Going into 2019, it’s apparent that a major challenge facing IT leaders will be to bring the cost of cloud computing under control. While cloud computing in theory reduces the cost of IT, it turns out that the operational complexity of supporting multiple cloud computing platforms alongside existing on-premises IT environments has become quite expensive. IT leaders clearly need to bring some order to the cloud computing chaos.
A recent report from International Data Corp. (IDC) highlights the extent of the challenge. The survey finds that most customers (64 percent) are employing multiple clouds. But only 24 percent of IT organizations have a high degree of interoperability between their cloud environments, while another 40 percent say they have achieved low interoperability between their clouds. But only 7 percent say they have managed to build a true hybrid cloud through multiple IT environments that are managed via a single control plane. IT organizations that are trying to manage disparate IT environments in isolation from one another are going to incur higher operational costs.
A separate survey of 900 IT professionals conducted by Syncsort, a provider of data management software, suggests that less than a third (29 percent) of IT organizations have a centralized strategy and a center of excellence in place to proactively plan and manage applications to the cloud. A full 42 percent admit they migrate applications to the cloud on an ad-hoc basis.
Not surprisingly, 57 percent said management costs exceeded expectations, while 62 percent identified data and application migration costs as being a challenge.
Much of the initial focus has been on moving legacy applications to the cloud, which doesn’t always turn out the way many organizations anticipated, says Syncsort CTO Tendü Yoğurtçu.
“They lift and shift applications to the cloud,” says Yoğurtçu. “But costs are higher than expected.”
Cloud Fundamentals Still a Challenge
In fact, even after the initial rise of cloud computing a decade ago, organizations are still struggling with cloud computing fundamentals. A recent survey of 200 IT executives commissioned by Insights Enterprises, a provider of IT services, finds that 72 percent of respondents report determining which workloads should move to the cloud among their list of the four major hurdles to cloud implementation, nearly tied with the need for new tools to support and monitor cloud applications (70 percent), internal resistance to change (70 percent) and choosing cloud deployment models (69 percent).
Because of these issues, the survey finds that while three quarters of organizations (75 percent) have a “cloud-first” policy in place when it comes to new application workloads, only 45 percent have a cloud-only strategy. Another 30 percent say they have adopted a “cloud priority” strategy.
The simple fact of the matter is that given the costs involved, IT organizations need to prioritize what workloads they decide to deploy in the cloud, says Steve Zipperman, general manager for cloud consulting services for the cloud and data center transformation division of Insight Enterprises.
“It’s all about the workload,” says Zipperman. “Not every workload can be deployed in a private cloud.”
Cloud Transition Leans on DevOps, Plus Siloed Processes
Cloud computing also almost invariably requires IT organizations to modernize their internal processes. Many organizations, for example, are in the process of making the transition to adopting best DevOps practices. But much of that transition is occurring in isolated pockets within the organization, says Zipperman. It may take several more years for most organizations to have broadly embraced DevOps, adds Zipperman.
In general, the transition to the cloud remains a journey that various IT organizations are making at their own pace. The one thing that many of them have concluded, however, is that the ultimate destination is to not move every workload into the cloud, but rather distribute them across multiple cloud services and on-premises IT environments. A recent survey of 2,300 IT professionals published by Nutanix, a provider of hyperconverged infrastructure software and appliances, finds 91 percent of respondents identifying hybrid cloud as their ultimate ideal model for IT. The top reason for making that decision (97 percent) is a desire to move applications between clouds, the survey finds.
Having that level of flexibility is obviously key to keeping costs under control. IT organizations want to be able to play one cloud service provider off another. In fact, a whole category of tools for optimizing clouds has emerged over the last three years. Many of those tools are now being rolled up by larger vendors. For example, Apptio, a provider of IT cost management tools, just acquired FittedCloud, a provider of cloud optimization software based on machine learning algorithms that complements the company’s existing tools for analyzing IT costs in on-premises IT environments, says Apptio CEO Sunny Gupta. Most IT organizations are trying to strike a delicate balance between operating and capital expenses over the lifecycle of an application workload, notes Gupta.
“IT organizations want to be able to right size workloads in real time,” says Gupta.
Cloud Vendors Target Hybrid Strategies
The fact that enterprise IT is becoming defined by hybrid cloud computing is obviously not lost on IT vendors. One of the primary reasons IBM is plunking down $34 billion to acquire Red Hat is to drive a hybrid cloud computing strategy. Even Amazon Web Services (AWS) recognizes the inevitability of hybrid clouds. At the AWS re:Invent 2018 conference, AWS revealed that next year it will deliver IT infrastructure for on-premises IT environments that it will manage as an extension of its cloud services. That move follows an initiative by Google to extend the reach of its cloud services by deploying instances of Kubernetes on instances of VMware running in an on-premises IT environment. Microsoft, meanwhile, has been making a case for running instances of Azure in the cloud and on-premises for several years now.
Of course, the one vendor that has the most to win or lose in the transition to the hybrid cloud is VMware and, by extension, its parent company Dell Technologies. VMware and the various sister companies that make up Dell Technologies have been making a case for extending the reach of the VMware management plane into multiple public clouds. As a dominant provider of such frameworks in on-premises IT environments, that approach to hybrid cloud computing eliminates the need for IT organizations to deploy and master multiple control planes, says Matt Baker, senior vice president for strategy and planning at Dell EMC.
“IT organizations are looking for ways to rationalize the management of multiple clouds,” says Baker. “All the cloud savings are being eaten up by increased operational costs.”
Achieving that goal by extending VMware is not as challenging as it once seemed as VMware continues to extend its relationships with cloud service providers such as AWS, Google and IBM, adds Baker.
Regardless of the path chosen, it’s already apparent that most IT organizations in the months ahead will be moving down a path toward hybrid cloud computing. The only real unknown at this point is just how bumpy that journey will really be.