Finding cloud 9: Rising above cloud challenges and considerations

Cloudy sunny sky with orange overlay

Every day we see new technological advancements announced with the majority underpinned by the popular term, “cloud”. The word has become a method of simplifying diagrams as much as a convenient placeholder for alternate design and delivery models, which unfortunately contribute to the confusion around what cloud really offers.

Choosing the right cloud, or cloud combination, for your business and its application delivery is the single most important infrastructure decision you’ll make during any such transition. Cloud brings many benefits, however, if it is not managed proactively, or loosely controlled, performance can diminish and costs can spiral. This can lead to a poor end-user experience and degraded business performance.

For these reasons, we recommend that organisations strike a balance between cloud-based operations to leverage a combination of the best services to form their “hybrid” cloud. According to the RightScale 2017 State of the Cloud Report, 85 per cent of organisations surveyed have a multi-cloud strategy indicating a strong appetite for cloud diversity. [1] Moreover, from a risk management perspective, it is prudent to have a third-party option available for data protection and business continuity in the event of a problem.

At Tecala, we seek to dispel the populist notion of the “cloud” as something largely homogeneous. In doing this, we help organisations hone their future ICT strategy by leveraging cloud delivery models to empower their ICT operations.

This needs to be done while mitigating the pitfalls of ever increasing costs without demonstrable commercial benefit, degraded performance and, in many cases, lacklustre change and communication plans that can scuttle any cloud deployment before it goes live.

Our “Cloud 9” initiative is aimed at informing IT and business leaders of the many benefits to striking the right balance of cloud management, infrastructure, applications and delivery systems. The following are some of the current challenges and considerations we recommend you to be across as part of our “Cloud 9” initiative.

 

Challenge 1: Cumulus, nacreous, stratus? Not all clouds are equal so choose the best for your business

Businesses have a plethora of cloud and hosting options available today. Everything from traditional, on-premises equipment or co-location, to MSP hosting through to the public cloud and its claimed “hyper scalability”. Each option has its own use case and value proposition, along with security and control limitations. Here is a short summary of the most applicable uses cases for each hosting or cloud delivery method:

  • On-premises. Your own equipment will yield the same tried and true delivery model as yesteryear. To “future-proof” your architecture, you must be wary of budget and vendor selection. Self-hosting alleviates many concerns surrounding data integrity, but at what overall cost-to-benefit?
  • Co-location. Company-owned (or leased) assets within a third-party data centre allow granular control over the infrastructure and bring the benefit of custom built facilities and their requisite accreditations (PCI-DSS, ISO27001, Tier3). Management of the assets can be any combination of in-house support: with an MSP or direct to a vendor. Many companies find this model a good foray in moving towards the cloud, as you effectively form your own private cloud with broader interconnectivity options.
  • Managed hosting (private cloud). Managed hosting in an MSP-run private cloud is a great option for moving from CAPEX to OPEX. This option addresses requirements for maintaining high-level computer, storage and hypervisor management skills in-house, all without forgoing ultimate control of operations. Under this model, you should expect to receive the benefits of a CAPEX model with scaling capabilities, modular management and local data sovereignty requirements addressed.
  • The public cloud. Public cloud exists in several flavours, the most common being Software as a Service (Office365, Salesforce, etc.) through to virtual server and storage infrastructure and containers. Moving to SaaS is a great way to get enterprise-grade services without the cost of building and maintaining them internally. However, given the nuances of many of these platforms, the business (and staff) must be ready, as should IT. Again, cloud-based infrastructure services are more challenging, with the three most popular vendors each offering slightly different ways of achieving business outcomes.

This simplified view of application hosting and delivery options indicates how diverse clouds really are and why it is important to choose the right one, or right combination. Too much on-premises equipment can lead to high capital expenditure requirements and not enough flexibility, while too much dependence on public clouds can result in high operating costs and a degraded end-user experience.

 

Challenge 2: Optimising application delivery services

Given the hype around cloud, including frequently rushed “cloud first” policies, many organisations have migrated to public clouds without a thorough assessment of what the outcome will be.

Let’s look at some of the important factors surrounding cloud-based application delivery and what should be considered to ensure a successful cloud adoption:

  • Total cost of ownership (TCO). Calculating the true cost of operations can be tricky, with the complexity of cloud pricing compounding the matter. Unfortunately, you cannot presume one cloud is more cost effective than another, given the frequency of changes to the billing construct for many platforms. As a result, TCO modelling should include a degree of hedging to provide protection for the model and a baseline for future review. Ultimately, the TCO will depend on the resource requirements, which can vary significantly as any adoption becomes more successful. All things growing well, ask what will your business look like in 12-18 months and with this, what are your “cloud” costs?
  • Before you move anything to the cloud, you need to consider the support options and the provided SLA (if any). With any move to private, public or hybrid cloud, support is still paramount: things will go wrong and the assurances of a proven SLA cannot be understated. Mapping out your support matrices for cloud-delivered services can assist in creating a holistic overview of what is required, along with highlighting any gaps in the process. It’s also important to understand the cost associated with a tiered support model, given these are very common among clouds. Email-only support costs markedly less than access to a 24 by 7 contact centre.
  • Is your application capable of leveraging elastic scaling? Do you anticipate rapid growth or burst capacity requirements? What’s the vendor roadmap for any of the existing application stacks you have slated for cloud delivery? Cloud sizing is important and this is where public clouds can really assist. If you aren’t sure, or need to test prior to truly committing, the PAYG models afforded by public cloud providers can help with the process.
  • If your application demands high performance, then dedicated systems – more importantly, dedicated SSD based storage – might be the way to go. Dedicated systems can support more memory and I/O than multi-tenant virtualised clouds. This benefit comes at a much higher monthly cost, so make sure to find the optimal balance between cost and capability. Don’t get caught out thinking more cloud capacity can make up for a shortfall in performance: look at factors such as SLAs and I/O per TB.
  • Does the application require traditional enterprise architecture and compliance? If so, a public cloud might not be suitable. For example, many public clouds don’t support comparable enterprise storage and system architectures as available within MSP-hosted or on-prem solutions. This is where a specialised MSP can add real value by delivering an enterprise architecture with an as-a-Service engagement model.

As with any aspect of ICT improvement, knowledge and planning are crucial, and the availability of a seasoned partner never hurts. Our Cloud 9 initiative will help you discover better ways to leverage the many cloud options for your business.

For more information on how we can help you with your cloud challenges and consideration reach out today. Request a cloud consultation session.

[1] https://www.rightscale.com/lp/state-of-the-cloud

Posted on September 26, 2017 in News

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