Q&A: The Future of Cloud and Evolution of Multi-cloud in Australia and New Zealand

Cloud services in the Asia-Pacific region are expected to deliver a compound annual growth rate in excess of 30 per cent from 2012 to 2016, according to the IDC. The way these services are consumed by organisations large and small is beginning to change. Businesses are starting to shy away from purely private cloud configurations in favour of more scalable and agile multi-cloud configurations. We talked with Rob Purdy, Director of Cloud and Tools for Datacom, on what this shift means and how Australian and New Zealand organisations can take advantage of what cloud has to offer.

Q: In your opinion, what have been the key barriers to entry for cloud computing amongst enterprise organisations?

A: There have been a number of key barriers for enterprise customers adopting cloud, mainly around security and sovereignty of data. I think that’s been a problem in the past but I think that’s actually becoming less and less of an issue as time goes on with cloud.

The other barrier is just pure knowledge. Knowing what’s out there and knowing how to embrace it and basically how to leverage it back into existing business processes has been quite challenging.

Q: What are the top three areas organisations should consider when thinking about using cloud services, regardless of the type or number?

A: One of the top three areas that businesses need to consider when adopting cloud is security. So considering, “How secure is my data with a third-party provider?”

The second one is sovereignty. We might have to worry about state and federal law in Australia, but also if the cloud provider might be based in the US, you have to worry about US law. Not only that, but they may house the data in Singapore, therefore, we’re operating under Singaporean law. So that basically creates a complex matrix of law that we need to worry about.

And the third part is really about IT and the business talking together, making sure that when decisions are made, they are cognisant of the impact they will have on the business going forward.

Q: How can organisations prepare themselves now for a path to cloud adoption?

A: Businesses can prepare themselves for a path to cloud adoption by basically getting IT to talk to the business. All too often, IT sits in the back office and thinks they know what the business is doing and the way applications are being used. I’ve been involved recently with a customer where, effectively, IT thought they had a number of applications that were no longer used by the business. When we went out and actually talked to the business, they found out those applications were still very integral to the overall business process. So it’s really important for the IT department to get out and actually discover what’s going on in the business.

Q: What are some aspects of the cultural shift that needs to happen for an organisation to fully embrace cloud from top to bottom?

A: The business needs to really talk to IT and IT really needs to talk to the business. The other thing is they actually need a change agent in the business who understands the way technology can be mapped back into business processes by using cloud. Maybe consider putting in a CDO or a chief digital officer as Gartner’s alluded to recently to help that transition of the business going from traditional IT infrastructures into cloud or multi-cloud.

Q: Up until recently, there seemed to be a big push for organisations to decide public vs. private. Recent research from firms such as Forrester shows that hybrid and multi-cloud approaches are becoming more considered amongst organisations. Why has there been this shift?

A: Yes, it’s interesting that Forrester has pointed out that it used to be people were thought just to go straight to public clouds, but over time, it’s been quite apparent that a multi-cloud approach or a hybrid cloud approach has been adopted. And really that’s because no one cloud solves every problem. It really comes down to the fact that you might need a number of clouds to solve it, whether that be on-premise with a private provider or a hybrid provider or even a SaaS application that still needs to integrate with the existing business process.  So I don’t think there’s one option that solves all business problems.

Q: How sophisticated does an organisation have to be in terms of cloud services usage or readiness when considering a multi-cloud approach?

A: Businesses don’t have to be that sophisticated in adopting cloud. The reality is that the business can actually adopt cloud without even talking to IT or talking to any sort of adviser. Rather, they can just go online, swipe a credit card and buy a SaaS application. What’s really needed is a strategy or a road map, maybe a framework, that’s quite simple but just talks to the way the business should adopt those services and clouds. It’s really important that when the business thinks about adopting those things, they’re already thinking, “How’s this going to solve my particular business problem?” and, “How is it going to integrate back into all of the other IT information that we’ve got?”

Q: Multi-cloud allows for more agility – how can businesses continually decide the best way to mix and match their cloud services to best align with the needs of the applications and business?

A: One of the things you need to be able to do is revisit your decisions periodically. Now, that might be once every three, six, 12 or 18 months just to make sure that you’re adopting the best technology for the best outcome. And one of the things that’s really important, particularly in cloud, is that you’re not locking into long-term contracts. The reality is that cloud is evolving so rapidly. Maybe making a decision on a particular software service or platform service or infrastructure service might be right today but, in six to 12 months, there may be something better out there.

Q: What business processes will we see transformed as a result of a multi-cloud approach?

A: I definitely think that the business processes that are going to change over time are procurement and IT mainly, and really that’s because the business can go out now and seek products and services without even involving those two departments. Albeit, there might be some governance needed around it from other areas, but the reality is that those two areas of the business I think are going to be affected most by multi-clouds.

Q: Multi-cloud equals multiple cloud services and providers and, thus, a lot of potential complexity. What should organisations do to ease the challenges around adopting a multi-cloud approach?

A: One of the things the business can do is put in those frameworks or road maps so they’re making choices cognisant of other decisions that have been made in the past around cloud. In addition, they can consider potentially using a provider like Datacom to help them along that path. There are other technologies as well that are evolving particularly when you want to manage data flows between applications in the cloud, things like BizTalk-as-a-Service from Microsoft, Boomi from Dell. There are things that are coming out in the market that will help customers manage complexity in multi-clouds but it’s really early days for this sort of stuff.

Why You Need a Systems Integrator to Help with Your Multi-cloud Implementation

Transitioning to one cloud service or platform carries plenty of implementation challenges. Can you imagine the complexities that can arise when you decide to leverage several cloud services for a multi-cloud approach?

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t opt for a multi-cloud strategy — it just means you may need some extra help to do it successfully. That’s where a systems integrator can come in handy. A systems integrator can oversee the entire process of procuring, provisioning and then managing your bundle of cloud services. Systems integrators procure and combine technology — usually software and hardware — from a variety of vendors to provide a more seamless, and sometimes more cost-effective, system or service. This focus ensures your multi-cloud services are consistently meeting your budget and business needs, even if that means switching to another cloud services provider to take advantage of lower prices or better application performance.

They have innate technology capabilities that lower risk

Using a systems integrator to architect a multi-cloud approach means your organisation gets to leverage key design and consulting capabilities already present in the provider’s scope. This includes creating your path to the cloud, ensuring all design, build, integration and testing is done correctly. As the systems integrator already possesses its own innate technology capabilities, you’ll lower the risks around multi-cloud implementation, integration and performance issues. If you work with a systems integrator with its own cloud capabilities, you can leverage deeper expertise, in addition to a potential extra cloud service, if you require it now or down the track.

They act as your mediator to ensure needs are met

Another key way systems integrators make the multi-cloud transition easier is by liaising with your multiple cloud services providers to negotiate pricing, service levels and security needs. Your systems integrator acts as your facilitator— and a translator of all technical cloud jargon that providers sometimes hurl your way — to ensure the cloud provider can meet your business needs and prevent lock-in. This includes deciphering which cloud might work best for a particular application or workload and helping you balance the changing needs of your business services against the right cloud service.

They manage your cloud services under one umbrella to save hassle

Not only will you save your organisation time in the multi-cloud services procurement step by using a systems integrator, you’ll also reduce billing and management hassles, as all your services will be centralised. This centralised approach to multi-cloud will help your organisation better deal with issues of security and latency between private and public clouds, ensuring the backend technical configurations guarantee performance. No matter how complex your multi-cloud arrangement becomes, your systems integrator will preside over its management so it continues to deliver what your business needs.

How to Determine if your Business Would Benefit from a Multi-cloud Approach

Cloud offers your organisation a lot of different hosting options and methods of delivery. Yet for years, many businesses have felt as if they are pigeon-holed into just one choice — one that can prevent your organisation from fully leveraging cloud to automate and optimise key business processes that can drive performance, productivity and innovation. Using multiple cloud services or providers could be the better option for your organisation, as it allows you to use different cloud services to map to specific budget, security and systems needs amongst your workloads. Consider if your organisation might be primed for multi-cloud by looking at these three key areas.

  1. You have varying types of workloads with different requirements

As cloud computing has evolved, organisations have gotten hip to the idea of best-placed workloads: that is, the cloud that is most suitable for the applications you are running. This concept accounts for changing workload needs or fluctuating levels of cloud performance, infrastructure and price. The portability of multi-cloud presents the option to benchmark applications and workloads across different clouds to see where they perform at their best. So if you have a mix of workloads that have low or partial utilisation levels, such as batch processing, and workloads subject to wild spikes in traffic such as public-facing apps, the ability to leverage and shift amongst different cloud platforms reduces the risk of downtime and helps control costs.

  1. You anticipate needing to bring a cloud-based project back in-house

A misconception with cloud computing is that once you migrate a service or application to a cloud platform, it should stay there forever. Cloud is meant to provide agility, and there’s no reason to believe you won’t have to shift one of your services to another cloud platform or provider or migrate it back on premise in the future. IDG Enterprise’s Cloud Computing: Key Trends and Future Effects Report found that 42% of cloud-based projects are ultimately taken back in-house. The reasons for this shift include security (65%), technical/oversight problems (64%) and the need for standardisation, or one platform, (48%).

A multi-cloud strategy — especially one overseen by an IT systems integrator — can help your organisation transition systems back on-premise as soon as you need them there. This multi-cloud approach will cut out the complexity of migration issues, service contracts and potential data loss as you already have a multi-pronged arrangement with multiple platforms and providers that understand your need to stay nimble.

  1. You want to avoid commitment to one cloud services provider

Organisations today are outsourcing to multiple providers for a range of business needs. There is no reason why this trend can’t extend to cloud. According to ZDNet, 39 per cent of IT decision-makers feel locked in with their current suppliers. With multi-cloud, you get more freedom of choice, allowing you to easily switch providers if their SLAs, costs or privacy guidelines change. In fact, the University of Sydney’s School of Information Technologies’ Centre says a hybrid or multi-cloud approach is the most cost-effective, efficient way to manage various cloud computing resources.

A multi-cloud strategy can work for a range of business types, whether you’re a local or multi-national organisation, an SME or large corporation, or one that is already using cloud computing or that is still ironing out a path to cloud. Remember to consider using an IT systems integrator to help make your multi-cloud implementation less complex andensure cloud computing success.

Why More Businesses are Considering Multi-cloud Services

In September, non-profit IT association CompTIA reported that greater than six in 10 cloud users have “made secondary shifts of infrastructure or applications following their original transition to the cloud.” This means these organisations are using a “multi-cloud” approach — leveraging at least two cloud services to reduce risk of data loss and performance issues. The idea is that organisations can choose the right cloud type and service to balance the varying needs of their systems and data. Here are some of the benefits of considering multi-cloud for your organisation.

Ramped-up redundancy

Some notable cloud service provider failures in recent years have prompted many businesses to take a good, long look at the safety of their systems. A multi-cloud approach lets you put your servers in different data centres managed by different providers, so that if one provider fails, it doesn’t cause a catastrophic loss of service to your business. Distributing your servers across providers also reduces the impact of potential electricity and networking provider outages. You have the mobility to take your cloud servers from one provider and move them to another to protect your business.

Fool-proof flexibility

There’s a standard rule to follow when pondering cloud services for business: What’s secure might not be the most cost-effective and what’s cost-effective might not be the most secure. Organisations might initially be tempted to drop everything in a seemingly fail-proof private cloud — but that can be mighty expensive. Yet there are data and workloads that absolutely cannot legally or compliantly go into the public cloud.

Having a multi-cloud strategy enables organisations to maximise costs, performance and security by switching between providers and cloud types or even moving applications or infrastructure back into their own data centres for security reasons. Organisations have become more opportunistic in how they evaluate cloud services, always looking for a better price, customer service and features, points out the CompTIA research. This approach also prevents vendor lock-in.

Appropriate application fit

Some tasks perform better on certain clouds. If your organisation has a need to deliver elastic services to a wider number of users over the internet, a public cloud option will work best. But even then, each public cloud provider offers different features. A Gigaom article from last year points out that organisations running certain frameworks for data-intensive-real-time apps might suffer from performance issues on more generic public clouds when they try to scale. A multi-cloud approach lets you move these applications to a different public cloud that might be better equipped to handle the latency of this intensive workload.

A multi-cloud approach may be where the future is headed, but it still takes strategic planning and a migration strategy. Enlisting the help of an IT and cloud service integrator can provide a whole-picture approach that takes into account system and application needs, compliance issues and budget to find the right mix of clouds for your business.