Cloud is not a commodity – avoiding the ‘Cloud Trap’

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Cloud technology is helping businesses scale up to meet the demands of increasing customers, without loss of flexibility or revenue. For those beginning their cloud journey, one of the biggest concerns is likely to be: ‘What if we pick the wrong cloud?’

To answer this effectively and determine the best type of solution, we must first start by asking where the future of your business lies. 

Many organisations have built their business in a native-cloud environment, meaning the company had no traditional IT infrastructure in place and everything the company has established is as-a-service. The majority of companies doing this however, have not yet been able to predict where their businesses are going to be in the years to come. 

The market has evolved so fast that many such organisations have grown beyond their own expectations. When forced to examine this, the realisation tends to be that they are still working in a development operation, and development operations were never intended to be a fully-live production environment growing at such scale.

Many companies initially find it hard to match the cloud technology solution with their future business direction, and it is essential to identify the optimal solution to help your business grow. If companies scale up too quickly they risk becoming locked in ‘cloud traps’ by committing too much, too soon and failing to future proof their infrastructure to allow for growth and diversification.  

When one of our customers, Poq Commerce, first launched three years ago, it was a cloud-native e-commerce provider supporting retailers online. On Black Friday in 2015, the company had only a few hundred thousand connections. Today that number has grown to 1.3 million, and this success has relied on the company’s ability to scale effectively. It has avoided falling in to a cloud trap, due to having the foresight to build solutions to match its ambition. 

Success means making choices around your company’s cloud technology which are scalable with the business that you have. Similarly, vendor management and avoiding ‘vendor lock-in’ is important because your company needs the flexibility to be agile and move to different providers as required. For instance, you can port a cloud solution from a Microsoft Azure partner to another Microsoft Azure partner, if that partner is offering you better value for money or services. To define what ‘better’ means in this instance, it may be your business is looking for a more holistic management and looking at the latency of your network and how accessible your cloud is. 

With today’s multi-cloud environments, the opportunity the cloud presents if you are a buyer is choice, and having this choice allows your company flexibility and gives you buying power. This is essential because it means you can fit the best solutions to the models you are looking the achieve. 

For some though, the decision is a little more complicated.  Those running what we refer to as ‘Cloud Alien’ environments, centered around high-performance computing power, for example businesses in the film industry, have specific needs.  Rendering processes are enormously compute-intensive and there is an ‘episodic’ workload where high volume computing power is required for short periods only.  In such cases, absolute faith in the power of the infrastructure underpinning these processes is vital. 

Traditionally, such businesses have preferred to maintain their infrastructure on-premise – but this capital investment in server equipment is expensive and often inefficient. What is key for these businesses when designing their environment is that they are comfortable to decide what will be completed and managed on-premise and what will be completed off-premise.

The benefits of a cloud Alien environment include, freeing up office space, controlling power availability and cost, refreshing equipment on a regular basis, utilising the Cloud for peak usage and enabling experts to work remotely anywhere in the world via a high-speed internet connection. 

A full range of fast processing and rendering services, combined with cloud computing services is likely to be most popular in this case with businesses using small desktop units and high-speed broadband to produce and manage big data applications. Users benefit here from the increased security and convenience, of being able to manage this data remotely, in a specialist facility, without having capital expenditure. 

Further benefits include reduced costs and risk, particularly as technology upgrades evolve and usage requirements scale. As office space is charged at higher premiums than ever, companies are looking to scrap hot and noisy energy consuming in-house datacentres. To answer this, the “just in time” supply model has been created to offer significant efficiencies over the “just in case” approach that has until now been available for high performance computing and processing power, for most businesses. 

Organisations today are looking at different ways to decide which part of their technology becomes cloud-native and which remains cloud alien, and which of these sits in the more traditional infrastructure as-a-service (IaaS). In my opinion, the business world as a whole is headed toward hybrid multi-cloud environments. Organisations need choice to be available to them in the same way as they might choose whether to work with a Mac or a Windows environment. 

The natural order of innovation is to constantly test new ways of thinking, so even those companies now built purely in the cloud are nevertheless flirting with these different technologies – such as an integration of two or more clouds (public and private) working together in synchronicity to perform distinct functions within the organisation. 

The offering made available today by large scale public cloud providers to businesses are equally as important as a company having a private cloud. The last thing a company with a huge amount of product sitting on its balance sheet wants to do is write that product off, simply because it felt like the right decision to move to the cloud. However, what that company also should not do is stifle innovation, because they could be maximising their return on investment through these cloud software-as-a-service technologies. Holding back on innovative solutions in this way would be a destructive financial decision for the company. 

Consider data to be the oil which fuels your company’s engine, and there can be no leaks - if such a leakage were to occur, your engine will become less high performance and start to slow down, meaning the business is not economising and not getting value for money. To summarise, it is crucial companies start ‘removing cloud from the basement’, by essentially looking at it holistically as part of the overall IT strategy inside and outside of the business, rather than loading it on top of legacy systems in the hope that it will fix outstanding issues. 

Susan Bowen, Vice-President & General Manager, EMEA at Cogeco Peer 1   

Image Credit: Everything Possible / Shutterstock