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Choosing the optimum cloud for your business

Tue 10 Dec 2019 | Stephan Fabel

Balancing public and private cloud options within a multi-cloud deployment is proving a winning tactic

In recent times, cloud platforms have rightly taken their seat at the forefront of mainstream IT plans, alongside on-premise servers.

Cloud’s ability to enhance business agility, deliver cost savings, open new streams of revenue, improve application performance and unlock routes to leverage emerging technologies is widely acknowledged.

As a result, businesses have adopted cloud in their droves. Yet while the technology is thriving, the sheer myriad of choices available can make it a daunting task for IT managers when looking to find a cloud platform which meets their specific organisational needs.

With an increasing need to demonstrate ROI and an optimised business efficiency through technological investment, it is absolutely imperative that this decision is the right one.

The multi-cloud movement

A typical multi-cloud environment is comprised of one private cloud, which is either operated by the business or managed by a third party, and at least two public clouds.

This environment drives a number of advantages for organisations, not least by eliminating the need to rely on a single cloud vendor – which can be both expensive and unreliable.

With competition intense between cloud providers, businesses are spoilt for choice in terms of platforms from both a technical and cost perspective, while even better ROI can be achieved by spinning multi-cloud resources up or down to meet business requirements.

Naturally, the various different cloud vendors specialise and innovate in slightly different areas, which also gives organisations the opportunity to leverage multi-cloud in order to exploit new developments as soon as they become available.

With the ability to ‘fail fast’ – intensively test and incrementally develop new services – multi-cloud can also support businesses in rapidly rolling new services out to customers to stay at the forefront of innovation, and ahead of the competition.

Such a strategy also offers robustness and reliability to application services. Should the primary cloud fail, another cloud can act as a failsafe, providing the flexibility to negate any detrimental impact caused by the downtime of the first platform.

This robustness makes multi-cloud particularly popular within sectors such as finance, where organisations operate services which cannot afford to suffer such downtime.

Adopting more than one cloud vendor also helps to retain an infrastructure which can meet the oft-shifting demands of regulators. Data protection laws, for example, may stipulate that an organisation must retain data in certain geographies for data sovereignty. With a multi-cloud architecture, a business can flexibly select services and providers originating in different datacenter regions and availability zones.

Beyond meeting any such regulatory requirements, the range of public cloud services on offer – from bare-metal servers to serverless computing, among others – is dynamic and impressive.

Public cloud providers are constantly updating the services they offer, and this allows organisations to transition to more advanced workloads without having to buy, install and operate more of their own infrastructure.

Where does hybrid cloud fit?

While these benefits are driving a surge in multi-cloud popularity, this should not detract from the values of hybrid cloud, its close relative.

Such deployments, while similar to multi-cloud, use a combination of on-premise servers, private cloud and public cloud, with tight operational coupling between the platforms.

This proves useful when managing changeable or dynamic workflows – for example allowing an organisation to run workloads internally, with the malleability to then ‘burst’ them into the public cloud should compute demand increase.

An example of this would be a transactional order entry system used by retailers, which experiences an increase in demand around events like Christmas or Black Friday. Less critical resources – such as development workloads – can be hosted by a third-party cloud provider, while mission-critical workloads can be managed in the private cloud.

This approach also allows companies to run workloads in a more cost-effective way by assessing on a case-by-case basis which workloads can be assigned to a less expensive cloud.

An organisation can turn to the on-demand and almost unlimited capacity of a public cloud for the majority of its operations, while then paying for a smaller private cloud where necessary. This could be to take advantage of serverless computing services for compute-intensive operations, or for workloads which require the added security of private cloud.

It’s not all plain sailing, however, and one area which may cause difficulties when it comes to a hybrid cloud strategy is the interaction between private clouds and public cloud providers, which demands API compatibility and excellent network connectivity.

Such issues can potentially be overcome by developing hybrid cloud workflows which can work with multiple cloud providers – but this involves heavy-duty workload design, testing and refinement. This additional complexity also raises challenges when it comes to monitoring hybrid cloud deployments.

Hybrid cloud differs to the best-of-breed element of multi-cloud, where different clouds aren’t necessarily dependent on orchestration between one another, but are instead deployed in a way which allows organisations to run applications in their most optimal environment.

Take back control

Legacy on-premise servers are resources which are deployed within a company’s IT infrastructure. Responsibility for maintaining the server, its cost, power consumption and all related processes, lies with the organisation.

Within such an environment, the enterprise retains all its data and remains in full control of what happens to it. This is beneficial when operating within a highly-regulated area, such as banking or government, where a certain level of security and privacy is a necessity – which on-premise delivers.

However, on-premise servers create high levels of cost due to hardware maintenance, software updates, and power usage. They can also hinder growth, making them far from ideal for start-ups or indeed any business targeting growth, particularly as they cannot be scaled as flexibly, to demand, and in a cost-effective manner, in the same way public cloud platforms can.

Growth is always a challenge for any business, not least while trying to maintain flexibility and cost efficiencies, adopt reliable platforms, and meet the demands of a dynamic regulatory environment. Cloud technology, though, can prove instrumental in helping an organisation to achieve such a tricky balancing act.

With a multi-cloud approach, businesses can innovate freely without the constraints of vendor lock-in, meet the evolving needs of their customers, and ultimately maximise their investment. From both a business agility and cost-efficiency perspective, achieving a balance of public and private cloud options within a multi-cloud deployment is proving to be the winning tactic, helping organisations to maintain growth and a competitive edge.

Experts featured:

Stephan Fabel

Director of Product
Canonical

Tags:

hybrid cloud multi-cloud strategy
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