Go global, but stay local when it counts

Public clouds dominate the tech landscape, but local clouds still do important work

Public cloud platforms are gobbling up a major slice of action in the cloud. But local clouds still do plenty of good work – even as business and public sector organisations get more comfortable with taking their workloads offshore.

If data sovereignty isn’t the barrier to public cloud it once was, what’s keeping local clouds and data centres busy? Turns out IT managers are asking, sensibly: why migrate infrastructure to a public cloud platform when it already runs on a local platform packing similar features at similar prices? It’s a sideways move. Never mind the risk, expense, and hassle that comes with migration. And have you tried Google’s 0800 help line lately? I thought so.

Then there’s the issue of proximity – if all your customers are in New Zealand, then doesn’t it make better sense keep your data and applications close to your markets and the people you serve? It’s for this reason some hospitals keep critical patient applications on site – so no matter what happens, hospital staff always have access to critical patient information.

And that’s the thing – if local IaaS (and for that matter, cloud services further up the stack) wasn’t fit for purpose, our data centres would have emptied years ago. Even government clients would have flown the coup, taking advantage of the door opened by Government’s Cloud First policy permitting, in-principle, the use of offshore cloud services for data classified up to and including restricted – amounting to approximately 99 per cent of all NZ government data.

Nevertheless, the future is hybrid – so you’ve got to have feet in both camps

We’ve staked our future on hybrid cloud, developing what we call CloudCreator – a multi-cloud management dashboard and services suite – which we’ve been quietly improving over the last two-plus years, adding smart tools and pathways to ensure our clients get the best from the cloud/s.

Some of you may have noticed the ‘by CloudCreator’ tagline that attaches to the names of services in our growing hybrid cloud portfolio. Of these, Azure Stack by CloudCreator is perhaps best known in the market. The pairing identifies the service and the management intelligence and public cloud options that come standard with CloudCreator.

Keep cloud simple

CloudCreator is all about keeping things simple, as clients adopt new platforms and add new layers of complexity. Things like security, identity, utilisation, expenditure, and optimisation get trickier when there’s more to watch (that’s why we employ so many engineers). And everything in the cloud must be viewed as a single system to remain ‘watchable’.

At a strategic level, CloudCreator takes IP from our engineers and embeds it in dashboards, providing clients with the right set of eyes and decision cues to better align cloud workloads with their business. Ultimately, the system will be smart enough to make real-time recommendations, advising clients where they should manage their workloads at any given time.

Much like how virtualisation made hardware irrelevant, orchestration layers like CloudCreator raise cloud services to units of management in which users define their requirements, such as SLAs and application frameworks, leaving automation to wrangle commodity infrastructure and platforms. When storage and VMs are managed as virtual units, they don’t bear close examination, just as plumbing and electrical wires don’t get much scrutiny from homeowners.

The real conversation

A well-rounded cloud strategy is a natural follow-on from virtualisation. Businesses are in the best possible position to plug in hybrid cloud services when they’ve pooled computing resources, virtualised operating systems, floated applications and solved bottlenecks. In any case, business is moving that way because it is a more efficient way to run IT.

Debating the merits of onshore and offshore IaaS is largely pointless because IaaS doesn’t change the architecture of the application – it simply deals with hardware and data centre dependencies.

The real conversation is: what’s next? How are you going to transform workloads and gear up to take advantage of new technologies, things like machine learning, data analytics, expanding the usefulness of big data, and on-boarding new applications?

For example, many of our government clients are making their services more available to citizens – that means across the internet and mobile devices. They’re having to standardise and right-size their infrastructure as services, and then programmatically rebuild front-end applications for cloud platforms. To do the job they need feet in both public and private clouds.

Back to the future

Hybrid cloud might provide all the answers, but the path to successful adoption is long and winding. Old thinking still applies – just what are the expected benefits? How is the delivery model better than the status quo?

A cloud is simply an easy, and possibly cheaper, way to connect to things you need. They must also protect and guarantee outcomes – and that means businesses require better controls to fine-tune performance and manage users, budgets, seasons, and devices. Simple cloud aggregation isn’t enough.

While many cloud providers are good at utility management, clients value control and look to self-service tools to match the requirements of specific applications with the right cloud environments. They want dashboard controls to monitor different workloads, how they’re performing, and make changes to meet fluctuating application demands and take advantage of services at more favourable prices.

There are a lot of moving parts, and workloads managed in the hybrid cloud must also link hands with other IT systems. When links break, or something is changed that interferes with the exchange data between these systems, the wheels fall off and business grinds to a halt. There’s a lot at stake, and for these reasons local cloud providers will continue to play an influential role, providing clients with an expert backstop should things go wrong.

So, while businesses increasingly embrace public cloud platforms, they’ll look to local providers who offer the tools and control mechanisms that plug them into both local and public cloud services and make buying and managing everything quick and easy.

date_range 27 September 2018