Tread Carefully into the Mission-Critical Cloud

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    In the Cloud or on the Golf Course, Hazards Can Be Devastating

    The initial phase of the cloud transition is nearly done, with more than three-quarters of enterprises pushing at least a portion of their workload to public infrastructure.

    As expected, however, most of this is non-critical data and applications and is largely limited to storage and backup services rather than production workloads. So it stands to reason that the next leg of the cloud journey will involve mission-critical workloads – the stuff that sets the corporate suite’s hair on fire if it should cease to function for any reason.

    This is why the growth of cloud computing is likely to slow down some as we approach the next decade. It’s not that the enterprise is growing tired of the cloud or is starting to see more of its flaws (yes, the cloud does have flaws), but that future deployments will have to be handled with more care as the stakes get higher. Not only will cloud services have to be more resilient going forward, but they will be increasingly optimized from the ground up to suit highly targeted processes, which takes time and coordination between users and providers.

    According to a recent survey by Veritas Technologies, cloud-based business-critical workloads are on pace to double in the next two years, which is roughly equal to the non-critical growth of the past few years. At the moment, about 38 percent of the average enterprise workload resides in private cloud infrastructure while 28 percent sits on the public cloud, but that ratio is likely to change in the coming year as private deployments rise by 7 percent compared to 18 percent for public. Surprisingly, most public cloud users cite security as a key driver in high satisfaction levels, lending credence to the idea that lingering concerns over data vulnerability will ease as experience with cloud architectures increases.

    Building a cloud environment is quite different from building silo-based infrastructure on-premises, even if it is aimed at storage only, says SanDisk’s Gary Lyng. In the first place, the growing diversity of workloads requires a highly versatile approach to random I/O and data throughput conditions. At the same time, it will need to support the continuous development/continuous integration (CD/CI) workflows of emerging DevOps architectural models, as well as an increasingly user-driven performance ethos that is highly intolerant of latency and unpredictability. And of course, the cloud will have to be highly scalable, albeit on a disaggregated footing so storage, compute and networking can be adjusted independently of one another.

    And while at first much of the mission-critical workload will simply be migrated in its present form to the cloud, in a very short time these will evolve into or be replaced by cloud-native services that are better suited to the newly digitized business processes that are crucial to survival in the app-driven economy. As NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson noted to Networks Asia recently, the disruption caused by this “digital transformation” will affect everything from basic infrastructure to longstanding business models, which means that, for the time being, organizations will have to maintain traditional product-oriented processes, emerging digital processes and various combinations of the two. This is certainly easier in the cloud than in traditional IT infrastructure, but it is by no means a slam dunk. In the very near future, organizations are going to have to figure out how virtually all of their existing processes will coexist within this dynamic and extremely fast-based business environment.

    A mission-critical cloud, then, will be unavoidable for most enterprises, but that does not mean the free-wheeling, self-service deployment strategies of today will continue unabated. The executive suite is now fully aware of the cloud’s potential and is quickly coming to grips with the risks, so in the future we should expect a more careful, measured and strategic approach when migrating workloads beyond the firewall.

    Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.

    Arthur Cole
    Arthur Cole
    With more than 20 years of experience in technology journalism, Arthur has written on the rise of everything from the first digital video editing platforms to virtualization, advanced cloud architectures and the Internet of Things. He is a regular contributor to IT Business Edge and Enterprise Networking Planet and provides blog posts and other web content to numerous company web sites in the high-tech and data communications industries.

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