Many believe that the cloud is the most critical component of any IT strategy. The benefits and common drivers for adoption are well known. Yet each CXO, VP, or chief architect provide different perspectives and approaches as to how they are adopting the cloud and what is driving their need for change.
So why and how are these companies moving to the cloud? Specifically, how are midsize and large enterprises, not just startups and cloud-native companies, moving to the public cloud? Here is my perspective based on real customer scenarios.
Key cloud drivers
Many of my clients must adopt the cloud, but that is not always an easy business decision. While the concept is sound, the practice can get messy. Still, these are the common drivers I’ve seen:
1. Contain and consolidate infrastructure and platform sprawls.
Enterprises have multiple data centers, many times in different parts of the world. This fragmented IT presents challenges such as higher operational costs, expensive hardware and software refreshes, compliance and regulatory issues, and availability and reliability risks. Companies could consolidate their data centers, but that is an expensive and time-consuming exercise.
Another option is standardization, which is mainly of two types:
- Infrastructure standardization: standardized server architectures, operating systems, monitoring and analytical tools, orchestration, automation tools, and more
- Platform standardization: standardized application stacks, middleware, database engines, source-code management tools, continuous integration and continuous delivery tools, and so on
A lack of infrastructure standardization increases the cost of maintenance and management and lowers efficiency, and a lack of platform standardization increases the cost of application development, maintenance, testing, and operations. Both can also significantly hamper your ability to quickly recover from errors and outages.
Even if one can consolidate by physically colocating the infrastructure in a limited number of data centers, standardizing is much more challenging. Whether a business is consolidating or standardizing, the cloud provides a number of unique opportunities that are not available elsewhere:
- With its seemingly unlimited compute, storage, and network capacity, the cloud can accommodate all of what your data centers could provide, although you may still need one or more data centers for your legacy workloads that cannot move to the cloud.
- The cloud provides global capability with multiple regions and worldwide datacenter locations.
- Initial investments of time and money are significantly lower compared to building, buying, or leasing data centers. And there are no ongoing expenses of managing the infrastructure or the data centers.
- Cloud providers have matured their offerings beyond just compute, storage, and networking. They now provide higher-level services that are well-integrated with software, tools, and partner ecosystems and that offer a complete platform that anyone can easily standardize to build applications. But proceed with caution and make sure that you consider the potential of lock-in.
2. Overcome current architectural and operational challenges.
IT leaders want their applications and systems to be highly available, fault tolerant, and redundant while always having the required capacity and performance. But reality is often different. The challenges they face originate from the ways the systems and applications are designed and deployed. These shortcomings can be mitigated or exacerbated by how operations are run:
- Avoiding middle of the night conference calls: It’s not uncommon to hear about IT leaders jumping onto a midnight conference call when an outage impacts a business-critical application. The application was probably developed ten years ago and didn’t have the fault tolerance or redundancy that is common in modern architectures. How can you mitigate this risk and have a peaceful night’s sleep? You can try to modify the architecture on the premises and add fault tolerance and high-availability features to it. But that would require additional infrastructure components and the effort required to setup, test, and manage them.
- Being ready for disaster: Similarly, big enterprises rarely have comprehensive disaster-recovery strategies with setups that are regularly tested and kept up to date. IT leaders understand that not having disaster recovery is a huge risk to their business, but because of the constraints on datacenter availability, infrastructure capacity, and current architectural challenges, they can do very little about fixing it.
As I mentioned earlier, all of these problems can be solved without going to the cloud. But the cloud provides unique value propositions to implement solutions quickly in cost-effective ways:
- Cloud providers focus extensively on offering capabilities and tools for designing and deploying your applications to be fault tolerant and highly available.
- The cloud’s multiple availability zones and regions give you the necessary foundation for high availability and disaster-recovery capabilities.
- Many of these additional components are fully integrated into the overall ecosystem, often with no or little additional cost, and they are fully managed by the cloud providers, making the switch to a better architecture easy, fast, and inexpensive.
In my next post, I will explain the remaining three drivers followed by how enterprises are approaching the cloud.