Business are finally adopting public cloud because a large and rapidly growing catalog of services is now available from multiple cloud providers. These two factors have many implications for businesses. This article addresses four of these implications plus several cloud-specific risks.
Implication #1: No enterprise IT dept will be able to keep pace with the level of services innovation available from cloud providers
The battle is over. Cloud wins. Deal with it.
Dealing with it does not necessarily mean that every business will move every workload to the cloud. It does mean that it is time for business IT departments to build awareness of the services available from public cloud providers. One way to do this is to tap into the flow of service updates from one or more of the major cloud providers.
For Amazon Web Services, I like What’s New with AWS. Easy filtering by service category is combined with sections for featured announcements, featured video announcements, and one-line listings of the most recent announcements from AWS. The one-line listings include links to service descriptions and to longer form articles on the AWS blog.
For Microsoft Azure, I like Azure Updates. As its subtitle says, “One place. All updates.” The Azure Updates site provides easy filtering by product, update type and platform. I especially like the ability to filter by update type for General Availability and for Preview. The site also includes links to the Azure roadmap, blog and other resources. This site is comprehensive without being overwhelming.
For Google Cloud Platform, its blog may be the best place to start. The view can be filtered by label, including by announcements. This site is less functional than the AWS and Microsoft Azure resources cited above.
For IBM Cloud, the primary announcements resource is What’s new with IBM Cloud. Announcements are presented as one-line listings with links to full articles.
Visit these sites, subscribe to their RSS feeds, or follow them via social media platforms. Alternatively, subscribe to their weekly or monthly newsletters via email. Once a business has workloads running in one of the public clouds at a minimum an IT staff member should follow the updates site.
Implication #2: Pressure will mount on Enterprise IT to connect business data to public cloud services
The benefits of bringing public cloud services to bear on the organization’s data will create pressure on enterprise IT departments to connect business data to those services. There are many options for accomplishing this objective, including:
- All-in with one public cloud
- Hybrid: on-prem plus one public
- Hybrid: on-prem plus multiple public
- Multi-cloud (e.g. AWS + Azure)
The design of the organization and the priorities of the business should drive the approach taken to connect business data with cloud services.
Implication #3: Standard data protection requirements now extend to data and workloads in the public cloud
No matter what approach it taken when embracing the public cloud, standard data protection requirements extend to data and workloads in the cloud. Address these requirements up front. Explore alternative solutions and select one that meets the organizations data protection requirements.
Implication #4: Cloud Data Protection and DRaaS are on-ramps to public cloud adoption
For most organizations the transition to the cloud will be a multi-phased process. Data protection solutions that can send backup data to the cloud are a logical early phase. Disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) offerings represent another relatively low-risk path to the cloud that may be more robust and/or lower cost that existing disaster recovery setups. These solutions move business data into public cloud repositories. As such, cloud data protection and DRaaS may be considered on-ramps to public cloud adoption.
Once corporate data has been backed up or replicated to the cloud, tools are available to extract and transform the data into formats that make it available for use/analysis by that cloud provider’s services. With proper attention, this can all be accomplished in ways that comply with security and data governance requirements. Nevertheless, there are risks to be addressed.
Risk to Address #1: Loss of change control
The benefit of rapid innovation has a downside. Any specific service may be upgraded or discarded by the provider without much notice. Features used by a business may be enhanced or decremented. This can force changes in other software that integrates with the service or in procedures used by staff and the associated documentation for those procedures.
For example, Office365 and Google G Suite features can change without much notice. This creates a “Where did that menu option go?” experience for end users. Some providers reduce this pain by providing an quick tutorial for new features within the application itself. Others provide online learning centers that make new feature tutorials easy to discover.
Accept this risk as an unavoidable downside to rapid innovation. Where possible, manage the timing of these releases to an organization’s users, giving them advance notice of the changes along with access to tutorials.
Risk to Address #2: Dropped by provider
A risk that may not be obvious to many business leaders is that of being dropped by a cloud service provider. A business with unpopular opinions might have services revoked, sometimes with little notice. Consider how quickly the movement to boycott the NRA resulted in severed business-to-business relationships. Even an organization as large as the US Military faces this risk. As was highlighted in recent news, Google will not renew its military AI project due in large part to pressure from Google employees.
Mitigate this risk through contracts and architecture. This is perhaps one argument in favor of a hybrid on-prem plus cloud approach to the public cloud versus an all-in approach.
Risk to Address #3: Unpredictable costs
It can be difficult to predict the costs of running workloads in the public cloud, and these costs can change rapidly. Address this risk by setting cost thresholds that trigger an alert. Consider subscribing to a service such as Nutanix Beam to gain granular visibility into and optimization of public cloud costs.
Its time to get real about the public cloud
Many business are ready to embrace the public cloud. IT departments should make themselves aware of services that may create value for their business. They should also work through the implications of moving corporate data and workloads to the cloud, and make plans for managing the attendant risks.