The rate of business change was already accelerating before a global pandemic required a re-evaluation of how IT infrastructure will meet the demands of an increasingly remote work force and the new services that will be needed to guarantee employee and consumer health and service availability.
Born-in the cloud will be a major driver for emergent businesses in the coming years. But will being cloud native have an inherent advantage over rivals, and will traditional businesses be forced to adapt to remain competitive?
Disruption is the new norm
In the early days of cloud adoption, being a cloud native business was disruptive by default. Most industries were dominated by traditional companies that utilised on-premises infrastructure. So the agility afforded by being cloud native was a huge competitive advantage. Startups could break into almost any sector with a cloud-first approach and target the market’s most pronounced pain points with their new business models.
But the way companies approach the cloud is changing. It’s not just newly established companies utilising the cloud, traditional businesses are moving their projects and solutions over too. In fact, enterprise IT spending for cloud-based offerings will grow faster than traditional (non-cloud) IT offerings through 2022, according to analyst firm Gartner.
By 2022, the cloud shift across key enterprise IT markets will increase to 28 per cent, up from 19 per cent in 2018. Santhosh Rao, Sr Director Analyst at Gartner Research, argues that “organisations without a cloud-first strategy — where the cloud is primary, prioritised and promoted — will likely fall behind competitors.”
Cloud native offers irresistible advantages
As organisations of all sizes move away from traditional models, the early adopter advantage of going cloud native is no longer the opportunity it once was. Big enterprises still have the weight of budget, resources, and people power behind them to drive their cloud journey in order to take full advantage of cloud architectures — so making full use of the natural flexibility of being born in the cloud is vital.
Despite this, being an early adopter is still a major boon, as many businesses with legacy on-premises infrastructures are having to play catch-up to meet the demands of cloud-based operations. The cloud natives, on the other hand, are able to focus on pushing the boundaries into new technologies, without having to worry about the practicalities of migration and finding the balance in a hybrid cloud scenario.
A new form of cloud-first
We’re expecting the majority of new businesses to be born in the cloud in the coming years — particularly those who are looking to establish a footprint across multiple regions.
But there’s another trend to watch out for here: as enterprises finish migrating some or all of their infrastructures to the cloud, it’s likely that they will start pursuing new, completely cloud-native projects, too.
Many analysts and researchers have looked at how businesses best utilise the hybrid cloud structure, or multi-cloud. Gartner argues that CIOs will face the challenge of selecting the right mixture of cloud and traditional IT for the organisation, adding that “hybrid cloud offers the best of both worlds — the cost optimisation, agility, flexibility, scalability and elasticity benefits of public cloud, in conjunction with the control, compliance, security and reliability of private cloud.”
With silos broken down and access to new cloud development tools, organisations can start building applications that are entirely cloud-based throughout their lifecycles — from ideation and development to testing and deployment. These applications will benefit greatly from the hyperscalability, resilience, and availability of the cloud, without having to deal with some of the well-known roadblocks of traditional development (think cumbersome version rollouts).
Limitations of cloud native
While cloud native does bring a lot of benefits, it can also have some limitations as the choice in cloud infrastructure continues to rise and pick the best of breed for each workload. This is where multi-cloud comes in. Multi-cloud has been a major force in the last few years. Businesses with the ability to utilise several clouds and seamlessly harness the power of best-of-breed capabilities have distinct advantages. Enabling interoperation of cloud providers and ensuring data between cloud services are able to flow securely and with peak performance requires resources and skills not available to all businesses.
A multi-cloud scenario for cloud native businesses comes with additional challenges. Without infrastructure to support interoperation and connectivity between various public cloud providers, cloud-native businesses have fewer options to secure their applications and ensure application performance. Getting one cloud resource to work with another can require greater work at the API and development level in order to get multiple cloud services to interoperate properly.
Robust network connectivity is essential
Regardless of whether a business is a cloud-native startup or an established enterprise that’s adopting a cloud-first approach or opting for multi-cloud for new applications and services, IT leaders are likely to be getting involved with microservices, virtual machines, and containerisation.
That’ll require dedicated, reliable connectivity, that can help a business move large volumes of data without compromising on performance. For that, companies want to look at technologies such as virtual cloud routing to help manage interconnection more effectively without physical infrastructure.
However, connectivity is one thing many organisations tend to overlook in their overall cloud approach. As Joe Skorupa, an analyst at Gartner, argues: "When businesses decide to move to the cloud, the network tends to be an afterthought." But if networks have been neglected, companies will come to quickly realise that their connectivity is not robust enough to handle traffic and demand increases. Therefore, in this world of cloud native companies and cloud native projects, businesses must prioritise the cloud and, moreover, their infrastructure to ensure it is built on reliable, scalable and quick network connectivity.
How does Covid-19 influence future cloud connectivity decisions?
As the move to the cloud accelerates, companies will need to pay particular attention to how they connect to the cloud, where the edge of the cloud exists relative to their distributed user base, and how resilient their infrastructure is. If we take the unique working scenarios created by the Covid-19 pandemic as an example — as businesses have shifted their workforces to work-from-home and remote operations, our dependence on cloud services continues to grow. Microsoft reported a 775 per cent increase in the use of its cloud services in regions that have recently enforced social distancing.
How we connect to cloud resources, and how those resources are distributed geographically, plays a critical role in application performance, availability, and usability. Therefore, during this period of mass remote working, it is more critical than ever to protect production and mission-critical applications from disruption through resilient and redundant network architectures that can respond to real time usage pattern changes. Even the smallest down time can be costly, causing lost productivity, lost revenue, lost data, and in some cases even irreparable impact to brand credibility.
With planning, cloud native can be a winning strategy
Even before considering a highly distributed, remote workforce, we can expect that most new businesses will largely be born-in-the-cloud and traditional businesses will continue to migrate systems and solutions to the cloud with a vision to achieve hybrid architectures as they grow. Simply being in the cloud is no longer an advantage in itself. Companies will need to plan ahead to meet both expected and unexpected demands and requirements on their IT infrastructure, and be aware of which structures, vendors, and models work best for meeting these new challenges.
Eric Troyer, CMO, Megaport