BRIAN FAWCETT (BF): When it comes to choosing a cloud solution for your business, there's not a one-size-fits-all approach. Unfortunately, if companies switch to a cloud solution without being prepared, they can miss out on the full value, leaving certain needs unmet.
I'm your host Brian Fawcett and this is IT Availability Now, the show that tells storeys of business resilience, from the people who keep the digital world available.
Companies often decide far too quickly whether they should turn to a private or public cloud without fully understanding the benefits of each to their business.
On this episode of IT Availability Now, Edwina Murphy, Lead Cloud Specialist at Sungard AS, walks us through what companies need to consider when determining their path to the cloud, common mistakes to avoid and when it makes sense to choose private cloud over public cloud.
Ed, thanks for joining us again.
EDWINA MURPHY (EM): Thanks Brian and thanks for having me again.
(BF): Yeah, so let's dive into this. Why are organisations so quick to move to the public cloud?
(EM): Well, that’s an interesting question, Brian. Yes, it does seem that when organisations need to be adopting a cloud strategy, it seems to be the first go-to area is public cloud. And I think there are some common misconceptions with market trends that public is strictly the way to go. So, in some instances, things like security and resilience and skill sets, and those requirements around compliance can mean that public cloud isn't necessarily the best place for your environment to be deployed.
(BF): So what should businesses then consider before blindly jumping into the cloud in general?
(EM): So the most important thing to focus on is the business problem that you're trying to solve. Truly understand what it is you're trying to change, and for who. What is the win-win within your organisation? Don't just compare the cost of deploying a, you know, new on-premise architecture with a public cloud architecture and a private cloud architecture to try and determine whether or not that's the right thing for your business.
Focus less on the technology and whether it's public or private, and understand what you're trying to solve, and for who - whether it's your customer, whether it's internal departments, whether it's to gain competitive edge, whatever it might be.
(BF): That makes a lot of sense. So, what are some of the benefits of moving to the public cloud?
(EM): So some of the benefits of moving to public cloud, you know, largely sit around innovation and the pace of change. Those two things really, you know, with the automation that can be built into it, can really enable businesses to gain a competitive edge. There are also advantages around cost optimisation, particularly if they are seasonal, and workload requirements or you don't necessarily have a 24-hour business. That way you can really achieve some cost savings by just using the compute as and when you need it. Whereas in private cloud, then that’s more static and that compute has to be available all the time for you.
One of the other advantages is when it comes to centralisation and standardising your business strategies, so your business processes. If you are a global organisation or operate in more than one region, then that ability to be able to deploy across regions really, really quickly can be extremely advantageous for your organisation.
And I think, as well, if you're looking at moving more into a platform as a service type scenario, then whilst you can still do platform as a service in private cloud, again, the number of services readily available as a turn key solution to you in public clouds is far greater. And that innovation is only going to continue increasing.
I also think from an analytics point of view, particularly when we look at security, whilst one is not inherently more secure than the other, the analytics within the public cloud arena will probably, more than likely, identify threats and changes in behaviours much more quickly, which will enable businesses to respond potentially faster in the future to any kind of security issues.
(BF): And then, on the contrary of those benefits, what are some of the pitfalls of moving to the public cloud?
(EM): So some of those pitfalls can certainly be around technology lock-in Brian, as you move into platform as a service. You need to be very confident and comfortable with a partner that you are selecting as the more you go into this route, the harder it is to move. That's one of the biggest challenges with it.
So many other pitfalls tend to be around cost, and that ties into the lack of skill sets. For some organisations, they take a lift and shift approach and in that scenario if they’re doing that and everything's running 24/7 and they've not optimised and they're not developing into cloud native services, then the costs are going to be pretty significant most definitely.
And actually, the pace of change can also be a pitfall as well as a plus because, again, back to the skill sets. If you do not have those skill sets and cannot keep up with that pace of change, even though it’s readily coming down the line from the hyperscaler, you may not be able to yield the advantages of cloud for your organisation, because it's just too much to keep up with.
(BF): So it sounds like public cloud isn't always the best or only solution for businesses. Can you give some examples of when private cloud may be a better option?
(EM): Sure, yeah, absolutely. I think, you know, for organisations where their needs are not that sophisticated, you know, the skill set required to try and deploy public cloud, probably even if they were to onboard those skills is not really going to yield any benefits. A lot of people are more familiar with the private cloud, so again, depending on what it is you're trying to achieve.
If you’re trying to, if your time to market is particularly important to you, you might have a new project come in, it might be a new contract you're trying to deliver against, and again consider that. Consider how much easier it will be potentially to do a private cloud because as we know, the skill sets are out there much more readily available and lots of organisations have it.
I think if those workloads are static and there is no need for transformation then again, it probably would be best suited for private cloud. If they're static they're gonna need to be on 24/7 and therefore, wouldn’t benefit from the burst capability within the hyperscaler which would cost more if those machines are on all the time. So, obviously as with everything, it's a case by case basis.
I think for some organisations as well, what are their customer’s compliance and regulatory needs? I've worked with some ISVs (independent software vendors), so some of the software vendors where they have historic contracts that might have been in place 10 years. And 10 years ago from where we are today in public cloud, the data was not allowed to sit there. So again, how much work does that organisation have to go under to potentially even consider using public cloud, because of those contractual arrangements they have with their customers? That's a big piece of work to change all of that and does that investment, is that going to pay off for them?
I think if customers are looking for active-passive deployments for production in DR, then sometimes private cloud can also be a good logical fit because in public cloud, it works very different. Of course you can make it resilient and you can have your recoverability, but that does come at a price again. And you have to make sure the resilience and the security is built in by design, and that's where some of the pitfalls are. Whereas that's kind of a little bit more standardised in private cloud, as a turnkey solution for you. So, active-passive is kind of what you're looking for then potentially there. And again, back to the skill sets point, if that’s where you’ve got your skill sets, and that's what's going to deliver the business outcomes, don't worry too much about the technology and what technology you should be choosing. Just focus on that kind of business outcome.
And another scenario is if a customer is considering building out their own cloud then again, a private cloud would be a quicker route to market.
(BF): That's all really helpful. So you've gone through the benefits and pitfalls of public versus private cloud. So when an organisation is now determining private over public cloud and/or even a hybrid approach, what are the most important questions they should be asking?
(EM): So I think as an organisation evaluates the right cloud for their business there are definitely some really, really key questions to consider in every scenario and it all comes down to the applications and the workloads and we know that. But what do we actually mean when we say the applications and the workload when they should be thinking about it?
So some of the things that you need to consider across those environments are how sensitive to latency is the application? There are some applications that must respond within a defined timeframe to meet an end-user’s expectations, and in some cases, private or a hybrid cloud might be preferred, where the organisation controls the location of their users and data centres and the way, the connections between them.
The other thing is probably around your application needs to meet SLA performance monitoring, and things like that, so that when your organisation requires a specific level of performance to consistently remain within thresholds, sometimes the private cloud or a managed service infrastructure can provide that reliable, detailed, visible performance monitoring and alerts.
Something else that is really important is the elasticity of the applications, enabling that elasticity to alleviate both capacity and short-term compute constraints. This is where the public cloud will provide that mature elasticity. And whilst private clouds can also do it, it depends on how much you want to dynamically scale within that architecture to ensure a good customer experience.
I’d also consider, I kind of touched on it earlier about the contracts with the end-users, but also what your business practises allow you to host in terms of your critical applications. That regulatory and compliance and security aspects really need to be fundamentally understood and make sure that there aren't any “gotchas” down there around your IP, how you handle the policies for sensitive information within those environments and so on and so forth. And that again loops back into the skill sets, because some skill sets are less transferable from private to public. So understanding that is a good consideration.
And to what extent do your applications depend upon other applications? Few enterprise workloads are standalone, and many have multiple components, and can often integrate with critical organisational applications. So some might not have open APIs, making it challenging or impractical to integrate with new systems, for example, or it could just simply quite be cost-prohibitive to replace, migrate or modify those applications without addressing the dependencies. And again it's understanding those costs and what the value is.
So, I think it's understanding what you want to achieve, what is important to those key stakeholders? So again, back to what I said at the top of the call. And when you understand that, then you can focus on those other questions around the kind of technology, those interdependencies that you might have around integration latency concerns, security requirements, and so on and so forth.
(BF): That’s great points to consider there and any last advice you can offer for companies as they make their cloud journey smoother?
(EM): Yes, and it's something I always advise people to do and it really is simple in terms of the cloud strategy. Most times I ask for a copy of it, nobody has it written down. There isn’t tangible business benefits supporting cloud first strategy, because as we continue to go into this hybrid world, and we have the benefit of the portability across the various platforms, you don't have to be all cloud to achieve those business outcomes. So understand what it is you really are truly expecting to change and make a difference to your organisation.
If you don't understand the wins you're going to get, then you can’t determine the questions to ask. So that would be my advice, just make sure it's written down. If the approach is, you know, we've got a cloud first strategy and you ask why and they say that's the way the market’s going, then it's not really a strategy. It's more of a sort of strapline, and that will not enable you to get the most out of cloud.
(BF): Fantastic advice. So when choosing a cloud solution for your business, it's important to understand what your business goals are. Cloud is more about a business strategy than technology and making this distinction is key to optimising your cloud journey and recognising the full value. Ed, thanks for walking us through this today.
(EM): My pleasure, Brian. Thanks very much for having me.
(BF): Edwina Murphy is Lead Cloud Specialist at Sungard Availability Services.
You can find the show notes for this episode at SungardAS.com/ITAvailabilityNow.
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I’m your host, Brian Fawcett, and until next time, stay available.