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Multiple clouds – a balancing act for the future…

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Cloud services have changed the shape of everything we do today; they are both the platforms that facilitate digital transformation and the catalysts that enable it to accelerate.

In the last 12 months we have seen new technical innovations continue to emerge with major strides in everything from Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Things, to the delivery of Anything as a Service (XaaS) offerings. The rise of cloud has been one of the driving trends in IT for over a decade and it’s not going away anytime soon – especially with the global market revenue for cloud forecast to exceed $350 billion by 2022, according to figures from Statista.

But, as we take our first steps into a new decade, what does the future hold for cloud? What technological innovations will it facilitate, and how will this affect business?

Juggling multiple clouds

Over the past two to three years businesses have started to introduce hybrid and multi-cloud strategies with 75 per cent of enterprises predicted to deploy one of these models by the end of this year, according to Gartner. As such, the leading cloud providers are now racing to meet this demand by pumping resources into developing their own offerings with a particular focus on cloud management across multiple public clouds and the development of hybrid offerings across single vendor public and private cloud. Because of this we need to rethink what we mean by “the” cloud as the services offered by providers become increasingly fragmented.

Multi-cloud is attractive as it offers businesses the chance to evaluate the different cloud offerings available and mix and match those that would benefit their company, applications and workloads the most. As organisations continue to move away from solely on premise solutions the growth in multi-cloud environments will become a common theme for those that don’t want to put all their eggs into one basket. This move will, in turn, offer organisations, many without strong IT expertise, the chance to adopt sophisticated cloud services with minimal up-front investment.

Mitigating the vulnerabilities of cloud hosting

These new opportunities also come with new risks. As the adoption of multi-cloud continues to grow, the spread of data and applications across a wider environment means a greater surface area for miscreants to target. Ensuring the business has effective cloud governance and knows where its data and applications sit before it can attempt to protect them, through processes like encryption, is vital.

With cloud providers delivering different security capabilities and features, there can be a considerable gap in both the knowledge and expertise required to secure each of these platforms. Having just one cloud platform can provide consistency whereas with multi-cloud, despite its other benefits, there is a need to understand the technology and features within all of them to be able to manage security and availability as effectively and efficiently as possible.

The shared responsibility model ensures that cloud service providers deliver the highest level of security of the cloud, but security in the cloud remains the purview of the businesses using it to host their critical applications.

As you try to build a multi or single cloud platform it is also important to consider your business continuity strategy. As always, this is where you must really understand both the recovery time objectives (RTO) and recovery point objects (RPO) and how these can be mapped against cloud capabilities, like multi-AZ and the use of multiple regions.

The battle for security expertise

With this expanded threat we’re going to see a relentless battle for cloud security expertise as companies realise the fiscal and reputational damage that data breaches can cause and make necessary precautions to ensure they’re not the next to hit the headlines. Banking, in particular, will become highly competitive as, of course, will the tech industry itself.

Supply is currently falling well short of demand, so, in 2020, hyper-scale cloud leaders will ramp up investment in their native security offerings, while cross-cloud management providers must aim to buy, build, or acquire security capabilities that go beyond identity and access management.

In this process, businesses are going to realise that cloud expertise is especially short of supply, leading to increased competition and investment in technology professionals. To lower the risk of huge data losses, businesses will also look to partner with technology partners and experts to safeguard their cloud environments. For example, a trusted, AWS advanced consulting partner can offer some much-needed expertise. For many organisations investing in cloud, teams and skills can be expensive and slow, whereas a partnership approach means organisations can work rapidly with experts that are already familiar with the features, bug fixes and upgrades available in hyper-scale platforms.

This partnership approach can be a much more secure way of running cloud services as organisations do not have to invest the time and budget required to secure all of the in-house expertise they will need. As cloud-based applications – and the security processes and compliance it demands – become even more central to business operations beyond 2020, IT and security leaders will become integral components of the boardroom, transforming IT professionals into industry leaders.

The new-normal

The world has changed forever in the last few months and the increasing reliance on digital resources and the cloud, even more than usual, is clear for all to see. Far from returning to how it was before though, moving forward the cloud will become an even more integral part of the ‘new-normal’ world that we will face when this current crisis is all over. Reviewing and deciding what road to take for now in the short term and, more importantly, for the long term future can be vital in determining what the next few years hold for every business up and down the country.

Making that decision can feel for some like walking a tightrope between success and failure, but it doesn’t have to be. Businesses should review in their own time, rather than follow what others are doing. This means considering what investment they can afford to put in now, what they need to budget for technology wise down the line, the expertise they already have in-house, and possibly most importantly where they want to be in five years’ time. The world has changed, and that means a company’s cloud strategy and approach has now become more important than ever.

John Lyons, General Manager for Cloud & Hosting, Zen's Business Division

John Lyons is the General Manager for Cloud & Hosting within Zen's Business Division.