Migrating to the cloud is a lot like moving to a new house. A measuring tape is vital to ensure your grand piano and other unwieldy pieces of furniture will fit. Many enterprises have loads of legacy applications and technical debt that can’t be ignored when attempting a transition to the cloud.
Companies must use an application-centric strategy to maximize what the cloud offers. Now that applications are the lifeblood of enterprises, it’s not sufficient to simply acquire resources from a cloud provider. To realize the full promise of the cloud, enterprises must first undergo a digital transformation where they modernize their applications and application services.
So if you’ve determined there is a perfect spot for your grand piano — and that it will clear the doorway — then there’s much to be excited about with your new house in the cloud.
In my previous post, I focused on the state of applications and modernization strategies. Continuing on this thought, let’s explore the state of the cloud today to better understand its role in your organization’s digital transformation. There are actually different types of clouds that we’ll explain later. First, let’s review key cloud migration benefits.
Cloud Migration Benefits
Elasticity, automation, and flexibility are the three main reasons to prefer the cloud. Using the analogy of moving to a new home, they each offer a specific benefit.
- Elasticity: The elasticity of the cloud means the home and rooms can be resized with minimal effort to cater to whatever you need to use the room for. A room can expand to fit a grand piano or shrink to be a small closet. Elastic scale means efficient use of infrastructure. No over or under-provisioning.
- Automation: Automation refers to processes that can be scripted so you don’t have to manually complete the task. This is especially helpful with routine tasks. In a home, you may prefer automated vacuuming with Roombas or automatic temperature control with a Nest thermostat. In the cloud, you can automate the provisioning and configuration of infrastructure and application.
- Flexibility: With the as-a-service model of the cloud, it’s like being on a month-to-month lease without being locked into a 30-year mortgage. And depending on your ever-changing needs, you can upsize or downsize your unit or even change properties (cloud vendors) based on amenities (data services). Also, you get to completely avoid making that down payment (no CAPEX).
Evolution in Cloud Infrastructure
Innovations in the cloud in recent years have resulted in a move from single-user “private” clouds to multi-tenant “public” clouds and “hybrid” clouds — a heterogeneous environment that leverages different infrastructure environments (e.g. private and public cloud). The evolution in cloud infrastructure has seen an increase in the use of hybrid and multi-clouds. Let’s learn about each.
- Private Cloud: Think of this as a single-family home serving a single-user. It can be self-hosted or hosted by a cloud provider.
- Public Cloud: These represent infrastructure-as-a-service offerings purchased from Amazon, Google, IBM or Microsoft and would resemble an apartment complex or shared tenant.
- Hybrid Cloud: Hybrid cloud combines two different types of infrastructure into a single heterogeneous environment. It can be any combination of your traditional data center, private cloud, and public cloud. Even though these environments are as different as a ranch-style home in the country and a penthouse at the top of a city skyline, they can work together effectively.
The physical world creates barriers between properties. Combining a country and urban estate into a single property isn’t realistic. It also isn’t realistic to pack all your stuff up in a U-Haul and travel between properties on a daily basis. However, in the digital world, and through the power of networking, you can deploy your applications across your infrastructure—essentially merging two different properties using portals so your environments can function as one.
In a hybrid cloud environment, you can move data and applications between private and public environments based on business and compliance requirements. Perhaps you want to keep customer data (house guests) in a private environment (country ranch). You can send heavy processing (cooking the 7-course meal) to the public cloud (penthouse) without ever having customer data leave the private environment. The portal allows almost instant transfer of information between the environments so you can garner the best of both environments while avoiding their respective shortcomings.
- Multi-Cloud: Like a hybrid, a multi-cloud is also a heterogeneous environment — but not necessarily a combination of private and public clouds. A multi-cloud environment could be all-private, all-public, or a combination of both. Companies use hybrid and multi-cloud environments to distribute computing resources and minimize the risk of downtime and data loss. They can also increase the computing power available to a business.
Hybrid Cloud versus Multi-Cloud
While there is a difference between hybrid and multi-cloud, the distinction between the environments is more in name than anything else. Both solutions are heterogeneous (multiple environments operating as one). All hybrid clouds are technically multi-clouds. Yet not all multi-clouds are hybrid clouds. This close relationship is why the two terms are often used interchangeably.
Consider the following equations to determine if your desired environment is hybrid or multi-cloud (or both):
- Hybrid = private cloud + public cloud
- Multi = private cloud + private cloud
- Multi = public cloud + public cloud
- Hybrid and Multi = private cloud + public cloud + public cloud
The difference between the two is mostly semantic, which is why the benefits are practically identical.
Hybrid Cloud and Multi-Cloud Benefits
Organizations implement hybrid or multi-cloud environments for the following reasons:
- Choice: The additional choice of multiple environments gives you flexibility and the ability to avoid vendor lock-in.
- Disaster Avoidance: Outages happen. Sometimes it is due to a natural disaster. Other times it is due to human error or an attack. Having multiple environments ensures that you always have compute resources available so you can avoid downtime.
- Compliance: Many hybrid and multi-cloud environments can help enterprises achieve their goals for governance, risk management, and compliance regulations.
Considerations for Multi-Cloud Environments
To find the best possible solution between hybrid and multi-clouds, enterprises need to carefully consider that their new environment has the following attributes:
- Portability: The portability of applications should be a top consideration before selecting an infrastructure solution. Your applications matter most so you can’t risk having them locked-in. Can you easily move your application to an environment? And can you easily move the application back? Earlier in the article, we used the analogy of portals between two physical properties. Apply this to cloud-like environments. Portability means having a two-way passage between your environments. You need an on-ramp to and off-ramp from any cloud environment. Otherwise, you don’t have portability and are subject to lock-in.
|One Way - NOT Portable||Two Way - Portable|
- Visibility and Analytics: Cloud environments do not provide as much visibility into application performance, infrastructure or security insights (web application firewall) as you would have in a private environment you host yourself, but that doesn’t mean they are bad. Determine what information cloud vendors provide, understand what analytics can be aggregated via API (so you can use on an analytics dashboard), and explore what third-party solutions can fill in the gaps (e.g. application performance monitoring, application delivery platform). Robust analytics solutions can give you alerts the moment something goes wrong, and they can also identify the root cause of an issue.
Continuing with the home analogy, analytics would help you identify that power went out in your unit because a circuit breaker tripped due to excessive power draw (were you mining bitcoin again?). This knowledge can reduce ticket resolution times significantly because you can identify, isolate, and address problems in near real-time. Trust is necessary to grow your business in the cloud. And analytics can deliver that trust.
- Centralized Management: Managing applications across a variety of environments can be tricky — especially because major cloud providers don’t collaborate to provide a joint multi-cloud solution with their competitors. You don’t want to divide your teams across cloud lines, so look to an application delivery platform, like the Avi Vantage Platform, that spans across on-premises and cloud environments to centrally manage application deployment. Centralized management across hybrid and multi-cloud environments gives you better visibility and control, and doesn’t divide your applications and IT teams.
- Automation: As mentioned earlier in the article, the cloud provides elasticity. Resizing and reshaping infrastructure to fit your needs. The value of elasticity is realized when it is paired with automation. Automation refers to scripting tasks that can be triggered by events, reducing the need for manual configuration.
Back to the room analogy: instead of you having to spend hours manually setting up partitions or rearranging furniture, automation would let you push a button to automatically set up the room for a predesigned need. Similarly, setting up automation would allow you to automatically spin up infrastructure and supporting services for your application as needed. This is just one example of how automation can be used. Through the use of APIs, many common tasks can be automated using tools like Ansible and Terraform. Coupled with Avi Networks’ application delivery platform, you can use analytics as triggers to predictively deliver automation across all your environments.
There is much to consider before making the move to the cloud. It’s not a simple as buying a cloud service and magically wishing all your existing applications and technical debt away. Most enterprises have a very real cloud migration gap that needs to be filled. In the next piece, we’ll talk about the final steps to make your new house in the cloud a real home.