Tech watch: all aboard the public Cloud

Tech watch: all aboard the public Cloud

The public Cloud has long been touted as a transformational technology for business, but has the industry itself bought into the hype?

At Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) Re:Invent conference in Las Vegas last year, senior vice-president, Andy Jassy, made the observation that, “if you’re not planning on using the public Cloud in some significant fashion, you will be at a significant competitive disadvantage.” Jassy was probably speaking to the converted, as the conference was attended by AWS partners already invested in the Cloud. Even so, his prediction highlighted the growing influence the Cloud has in today’s IT landscape.

As for whether Jassy’s statement rings true, Brennan IT Cloud and infrastructure services director, Nicholas Hollings, said the public Cloud should be a consideration in any IT strategy. At the same time, he said the workload to be deployed should suit the benefits provided in a public Cloud. “Not all workloads are created equal, and not all businesses require infinite scalability,” he said.

That is why Hollings suggests looking at the applications and their use before making the jump to the Cloud. “You will find some are best deployed on site, some work well in a hosting partner, and others are suited to a public Cloud deployment,” he said.

Hollings adds the public Cloud should not be equated as the only solution to business challenges, as there is no “golden hammer”.

Rackspace A/NZ general manager, Angus Dorney, said the public Cloud is well suited for many different applications and workloads. Even so, he recommends it only forms one part of an enterprise architecture strategy. “Public cloud, in and of itself, is not a one-size-fits-all solution to a business’ challenges,” he said. “The focus should be on creating the right architecture to support the application and the evolution of that application over time.”

Dorney explains certain applications and workloads perform better, from both a performance and cost perspective, in a private Cloud environment. Every business also has different needs. “The focus of every CIO should be to create an efficient and sustainable environment for that business’ applications and workloads,” Dorney said.  In some cases the best approach may be a hybrid one, as it brings capabilities beyond the pure public Cloud and allows businesses to “find the right combination of resources that works for them.”

The benefits of the public Cloud are well publicised, though Verizon Asia-Pacific enterprise solutions IT consulting head, Lee Field, said they are not always easy to achieve. In fact, he has seen most enterprises struggle to get to the economies of scale enjoyed by public Cloud service providers. “This, combined with the flexibility available from Cloud service providers, can provide that competitive advantage,” Field said.

Field said it is important for applications to be architected correctly to make use of this flexibility in the Cloud. “It is uncommon for a forklift like migration to provide significant improvement from operating an in-house deployed application,” he said. “Re-architecting or developing for the public Cloud can allow maximisation of the benefits of public Cloud.”

Numerous benefits

The public Cloud has so far enjoyed a strong uptake by businesses. Citrix A/NZ Cloud platform group senior manager, David Manu, attributes the popularity to the “unique set of business benefits” it provides. “For public Cloud, this means the ability to rapidly deploy, and increased scalability and flexibility, making it the ideal choice for businesses looking to dynamically react to changing market conditions,” he said.

Manu is also seeing the “fail-fast” culture of public Cloud driving innovation among businesses. He said it is due to the lower costs and risk involved. “For example, organisations can use public Cloud to rapidly develop and test business applications, and then close the environment once complete, rather than building a dedicated infrastructure in private Clouds,” he said.

When it comes to the most noticeable benefit of public over private Cloud, Netgear product marketing senior manager, Matt Pahnke, narrows it down to costs. “It is always going to be less expensive to rent somebody else’s infrastructure than buy and build your own,” he said. Typically a single payment will cover the rent of the space, as well as professional customer service throughout the entire service level agreement (SLA).

Another benefit is somebody else will be responsible for managing the IT so a dedicated IT team isn’t needed. This, Pahnke said is “very appealing” to smaller businesses. “There is also the added bonus of having piece of mind that professionals are managing your data,” he said. “If a problem was to occur, the necessary resources are available to address the issue.”

Time to market is a key benefit Concur Australia SMB managing director, Matthew Goss, attributes to the public Cloud. “When a company works with a vendor who has a large and diverse ecosystem of technology partners, they are able to implement best-of-breed solutions that have the capabilities to solve a range of business needs in minimal time,” he said.

As an example, Goss points to how CRM has been integrated with travel and expense management, which in turn integrates with a HR system.

The benefit over using point solutions is insights into the cost of sales, potential risk management and potentially much more. While Goss said a private Cloud version of the same solution is possible, it would consist of “reinventing a well-oiled wheel.” “One without the in-built scalability that is present in the public Cloud version,” he said.

Challenges remain

The public Cloud may stand out for its benefits, but it also comes with some challenges that stop it from becoming the be all and end all solution for certain businesses. Western Digital business storage solutions product marketing director, Jim Gregg, points to how public Cloud services are accessed via a monthly subscription basis depending on the amount of storage required. “As a business grows and their storage needs increase, these fees can become prohibitively expensive,” he said.

Gregg said private Cloud solutions that come with a onetime capital expense can instead be less expense than public Cloud subscription fees over time. Private Cloud infrastructure also benefits from being installed in a secure location that is not accessible by the public. “This added security gives businesses peace of mind, and is especially important for industries that are concerned about data protection such as healthcare and financial services,” he said.

CA Technologies A/NZ partners senior director, Carl Terrantroy, said concerns around privacy of data with public Cloud continue to linger. At the same time, he said these fears are “largely unfounded,” as public Clouds have robust systems and processes in place. “It’s also worth considering that public Clouds are not necessarily cheaper, which can be a common misconception,” Terrantroy said.

There may be some difficulties in swapping between Clouds, and Terrantroy confirmed it is not as easy as it seems. To illustrate his point, he points to how the nuances of iOS and Android can make a migration from one platform tricky. “Public Clouds all have the same infrastructure, and even perhaps the same software underpinning it, but they all behave differently,” Terrantroy said.

Relinquishing complete control over critical assets such as IP or data remains an obstacle for many businesses. NetApp A/NZ Cloud business development manager, Mathew Zele, said hybrid solutions are already helping to address and alleviate this issue.

One way organisations are eased into the transition is by having their storage devices directly connected to public Clouds such as AWS.

Zele also points out that not all applications are designed for the public Cloud. “To make these applications Cloud-ready often involves considerable costs associated with engineering efforts,” he said. “You need to have a full understanding of your costs and ensure that the investments made in moving an application to the cloud make sense.”

Following the leader

With AWS’ Jassy’s urging of businesses to get onto the public Cloud, it is clear he sees a significant momentum behind the platform. Key in maintaining that moment will be partners and resellers, who in turn can benefit from the opportunities around the Cloud. Jassy may have highlighted the public Cloud at Re:Invent, but there are opportunities with the private Cloud as well.

VMware A/NZ channel sales director, John Donovan, has seen a growth in application modernisation services. This consists of moving workloads to more cost-effective and less siloed. “The opportunity in reselling more robust Cloud services provides partners with the ability to augment their capabilities with reliable and proven offerings that are complementary,” Donovan said.

Donovan also highlights the intellectual property that exists between partners and their customers. “There is a tremendous benefit in the partner maintaining the role of the ‘trusted advisor’, particularly when architecting what a hybrid Cloud path might look like,” he said. “After all, who is better qualified to build the pathway, than the partner who architected the original IT infrastructure?”

CommVault A/NZ channels and alliances director, Justin Cooper, said the Cloud is not a one size fits all solution. As a result, partners are needed to tailor the Cloud from one client to the other. “The real benefits of Cloud are achieved when a company looks at its long term data strategy, and matches this to its current information management policies,” he said.

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Cooper added that policies and capabilities change over time. When they do, the need for flexible Cloud solutions becomes an “imperative”.

“Our view of ‘all things data’ enables customers to look at their data management strategy without the limitations of an infrastructure vendors approach to Cloud solutions,” he said.

IBM A/NZ Cloud computing executive, Dean Evans, said it can be challenging to find which kind of Cloud is the right fit for different customers. Resellers can capitalise on this by partnering with a Cloud provider that offers a “breadth and depth” of Cloud services.

“This includes public, private, and hybrid Cloud solutions with a swathe of options such as Infrastructure as a Service and Platform as a Service,” Evans said.

Regardless of size, Evans said there are benefits in partnering with a Cloud provider that has a strong and reputable brand. Technical expertise and experience in managing different Cloud environments should also be important criteria for resellers when partnering with a provider. “Finding the right partner can not only offer cost-benefits, but it also allows resellers to offer better services to customers,” Evans said.

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Tags cloud computingVMwareCitrixnetgearBrennan ITcommvaultverizonAmazon Web Servicespublic cloudrackspaceCA TechnologiesConcur Australia

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