As an IT manager, there’s never been more pressure to succeed. Your CTO is telling you to migrate data to the public cloud. The CIO or CSO is asking you to protect and secure that data. Your business managers want to build cloud-native applications. There’s one more critical variable: your customers. They’ve gone digital, and now they’re going mobile, which adds another layer of decision making.
Data has arguably become an enterprise’s most valuable asset, and with good reason: It can be lucrative. One of my favorite examples of data in action is the McLaren Formula 1. (My company is their official technology partner.) Like most F1 programs today, McLaren uses data to optimize its chances of winning. Each car leverages 300 sensors. AI algorithms then analyze the data to provide insights. Another Formula 1 team that uses data is Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, which plans to use Snowflake’s cloud-built data warehouse to obtain data in real time. It would be very difficult for a team to compete without this kind of technology, which is why it’s spread like wildfire in the F1 community.
Innovation is happening in virtually every industry. As the senior vice president and CTO of a company that provides multicloud solutions, I know architecting an IT infrastructure to maximize data’s value takes a great deal of strategy. Companies are increasingly finding the solution in a finely tuned hybrid multicloud approach versus entirely in the public cloud or on-premises alone. Here’s why — and how to optimize it.
Acknowledge That Public Cloud Has Strengths And Challenges
There was a time when it seemed like everything would move to the public cloud. After all, it’s flexible, scalable, easy to spin up or down and easy to access from anywhere. However, public cloud also has challenging attributes, especially for data-centric use cases:
1. Economics: I equate cloud hosting with the “apartment rental versus purchase” decision. Renting can be cheaper in the short term, but you incur a premium for that flexibility. The same is true with the cloud. The ease of renting space in the cloud can create sprawl and costs — it’s not uncommon to get sticker shock when the monthly cloud bill arrives for the “low-cost” rental.
2. Lock-in: Data has gravity. Once you store your data with a certain public cloud provider, it can be expensive and time consuming to switch. Moving even a petabyte can take time.
3. Proximity: Increasingly, companies need to process data near its source; otherwise, latency can impact results. In today’s world, milliseconds become significant. Where latency is less impactful, the public cloud can be ideal.
4. Limitations: In today’s IT landscape, architecture matters — there’s no single solution for every workload and application. Some applications require very high performance; some require low-cost deep storage. Imaging-intensive workloads may require multiple graphic processing units, and others may require mission-critical availability. To address those needs, you may need multiple solutions, which could result in added complexity and cost.
5. Governance and security: It’s very difficult in the public cloud to know exactly where all your data is and to maintain control. With the transition to the public cloud and each vendor’s shared responsibility model, governance and ownership create numerous challenges.
Choose The Right Approach
The public cloud has many benefits, and I believe it is part of a winning strategy for modern IT. But data’s explosive growth isn’t a “big bang” — it tends to be cyclical. Planning for the peaks, especially with long procurement cycles, can lead to massive cash outlays and low utilization of infrastructure. The approach that many companies are finding works best is a hybrid multicloud, which leverages a combination of on-premises and public cloud offerings from multiple vendors that are all connected with a common operating model. Establishing commonality across multiple public cloud vendors is critical; otherwise, operational costs can overcome the savings.
But what do you store in each location? Designing your hybrid multicloud strategy requires the same approach as any IT infrastructure: You want to use the right tool for the job. Here’s how:
• Mission-critical apps (e.g., financial trading or patient care): Keep these on-premises to eliminate lock-in to any single cloud provider and offer flexibility in the event of an outage or a change in future needs. In many IT environments, you’ll spend the same resources in time, energy and costs to meet your service-level agreements (SLAs) in the public cloud as you would for on-premises applications.
• Apps that need elasticity: In almost all other cases, I recommend having applications straddle on-premises and the cloud. For example, you can test and develop in the public cloud but tackle production on-premises. You can conduct real-time analysis at the edge but historical analysis on-premises or in the public cloud. And you can keep your primary storage on-premises but your backup and disaster recovery in the public cloud.
• Data clouds: Given the challenge of data gravity, there is an emerging design pattern I call “data clouds” wherein the data is in a separate cloud that is accessible to the public clouds for computing infrastructure and services (e.g., analytics tools) in the various public clouds, but you don’t need to copy or move the data into each of them.
Choose A Strategic IT Partner And Make The Move
Moving to a hybrid multicloud infrastructure is tricky. To ensure success, I recommend looking for providers who:
• Have a full cloud stack and common management across best-of-breed, on-premises infrastructure and public cloud resources.
• Have a solid hybrid multicloud strategy (i.e., one that provides a common operational framework across on- and off-premises resources).
• Have a “data cloud” strategy for making cloud storage easy and secure.
The journey to hybrid multicloud can be challenging, but I believe it’s increasingly critical to success. To establish a winning multicloud strategy, you should establish consistency across clouds so your stakeholders don’t have to make tough tradeoffs and can leverage the best environment that meets their requirements today and beyond.