From the magazine: Getting cloud-ready
Cloud presents more dynamic frameworks than traditional apps
As digital transformation takes centre stage in the region, annual spending on digital initiatives is well underway to reaching over $40 billion by 2022, according to the latest insights from IDC.
Cloud computing is one of the key focus areas of businesses willing to enhance their overall data centre infrastructure, cut down on cost, and increase ease of access.
Cloud, however, requires a whole new networking architecture, unconstrained by the many barriers inherent in legacy infrastructure.
Ali Amer, managing director, service provider sales, Middle East and Africa at Cisco, describes a cloud-ready infrastructure as a state of readiness of an organisation to migrate to the cloud.
The most common considerations when determining cloud-readiness are around security, regulatory issues, interoperability, and disaster recovery - and what ties all these elements together is a solid network infrastructure, said Amer. “Cloud-readiness and success are fundamentally narrowed down to adopting a decentralised network architecture – an enterprise WAN that is flexible, easy to deploy and manage, and supports the high speed of digital transformation.”
This type of network then enables the enterprise to design or re-deploy its applications in such a way that they can be successful in a cloud environment, ultimately improving security, reliability, scalability, resilience, agility and flexibility for the enterprise, Amer said.
Contrast this with traditional architecture, which by its nature, makes scalability and agility especially difficult to realize.
Enterprises operating on a traditional architecture have full control over the data and applications that exist on the server; however, this model relies on continuously upgrading the hardware – and that eventually becomes expensive and makes it difficult for enterprises to scale, thus hindering their growth and progress, Amer observes.
Richard Wilcox, regional director, Lenovo Data Centre Group said a traditional infrastructure can be somewhat limited, challenging, and often costly. Even when IT professionals move traditional apps to virtual servers, this architecture remains mostly the same. “Traditional infrastructure uses a rigid but secure database; however, cloud architectures offer varied options and the ability to divide data based on usage requirements. The cloud infrastructure presents more dynamic frameworks than traditional apps,” Wilcox added.
Businesses are making the move from traditional in-house infrastructure to the cloud to capitalise on the cost, performance, Management and space savings. The shift towards the cloud-ready infrastructure is due to advanced Applications (OLTP, OLAP, AI) and huge amount of data getting generated, said Alaa ElShimy, managing director & vice president, Enterprise Business, Huawei Middle East.
More often than not, public cloud fails to tick all the right boxes for the majority of businesses.
A hybrid cloud approach allows companies to gain the capacity, scalability and flexibility the moving to the public cloud provides, whilst enjoying the luxury of choice to keep some workloads on their local infrastructure.
“With a hybrid cloud model, enterprises can modernise their IT, reduce their cost, and increase agility,” said Amer.
“To enable this (hybrid cloud) transformation, enterprises must first architect a private cloud if they don’t have one (whether on-premise or through a hosted cloud provider), deploy a public infrastructure, and modernise their network to bridge these two entities and connect them on an application level,” he added.
Hybrid cloud integrates applications and even allows organisations to create a private cloud that uses the features of a public cloud; however, if lacking the correct base, the starting point can lead to a fragmented environment, where application developers and IT professionals have to deal with operating across multiple siloed environments, technologies, teams, and vendors.
This fragmentation is why it is important to take several variables into consideration, such as determining the strategy, the network, and the right security and management model that will holistically span across the whole environment,” Amer said.
The hybrid cloud has been applied to a greater and more varied number of IT products than almost any other recent data management term, Wilcox said. The advantage for businesses who employ the hybrid cloud model is that it allows workloads and data to move between private and public clouds in a flexible way, said Wilcox.
“The demands, needs, and costs change, giving businesses greater flexibility and more options for data deployment and use,” he added.
There are different hybrid cloud architectures -- heterogeneous is most prominent, ElShimy explained. “In a heterogeneous model, the environment is built with public and private technologies from different vendors. An enterprise chooses a public cloud provider, such as AWS or Azure, and pairs it with a private offering, such as OpenStack,” he added.
Initially, many organisations pursued a multi-cloud strategy because they were uncertain about cloud reliability.
Since then, many organisations have discovered the ability to find the best-in-class cloud services provider since they can select from multiple IaaS providers' data centre regions or availability zones.
“Cloud-computing technology has entered the application-explosion phase. Driven by digitalisation and ubiquitous connectivity, enterprises are exploring their own cloudification and digital transformation roads,” said ElShimy. “A single Cloud Service Provider (CSP) can hardly meet all of the requirements, so it follows that a multi-cloud solution is the inevitable choice for enterprises,” he added.
As enterprises embrace their digital future, many of them are increasingly adopting the multi-cloud approach whereby they use multiple cloud services from several vendors instead of a unified solution from one cloud provider, said Cisco’s Amer.
Eighty five percent of organisations are using services from multiple cloud providers
According to a 2018 IDC White Paper sponsored by Cisco, 85% of organisations are using services from multiple cloud providers (and this number is expected to only grow).
The multi-cloud approach is inevitable; it gives enterprises the simplicity and flexibility they need, said Amer. “However, the success of a multi-cloud approach heavily depends on the connectivity that can support the re-packaging of applications for seamless integration,” Amer said.
Network vendors are increasingly collaborating with cloud service providers to provide cloud-optimised products off the box.
Cisco collaborates directly with cloud vendors to provide enterprises with the freedom they need to connect, protect, and consume clouds in a multi-cloud world, said Amer.
An example is Cisco’s collaboration with Amazon Web Services in 2018, which introduced a hybrid cloud platform for enterprises.
“Cisco identified the main challenge faced by organisations migrating to a hybrid cloud: due to the fragmented nature of applications across on-premise and public infrastructure, enterprises needed to work across siloed environments, technologies, teams, and vendors to glue all the parts of a hybrid infrastructure together themselves. Cisco and AWS then launched the Hybrid Solution for Kubernetes on AWS to enable enterprises to manage hybrid applications with one simple environment,” said Amer.
Similarly, Cisco has partnered with Google Cloud, merging the latter’s collaboration tools with Cisco’s enterprise communications (WebEx), introducing a brand new platform for teamwork and collaboration.
The cloud and hyper-converged infrastructure virtualises resources in similar ways. It is because of this similarity that these two seemingly different IT infrastructure types become allies in an up-and-coming IT architecture called the hyper-converged cloud, Wilcox observes.
“The cloud promises scalability and responds quickly to business needs; however, these advantages are difficult to achieve with a private cloud using traditional data centre architecture. By using a converged or hyper-convergence platforms, the incremental expansion of resources to compute, storage, network, will be swiftly enabled,” he added.
Converged infrastructure has become a go-to solution for IT teams looking to accelerate the shift to IT as a service without risk, and without having to compromise on performance, agility or availability, said ElShimy.
No other technology has come close to transforming IT as much as cloud has. The various related technologies that have emerged around cloud with their own distinct flavours and benefits are enabling the kind of agility businesses have long dreamed of.