Cloud – The state of “ing”

state of go- “ing” to the cloud

Not a typo…I didn’t mean “zen” and it’s not a relaxing place.  “ing” is where most companies seem to be these days; from the small and mid-size all the way up to the large enterprise, everyone is in the state of go- “ing” to the cloud.  Few have “gone.”  Most who say they have “gone” haven’t, at least not fully, as their use of word “gone” would imply.  But have no doubt, this trend isn’t “fake news”.  In general, the IT department is moving in a direction that includes some mix of mission-critical applications living in one of three connected places, a triangle if you will: large hyperscalers like Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure, Software as a Service (SaaS) providers for everything from email and CRM to industry-specific applications, and finally, a healthy dose of on premises.

 

This state of “ing” will likely occupy the industry for some time to come and the process represents a significant opportunity for service providers as the various industry verticals traverse the journey of evaluation, migration and operation.  Here are the major challenges:

 

  1. Data Delivery, Management and Protection

 

Most migration to, and operation in, what we would call the cloud is really done courtesy of Software as a Service, or SaaS.  Take mail for example.  We encounter very few on premises instances of email in the SMB.  Most are on Microsoft 365 with enough Google in the mix to keep things interesting.  Additionally, functions like CRM and the tools to manage HR, Payroll, and benefits, are now delivered by mature SaaS offerings like Salesforce and other providers.  As SaaS matures vertical solutions emerge.  Take the association market for instance, Association Management Systems, frequently referred to as AMS, that handle the bulk of day to day operations for associations, are now commonplace.  Reggie Henry, CIO of the American Society of Association Executives, estimates that the combination of hosted email and office applications has addressed the needs of nearly 80% of the Association market vertical.

 

  1. Day to Day Operational Costs

 

They say it’s the fine print that will get’cha and nowhere is this more true than in the cloud.  Monthly compute and storage may look cheap but in reality that is only a portion of your monthly costs.  Does your premises-based application make API calls to your cloud instance?  There’s a cost for that.  Need to architect solutions to take advantage of geographic or nodal separation?  Additional costs there.  Want to pull a lot of data out of the cloud?  That gets really expensive.

 

  1. Data Governance

 

The application of legacy tools and methodologies in the cloud has been anything but straightforward.  The tools that enable data governance pre-date the three major drivers in today’s IT landscape:  virtualization, horizontal infrastructure scalability, and the emergence of hyperscale cloud.  We are left with two glaring gaps.  First, what if your application landscapes are too complex or haven’t been addressed by SaaS?  Second, how do you plan to protect your data when it’s somewhere else?  Interestingly, the second challenge is somewhat created by the first.  What holds most applications back from moving to cloud?  Typically, corporate governance or industry regulation are most often cited as reasons for remaining on premises.  Without strong data governance data mobility will always be hampered.

How to improve governance?  It starts with a level and visible playing field.  From a data perspective we would call that the “data plane”.  Data will live where it best serves the needs of the business and because these platforms aren’t always single instance different applications can and will run in various/multiple locations.  Think flex capacity for increased demand – seasonal business cycles, new product releases, etc.  Additionally, things break so resiliency must be engineered into the various platforms.  Different business functions have different tolerances for risk, downtime, and failure.  A method of disaster recovery, governed by Recovery Point and Time Objectives (RTO/RPO), must be in place.

Good governance, which leads to improved assurance, begins with a common platform that supports the functions outlined above.  Tools that effectively “manage the data plane” are necessary.  Governance starts with a global view.  Which means having visibility, searchability, and granular recoverability (think file, row or object level) for your data regardless of where it resides.  Resiliency increases when you have a fully integrated method to enable controlled data mobility between the various locations – primary, secondary, failover, disaster recovery, etc.  Once you can both “see” and “move” your data with a single, integrated capability, you begin to remove barriers that previously limited the enterprise’ ability to extract maximum economic value from various platforms without introducing unacceptable levels of risk.

 

In the ‘70s, Scott McKenzie suggested that if you were “going to San Francisco” you should make sure to “wear some flowers in your hair.”  What should you bring on your journey to the cloud?  And more importantly, how are you going to get there?  We founded Assured Data Protection for two reasons:  First, an early exposure to Bipul Sinha, Rubrik’s founder and CEO, and his vision of management of the data plane.  Second, an unwavering conviction that technology alone doesn’t solve business problems.  Technology provides the essential tools to advance capabilities, but it’s the thoughtful application and continuous improvement that results from the unglamorous toil of day to day operations that really enables enterprises to move forward.  Regardless of how much any individual organization relies on it’s supporting service providers, it’s the application of those principles that ultimately enable success.