Colocation to cloud — is colocation truly redundant in a cloud world?

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We are told that the future of computing is cloud solutions, be those private, hybrid or pure public cloud. However, many organisations are simply not ready to totally abandon their investments in on-premises infrastructure or to move core applications or data to the cloud. For some, it's a matter of security and compliance, while others have workloads that aren't well-suited to virtualised platforms, and for others, their applications do not automatically lend themselves to serverless paradigms or software as a service (SaaS) models.

Is there a middle ground? A way of easing that transition and making it work for the business, which still capitalises on the benefits of the virtualised world? The simple answer is: yes.

A colocation to cloud strategy is about enabling companies to locate servers in third-party datacentres where they can realise the benefits of lower costs and improved security. More importantly they can then work with that provider to enable easy access to the right expertise to develop longer term, strategies for moving ultimately to cloud solutions.

A hybrid model — how to get there

The cloud is making every business rethink their approach to IT. As the big four public cloud vendors compete to offer lower costs, superior agility, data transformation programmes and state-of-the-art services, it is easy for businesses to become overwhelmed by the vast number of emerging technologies entering the typical workplace. From artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), to big data and the Internet of Things (IoT), organisations need to take a step back and adopt a more holistic approach to their journey to the cloud that inspires a genuine re-engineering of their business.

The questions to ask 

Many companies feel they can’t rely entirely on the public cloud. Securing sensitive data is one concern, but regulations might also require businesses to keep some data in-house. Similarly, CxOs want to be sure they can continue to offer high-quality application performance to their customers, while retaining control of their environments and data. As a result, many businesses seek to adopt a hybrid cloud solution rather than an ‘all in’ one.

But these organisations should think about three important questions:

· What is the compelling business reason for a customer moving to the cloud?

This involves taking a step back and defining the reason why the journey is necessary in the first place. For example, an independent software vendor (ISV) might need to do so in order to start selling more modern, cloud-based and software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings.

· What is the technology challenge that your customers must comply with?

What issue needs to be overcome? To continue with the example of an ISV, it needs to be able to deliver these new cloud and SaaS offerings to clients while remaining compliant with new regulatory changes, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and revised Payment Service Directive (PSD2).

· What technical solution or service offering can be put in place to solve it?

For the compliance-conscious ISV, for example, it might consider adopting a modern, hybrid technology solution that is suitable for cloud consumption, while also maintaining compliance. It also allows the ISV to take the data it uses regularly, consolidate it and make it useful in a modern application sense.

– Why hybrid and not simply ‘all in’?

There are a number of reasons that hybrid cloud makes better commercial and technical sense for those looking to move from colocation services right now.

The private side of a hybrid cloud solution enables a company to continue using its existing infrastructure and leverage it more effectively. Companies can make a small step to private cloud or simply connect their existing infrastructure and colocation services to a private cloud, configuring and reconfiguring what they want, when they want. They can maintain the security of their data and applications and comply with data governance laws more easily. They can also ensure predictability and reliability of critical applications. 

On the public cloud side of a hybrid model, companies can move specific workloads to public clouds, where it’s possible to leverage things like hyper-scale compute, analytic services and disaster recovery services more cost effectively. It’s possible for companies to develop and test new projects in the public cloud without capital expenditure, store and process massive amounts of data and leverage services that would otherwise require skills and resources that would be cost and time intensive. Perhaps the most obvious benefit is the ability to ‘burst’ out to public clouds to allow for surges in traffic by moving certain applications to the public cloud and accessing extra capacity when needed.

If a company uses a trusted managed service provider who specialises in colocation hosting, private and hybrid cloud development then it can also rid itself of the time, resources and costs of having to support and manage its own infrastructure and services and so focus exclusively on improving the services and solution it offers its own customers.

So colocation is the strategic choice after all?

The question for most companies now is how to effectively connect their existing infrastructure to these private cloud access services. This is where colocation providers, and specifically the new breed of managed service providers comes in. Companies who have a heritage of colocation, hybrid and communication infrastructure are far better placed to help companies on this journey than many ‘born in the cloud’ services providers. These types of service provider understand the complexities of migrating services, applications and data to multi cloud environment and importantly have the DevOps, monitoring, security and management skills experience to help take companies navigate what is a far more complex environment than they have today.

Conclusion

Adopting a colocation to cloud strategy provides a strategic advantage. Whether colocation in the traditional sense, or colocation as private cloud, when data is closer to the customer, you can offer better quality performance and also gain the agility to quickly scale up IT resources in response to local customer or operational needs. Ultimately, keeping key services and resources in the right service provider datacentres allows customers to deliver solutions and improve customer engagement in more situations, providing better flexibility, better meeting industry and vertical requirements around compliance and security, while still leveraging those elements of public cloud, such as hyper scale compute, ML, AI, IoT and data transformation services.

So don’t ditch your colocation just yet, but rather think about it as a strategic part of a cloud journey that ultimately may have more benefits to offer than simply being ‘all in’.

Stuart Nielsen-Marsh, Microsoft Cloud Strategy Director, Pulsant
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