Cloud computing, first viewed with a certain scepticism, rapidly became a mainstay of enterprise IT, but with costs rising with consumption, many businesses soon found that the public ‘hyper-scaler’ cloud, Azure, AWS and Google, were not always the right environment for every task.
And yet, who would willingly give up the flexibility and simplicity that the cloud offers? Infrastructure and service provider Logicalis Ireland proposes a solution: multi-cloud.
“When public cloud started to take hold with the hyper-scalers there was an almost hysteria about, ‘We should move everything into public cloud’. Then there was a realisation that perhaps this was not the right approach,” said Simon Sharkey, cloud and hybrid IT practice lead at Logicalis Ireland.
But if not a cloud-only, or even cloud-first strategy, then what strategy should businesses adopt? They should think about their goals and how to get there, said Sharkey.
“What they need is not a cloud-first strategy, but a ‘cloud-right’ strategy,” he said.
In practice, this would entail the right mix of on-premise, private cloud and public cloud, perhaps even more than one public cloud, depending on the data storage needs and computational goals. In short: hybrid and multi-cloud, an approach to IT based not on following trends, but in following the needs of the business.
Sharkey proposes a ‘horses for courses’ approach, where workloads should be assigned to cloud, data centre or on-premise systems, based on where they make sense.
“If a workload is better suited to sitting in a public cloud, then that makes sense, but it should not be awkwardly shoved in there simply for the sake of putting it, or something, there,” he said.
Such a strategy will certainly be easier than a year zero approach that sees longstanding servers scorched and salted. Moves can instead be made incrementally, and according to the value that they are projected to bring to the business.
It also has the advantage of being not so far removed from how businesses already work.
“From what we see out there, most people have hybrid environments,” he said.
“Ninety-five per cent, maybe 96, 97 per cent, the majority, will have hybrid set-ups. That’s not to say you don’t see cloud-only operations, but they tend to be start-ups,” he said.
Beyond hybrid environments, Logicalis has also noted a distinct move toward combining services from different cloud providers.
“We’re finding more have a multi-cloud approach: on-prem and |Microsoft] Azure for production and [Amazon] AWS for dev-ops, or the reverse,” he said.
One reason that some businesses have backed away from cloud is, he said, the regrettable fact of failure to do things right.
“There’s an awful lot of bad builds out there. That leads to a lot of companies saying, ‘cloud is too expensive’ and moving back to on-prem.”
“We also find there is a lot of waste,” he said.
Nonetheless, said Sharkey, there are signs that as it matures, cloud computing is improving.
“It seems we really are in a phase-two approach to cloud. There is a real re-evaluation going on, with people asking: ‘Where are we?’ and ‘Is this the right place to be?’ They are asking if they are using the right hyper-scalers and do they need to move some systems back on-premise.”
One area that has proved problematic is that most thorny of IT areas: security.
It seems that, following initial fears that the cloud was inherently insecure, an equally dubious idea took hold: that it was perfectly secure. Or, at least, that it was someone else’s problem.
“One area where we find one gaping hole is security,” said Sharkey.
The problem tends to be a gap between security for the on-premise network and the cloud installations.
“It’s almost like they have two tiers of security or they haven’t even thought about integrating it.”
Another concern is that some businesses think that their cloud provider’s security covers all compliance issues.
“There is an assumption that security is there, but it’s a wrong assumption. Yes, they’re securing those data centres, but it’s still up to you to secure your data. If you’re accessing a cloud environment from on-prem, you can have a big gaping hole.
“We’ve seen large deployments of public cloud infrastructure like that and you’d be surprised at the kinds of companies,” he said.
In its consultations with clients, Logicalis seeks to demystify this by breaking the question down, ensuring that any mixture of on-prem, private cloud and public cloud IT is secured from end to end.
“We bring them back a few layers to ask where the problem started. We’re creating the environment where you can either mitigate or we can retrofit security where things were missed.”
Simon Sharkey, Cloud Practice Lead at Logicalis, in conversation with Jason Walsh of the Sunday Business Post.