destination to that of an operating model. Further, industry research highlights that the majority of IT practitioners don’t have a single “cloud,” but execute IT operations across multiple clouds in multiple localities. These cloud environments can be public multi-tenet cloud services, private clouds hosted managed service providers, private clouds built within co-location facilities, and of course, private clouds built within private on-premises data centers. Cloud is an IT model where orchestration, automation and yes, intelligence, are deeply embedded as part of the IT infrastructure.
So – more clouds means more compute, and more compute means more capacity and speed for data crunching for transformative innovations, apps and services, right? Ideally, yes – but as mentioned earlier, cloud comes with a lot of complexity as we enter an era of multi-cloud and hybrid-cloud that is required for organizations to maximize their cloud investment – and fully exploit all that rich data that can be transformative for any business or industry.
Public or private? No, it’s public AND private!
Public cloud adoption isn’t slowing down AND private cloud investments are accelerating. This is driven by the massive shift by companies to become “digital businesses,” creating expanding demand for IT capacity and new capabilities. Cloud is not a zero sum equation, it is an operating model that is driving a simplification and automation tide that is lifting all boats. As organizations continue to digitally transform with modern data center infrastructure that is software-defined and cloud-ready, they’re able to adopt a powerful private and on-premises cloud strategy alongside their usage of public cloud services. A recent IDC survey found that 80% of respondents reported repatriating workloads from public cloud environments, and on average plan to move about 50% of their public cloud applications to hosted private or on-prem locations over the next two years. This is driven by a simple principle. As a customer’s cloud operating sophistication increases, they often find it easier to more shrewdly optimize their applications and expenses by matching the right application with the right environment. Said another way, water finds a level, with IT investments balanced between different localities, ownership models, and architectures best suited to the work at hand.
The reality is that public cloud will continue to grow, and there is no “versus” here from a macro view – both private and public clouds as part of a hybrid-cloud strategy are necessary for an organization to effectively manage a variety of data workloads. The “versus” discussion really comes to down to which model is best for which workload – and how you can ensure public and private work together to drive both innovative outcomes and operating efficiencies so organizations can move workloads back and forth as needed without impact. Further, data privacy and security mandates vary globally – requiring organizations to ensure that all data is stored, protected and managed within those boundaries, which is of course a challenge when data lives virtually everywhere these days. Finally, innovation is happening in all cloud models and in different ways creating unique advantages specific to each cloud model. The best cloud for a critical workload may even shift as new innovations change the capabilities of each cloud.
Cloud is not a zero sum equation, it is an operating model that is driving a simplification and automation tide that is lifting all boats.
Multi-cloud must haves
There are four key components every cloud strategy should embrace:
- Cloud platforms that allow organizations to run a hybrid, multi-cloud strategy efficiently and effectively across both public and private cloud workloads, supporting Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and cloud-native application development.
- A cloud-enabled infrastructure, inclusive of cloud data services, data protection, cloud data management and mobility – ensuring you have the ability to manage, store and protect data on and off-prem, notably as you move workloads back and forth. It must remain intact and accessible, but without taxing resources.
- A cloud consumption model that fits the needs of your business – some days your organization will need less, other days it will require more as you scale and grow. Leveraging a consumption model that maps to your cloud needs ensures you’ll have exactly what you need to drive a successful cloud strategy within the scope of your IT budget – and ideally generating additional revenues through new business insights, apps and services brought to market.
- Cloud consulting and services – no two cloud strategies are the same – nor should they be. Engaging consulting and services ensures you’re able to fully customize a multi-cloud approach not simply for your needs today, but for the road ahead. Transformation isn’t a light switch, and as the technology landscape evolves, organizations need to ensure they’re future-proofing their investment. What public and private cloud offerings are best for your business, and how you can ensure they’re integrated appropriately? Further, do you have the right IT resources to effectively manage your new multi-cloud capabilities? Consulting and services can be a critical piece of ensuring your cloud strategy isn’t just fluff, but stays firm and grounded.
In a survey conducted by Forrester, commissioned by Pivotal, a Dell Technologies strategically aligned business, and Microsoft, as hybrid cloud adoption continues to rise, companies must also leverage consistent platforms, services, and tools across their hybrid cloud “continuum” to build and deploy new apps, modernize existing apps, and drive up infrastructure efficiency. In fact, 99% of the respondents in the study stated they find benefits to consistency through a unified approach to deployment, operation, and use of combined IaaS and PaaS platforms, ranging from being able to meet more demands with confidence, build and deploy products faster, meet regulatory mandates, maintain data sovereignty and simply respond faster to changing business requirements.
What’s next? Multi-cloud driving to the multi-edge
Because the tech landscape is constantly innovating, we’re also experiencing a pendulum swing back to the edge – the result of highly distributed data being generated courtesy of the Internet of Things (IoT), Industrial IoT, connected and autonomous cars. And with 5G on the horizon, we can expect to see more data being shared via low-latency, high-bandwidth networks.
All cloud providers are making great investments in edge – but organizations and developers need to focus on the bigger picture macro view of cloud. At the end of the day, workloads need to be managed, stored, analyzed and protected everywhere data lives – which is increasingly at the edge. We see IoT driving new edge computing requirements across cloud-native applications running as micro-services deployed across public and private clouds – and the same modern tools are being distributed to the edge and even the end devices.
For instance, autonomous vehicles are rolling datacenters with a host of data being generated inside the vehicle through hundreds of internal and external sensors as they cruise the open road. There will be a real need for traffic management increasingly driven by a mesh of edge devices and the distributed core in the field. Public and private clouds will both play a role depending on what data is being processed, compliance mandates, how quickly it needs to be analyzed, and where and how it needs to be stored, secured and protected. But in all cases the edge infrastructure is critical.
The amount of data coming in from the edge can’t be underestimated, driving an increase in investment for both on- and off-prem cloud, plus innovation and investment in edge cloud hardware, software and systems may grow even faster. There will be more localities…not less…and the terms on-premise and off-premise will no longer completely describe the future cloud.
Multi-cloud means business for the rising data tsunami
Infrastructure is evolving rapidly towards a software-defined state to ensure organizations have the ability to harness the power of a distributed edge to core hybrid and multi-cloud architecture – because with all the data coming our way – organizations are going to need new IT capabilities. We have yet to truly know exactly what will be possible over the next five years, but organizations need to prepare today, because IT is making transformational investments in IT right now. That means ensuring your data center is equipped to handle a variety of workloads sharing a variety of cloud architectures – but doing so with ease, intelligence and automation all the complex demands and, with modern, agile multi-cloud architectures, deliver a business experience that seems as simple as the original idea of the word…cloud.
*IDC, Cloud Repatriation Accelerates in a Multicloud World, Doc # US44185818, August 2018
 Forrester: Hybrid Cloud Demands Consistency https://content.pivotal.io/analyst-reports/hybrid-cloud-demands-consistency-forrester