Clouds Vie for Critical Workloads

    It seems that cloud providers are no longer fooling around when it comes to getting enterprise workloads. With new migration packages and services optimized for mission-critical data and applications, CSPs large and small are eager for your business.

    The question for most enterprises, however, is whether to stick with the hyperscale providers like Amazon and Microsoft, or go with a not-so-large firm that may have a bit more flexibility when it comes to matching infrastructure with customized user needs.

    Skytap, for one, is hoping that the one-size-fits-all approach will not be enough for most enterprises as they embrace crucial service offerings like Big Data and the IoT. CEO Thor Culverhouse argues that the cloud giants are overlooking key market segments like the legions of mission-critical apps that are stuck on legacy systems but will have to move to hybrid infrastructure in order to keep up with the speed of business activity. His plan is to offer specialized infrastructure optimized for the 75 percent of the enterprise workload that is not likely to become cloud-native any time soon.

    It would be a mistake, however, to assume that companies like Amazon are not focused on critical enterprise apps as well. The company recently announced two new services, AWS Migration Hub and AWS Glue, that speed up the often convoluted process of moving data to the cloud. According to Cloud Computing News, the pair will allow users to break their dependency on individual database providers (in exchange for dependency on Amazon, of course), while providing the ability to move data between various storage platforms. In this way, customers can build apps quicker, utilize multiple database platforms, and then easily migrate workloads to a new setup if necessary.

    But how crucial will it be for organizations to shed their legacy apps and infrastructure as the shift to a digital service business model unfolds? Not very, according to Avere Systems’ Scott Jeschonek. For one thing, rewriting apps for public or even private clouds is a daunting task given the latency issues and protocol mismatches that arise. In many cases, the enterprise will be better off leaving today’s apps alone and then moving just the workload to the cloud once it can be done seamlessly. A critical concern here is data recovery, which can be managed by snapshots and mirroring to an alternate cloud as long as the app can work with object storage protocols instead of current block and file solutions.

    The one technology that may solve many of these problems is containers. By providing a portable runtime environment no matter where the app is hosted, containers offer the ability to move workloads with relative ease. The problem so far has been finding a way to extend container management stacks like Kubernetes across disparate cloud environments, something that Red Hat is hoping to address with its OpenShift platform. That company recently expanded a deal with Microsoft to include native support for Windows Server on OpenShift deployments to the Azure cloud. In this way, users will be able to run both Linux and Windows workloads under a single, heterogeneous infrastructure stack and thus avoid recreating on the cloud the same data silos that exist in the data center.

    Whether the enterprise decides to partner with a large or small provider (or both), seamless integration of disparate infrastructure will continue to be a top challenge, particularly with hybrid architectures. Mission-critical apps and services require more TLC than standard back-office operations, since they are less tolerant of latency, outages and other problems.

    But since these are the workloads that will likely generate the highest profit margins for providers, expect them to bend over backward trying to land them. It is up to the enterprise to make sure they are ready to handle the load before the migration begins.

    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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