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Get your head out of the clouds and into the real world

(Image credit: Image Credit: Everything Possible / Shutterstock)

The discussion surrounding cloud computing has evolved noticeably over recent years; at almost as quick a rate as the technological advancement of the cloud itself. A topic which once created a sense of fear and doubt is now being embraced by IT managers, who have since progressed beyond the myths which once created a barrier. No longer fazed by the question of whether to embrace the cloud, the question is how to exploit it to the best of their ability. A new theme overshadows cloud computing – how to create a cloud which works in the real world, where demand for choice is paramount and change is inevitable.

Organisations no longer buy into a ‘one size fits all’ approach or trust the view of how cloud should be today will be true in six months, so are moving away from more restrictive choices, e.g. public cloud only or no cloud strategies. Organisations are building for change, embracing the choice that an environment with all the options, on premise, private and public clouds – aka hybrid – brings.

There are still many considerations that should be planned out carefully before a hybrid cloud strategy becomes a real enabler of business evolution.

Cloud flexibility

Digital transformation is essential in the evolution of many sectors and as more working methods and customer services move online the need for infrastructure which is both flexible and scalable is vital. Equally, the amount and complexity of data collected by organisations means that it’s much more powerful and, ultimately exploitable, so data security and sovereignty is also key. It is the flexible approach afforded by hybrid cloud which places it at the forefront of business evolution. You can segregate workloads, at different stages and place them in different places for success. For example, a public sector organisation that developed a website to deal with tax demands may choose the scalability of public cloud when their consumers are all entering their data at tax deadlines, a private cloud with the processing power they need to intelligently process the data, and a colocation site to securely store old data they need to keep.

There are many success stories of business who have embraced the cloud, allowing them to scale up and grow their workloads rapidly. Should the needs of the business change, then they will be equipped to adapt to the changing environment and can scale down, or completely cut off, the clouds which they no longer need. So far we have seen the greatest beneficiaries come from the media broadcast sector, but as each sector sits at a differing level of digital transformation we are likely to see a growing number of cloud adopters emerge over the next twelve months and beyond.

Embracing this flexibility means a step change in mindset and management of systems, as you break down into workloads, or functions within workloads, you need to be able to manage across these different levels of services. So, before you adopt hybrid you need to ensure you can manage it, or outsource the management of it, as it’s unlikely that your current tools are set up to do this today. 

Cost considerations

Implementing new technology can appeal to businesses for a variety of reasons, whether it’s to increase productivity or drive cost efficiency. There was once a misconception that public cloud was the obvious route to cost saving, but there are many variable factors which can affect this outcome, and cost saving in public cloud is only guaranteed to be achieved by those who can manipulate the levers to achieve this. It is therefore essential to develop an infrastructure which you fully understand, have the power to implement, and possess the methods to monitor and control to meet your cost expectations. The emergence of automation and management tools are playing a significant role in allowing businesses to evaluate cost efficiency, whilst highlighting areas where they are underperforming. Whilst the potential for cloud saving is significant, you do often need experience and expertise to exploit. As a result, an increasing number of organisations are making cost optimisation services a key part of their plan.

Innovation support

Nonetheless, the benefits of adopting cloud stretch well beyond cost saving initiatives, as organisations turn their focus to the cloud to support innovation and growth. It is important that businesses understand where they are going, what they want to achieve with their innovation, and how they use cloud services to get results. Cloud undeniably offers a route to innovation but adoption of it alone does not automatically guarantee innovation. There are many companies that have tested innovative technology, such as blockchain, but have struggled to move from pilot to production. It is important to remember innovation is a human trait; innovative people in organisations should drive the use of technology, expecting technology simply to create innovation for your business is unlikely to be successful. How innovative are you already, have you innovated in ways of working? Adopted agile? Cloud can’t change how you work, how you work needs to come first, or at minimum in tandem.

Safety and security

Complexity of security within the cloud is another area which must be considered carefully, hybrid cloud gives you the capability for granular control across multiple virtual and physical levels throughout your environment. This allows you to tailor control to potential risk, but can raise complexity in management. The use of a managed service provider (MSP) can be of benefit – the MSP can invest more in management tools to support this complex IT security than its customer might be able to. More importantly they can offer organisations support as they mature to a more specialised and responsive risk management posture.

In reality, part of how you should approach the cloud is the same with all technology. It’s not about investing huge resources in clever stuff, with tonnes of bells and whistles predicted by marketeers to be the next industry trend. It’s knowing what you are trying to achieve, how the technology enables that and what it costs and making trade-offs to get the perfect solution! However, what makes hybrid cloud unique and ideal for the real world is that you can make those trade-offs later and a much smaller granular level.  This means you don’t stymie innovation because your environment ‘can’t’ support what you are trying to achieve – hybrid cloud opens you up to the possibility of much more innovation and ensures blockers to innovation are much smaller and the trade-offs much more granular.

Done right, cloud for the real world, more choice, more innovation and more control.

Vicky Glynn, Product Manager, Brightsolid