Dec 13 2018

Businesses Seek Out a New Calculus for Public Cloud

With the cloud maturing, organizations need to take a more sophisticated approach to migrating and managing their resources.

Not long ago, cloud computing was a trendy new concept, with some observers predicting that on-premises data centers would disappear completely as the cost of public cloud resources continued to spiral downward.

Those days are largely over. Public cloud prices have stabilized, and many organizations have found that on-premises infrastructure costs can be lower for a number of use cases. Some IT leaders have found that certain workloads — especially legacy applications — are more difficult to migrate or manage in the public cloud than they originally anticipated. And there’s a general consensus that hybrid cloud and multicloud (as opposed to exclusively public cloud) strategies will be central for most enterprises going forward.

All of this means that the decision-making process about moving resources to the public cloud – a process that was once dominated by the single metric of price – has grown far more complex. Organizations can find significant value by migrating workloads to the cloud, but they must have a strategy for identifying which workloads fit best, and how they can complete a migration seamlessly. Once migration is complete, many organizations face a challenge in managing multiple workloads in various cloud environments.

“A lot of the conversation in the past has been, ‘I need to go to the public cloud, and I don’t care how,’” says Milin Desai, general manager for cloud services at VMware. “Up until recently, it was very simple. Today, it becomes more application-specific, rather than ‘Everything goes to A,’ or, ‘Everything goes to B.’ You need to think through your business model. It comes down to where is the data, and what types of services do you need?”

LEARN MORE: About finding the right cloud solution for your organization.

What Isn't Appropriate for the Cloud?

Historically, the public cloud has been seen as a good fit for workloads such as disaster recovery (DR), handling spikes in demand and the development and testing of new applications (dev/test). But many organizations are taking a more expansive view of the public cloud’s potential.

“DR, dev/test and spike were appropriate three years ago,” says Robert Christiansen, vice president of global cloud delivery for Cloud Technology Partners (CTP), a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company. He notes that two years ago CTP moved a Fortune 10 company’s top revenue-generating website to the public cloud, followed by hundreds of production applications. “The calculations have changed. The question is not ‘What is appropriate for cloud?’ The question is ‘What’s not appropriate for cloud?’”

The answer to that question, Christiansen suggests, is large enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and other central business systems, which can require significant restructuring to operate efficiently in the public cloud.

38 percent

The percentage of enterprises that now see public cloud as their top technology priority, up from 29 percent in 2017

Source: RightScale, “State of the Cloud Report,” 2018

David Cope, senior director of cloud products and solutions market development for Cisco Systems’ Cloud Platform and Solutions Group, says that one of the current top use cases for public cloud is “IT as a service” (ITaaS), where organizations create a catalog of cloud resources and make them available both internally to users and externally to customers. The hybrid cloud model, he adds, is increasingly allowing organizations to “stretch” in-house resources into the public cloud, giving enterprises the ability to migrate at their own pace, as opposed to all at once.

“Instead of being forced to move legacy resources to the public cloud, I can now either allow my legacy applications to take advantage of new cloud services or, conversely, create new cloud-native applications that can easily access legacy resources, including other applications or data,” Cope says. “You don’t have to lift-and-shift or refactor everything anymore, which is a really significant development. We can now truly use business criteria — and not just IT criteria — to drive workload placement, looking closely at a variety of criteria, including price, performance, regulatory issues and access to new innovation.”

Whereas public cloud services once competed primarily on price, now they are attempting to differentiate themselves based on their pace of innovation at the platform level, with data analytics and artificial intelligence, for example, says Brian Hopkins, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester.

“Public cloud vendors are pouring so much money into new platform innovations, the pace at which they’re evolving new capabilities simple cannot be met by vendors who are selling software at smaller scales for either cloud or on-premises deployment.” he says. “If you believe that the pace of business is increasing through technology, and new technology insertion is going to be critical to your ability to keep up, then being in the public cloud means you’ll have access to more new technologies more quickly, and that is even more important than agility in the long term.”

Cope echoes this sentiment, noting that features such as Big Data query and elastic load balancing are becoming increasingly commonplace. “Maybe five years ago, there was a risk of commoditization with Infrastructure as a Service,” he says. “Now, there are these different characteristics of these public clouds that, along with geography, are helping customers decide where to place workloads.”


Managing After the Cloud Migration

“Most organizations are taking a ‘cloud-first’ approach for any new workloads, and are also ramping up the migration of existing workloads to public cloud,” says Kim Weins, vice president of marketing and product for RightScale.

Several years ago, the chief cloud management concern for many organizations was security. But today, Weins says, cost control tops the list. “Only a minority of cloud users have implemented automated policies to optimize costs, such as terminating unused resources or scheduling workloads to shut down after hours,” she says.

Cope notes that, according to surveys, organizations are running workloads in an average of four different public clouds – creating an urgent need to implement unified cloud management systems.

“While cloud management platforms are popular, a lot of companies are just beginning to feel the pain of managing siloed cloud tools and policies required for each cloud vendor,” Cope says. “Things like common security profiles, billing showback and chargeback — it’s becoming cumbersome.”

Cloud management has been hot for a while,” Cope adds. “But now that multicloud is here, cloud management across disparate environments is becoming really important again.”

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