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ITRS Roundtable: Modelling your digital transformations into the Hybrid and Distributed Cloud

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Sponsored content: Thursday, 25th February 2021 – Asia

 

Today’s complex IT environments make maintaining ‘the always-on’ availability more challenging than ever before, even as IT has become central to most business operations. Maintaining uninterrupted business operations has become more complicated as IT environments involve a complex mixture of hybrid and cloud infrastructure, middleware, and application technologies.

In a digital ‘always-on’ age, corporates and organisations have moved many offline processes online, yet the complexity of the online environment has made it more and more difficult to manage. Putting Digital Transformation at the heart of your business exposes your customers to your entire IT stack as well as gaps in operational resiliency.

Many CIOs fail to realise that Digital Transformation journey and the move to dynamic environments increase the rate of change and creates more opportunities for failure. This increased complexity leads to multiple points of failure in the stack and to more outages and cost in maintaining both the technology stack and customer satisfaction.

In a recent survey, 72% responded that digital transformation has been the biggest driver of cloud deployments, and 85% agreed that hybrid is the ideal operating model to remake themselves for the digital future. The rising demand of hybrid and distributed cloud is largely driven by the benefits – security, flexibility, and the need to accommodate multiple cloud options.

Nevertheless, with applications living on either traditional IT, on-premises private Cloud, offpremises private Cloud, or public Cloud environments, the trend of hybrid and distributed cloud adoption together with the complexities brought by digital transformation and dynamic environments, are expected to continue being one of the biggest challenges to many of the corporations in the region.

As business processes become more digital and IT failure becomes a business failure, the rush to digital can place sudden demands and networking system capacity lead to misconfigured clouds and other oversights, including security. So, companies these days need tools that can identify and predict IT failures or performance degradation to enable greater operational resilience.

Decentralising – from Monolithic to Microservices

“People have been talking about digital transformation for at least a last decade”, notes Peter Duffy, Head of Product Management, ITRS Group, “and what we’re seeing in the current wave of digital transformation is an increasing rate at which various previously offline or hybrid processes are moving to the digital world. And I think one of the things that characterises this wave of digital transformation is that these are not necessarily processes that were completely offline now moving online, but perhaps a monolithic architecture in your own data center which are moving to cloud or elastic environments moving to dynamic environments or to Microservices architectures(MSA) . And what we’re seeing is a number of smaller pieces moving online and being used to support multiple business processes in a Microservices architecture.” Duffy further expands the effects of digital transformation into:

  • Processes being digitised at an increasing rate
  • Moving to dynamic microservices architectures
  • Increasingly hosted in elastic cloud environments
  • Agile and DevOps driving more frequent releases & updates
  • High level of automation required
  • Business success absolutely dependent of IT success

With the demands of the marketplace to improve efficiency and toplines, businesses are pivoting at unprecedented pace to rollout ‘best in class’ products and services in double quick time. Technology enables that but complexities of a monolithic architecture vs microservices have taken front seat in ‘future proofing’ debates and investment decisions.

The advantages of MSA are also heavily connected to technologies and methodologies like Private Cloud (seeking ‘elasticity’), Docker – containers, DevOps for collaboration, Agile etc. The design for isolated failures without impacting other services is a key feature which is gathering increasing trust and confidence. Delayed Investment decisions are circumventing around issues of lost revenues, reputational damages and regulatory repercussions, which ultimately carve direct correlation of IT success to business success.

Decentralisation had reared its head as a buzzword in 2020 from blockchain to Jeff Bezos’s “twopizza rule” of having decentralised teams (teams shouldn’t be bigger than 2 pizzas can feed) concepts. And this certainly resonates with the MSA approach of developing a single application as a suite of small services, each running its own process, independently deployable.

Hybrid cloud – set and do not forget

With the advent of cloud computing and IoT (internet of things), there is a growing impetus in the industry for cost optimisation leading the CAPEX vs OPEX decisions and while server budgets are seeing declines, digital enterprises are opting for the elastic cloud world. One of the things that we are seeing is a significant overspending in the public cloud environment.

A RightScale report1 on the state of the cloud noted that over 35% of spend in public cloud is wasted. There certainly is a need to increase the breadth of monitoring to get a clear visibility of applications where potentially, customers, clients, partners are accessing services from outside at all times of the day. Companies can even purchase relational database as a service on AWS and leverage cloud computing to handle administrative tasks including database setup, hardware provisioning, patching and data backups, freeing up time from non-strategic tasks.

Security, control and visibility are key elements to consider while moving into a hybrid cloud model. While cloud providers do support the management systems for one aspect of the hybrid cloud, that might not extend to systems running in other public clouds or on-prem. As workloads may comprise of multiple applications on different environments, it is critical to have a clear and complete understanding of what is happening with that workload to generate an end to end visibility. Many CIOs have adopted DevOps and Cloud as a way to deploy and update applications more rapidly.

However, they have retained their traditional approach to sizing the infrastructure required. Application teams over spec the Cloud environments they initially provision to be sure of a successful application launch. This static approach to Cloud sizing and buying, where the infrastructure capacity is defined once and then rarely re-visited, does not take advantage of the Cloud’s greatest asset – flexibility. The critical issue is the failure to follow the established steps in the DevOps life cycle to resize the infrastructure supporting their applications during each release cycle.

The TCO (total cost of ownership) of cloud storage is more often than not, higher than what vendors advertise and to get a full picture of the costs, the various direct costs including the storage, egress fees, access fees and replication fees needs to be factored in. Not to mention the indirect costs like cloud data monitoring, data security, backup and data migration costs. This calls for rightsizing storage by data-types, identifying over-provisioned resources and right-sizing the workloads and using automation, selecting the correct pricing plans and re-platforming existing deployments with newer cloud services, resulting in cost optimisation over time to minimise cloud spending wastage.

1 RightScale State of the Cloud Report™ report1

Cloud cost optimisation

Cloud monitoring helps to analyse patterns and detect potential security risks in the cloud infrastructure. With multiple elements in the cloud infrastructure, the several aspects that needs constant monitoring to ensure business continuity and cost optimisation are:

  • Web page monitoring
  • Database monitoring
  • Virtual machines monitoring
  • Storage monitoring
  • Application monitoring

Three key steps noted by ITRS2 to analyse estate requirements and optimise cloud Resources are :

  1. Right-Size – Highly granular data capture of resources. Identify the sizes of instances needed for each application workload. Determine optimum configuration of burstable or nonburstable instance. Identify idle times and workload periodicity. Understand the capacity of Hybrid-IT. Bring work back from the cloud if on premise capacity allows it.
  2. Right-Buy – Identify where the instance needs to run (location) and optimise for cost/performance. Identify the best way to buy the instance depending on how long it will be running. Identify how long an instance should run, and if it is idle, how long before it should shut down. Continually analyse the cloud provider billing engines to identify optimal usage and policies.
  3. Optimise – Right-Size at the application level by correlating business demand with cloud service utilisation. Plan for growth and predict upcoming costs with advanced predictive analytics and Forward Thinking what-if scenario modelling. Improve business process with Service Management integration. Manage across Hybrid-IT, on prem and multi-cloud in a single tool with consistent reporting regardless of environment.

Guy Warren, CEO, ITRS Group, likened the advent of cloud discussions to the debates on how electricity could come into buildings on wire about 100 years ago, at the time a generator within the building premises was the only source of electricity.

The possibility of getting an external energy source by wire seemed unfathomable and this is a similar stage in some cloud discussions today. The business case, economics and logic is too powerful to prevent the inevitability of moving workloads to the cloud and it would only be a matter of time. It is true that there are numerous teething issues and pains including regulatory restrictions that are delaying the complete adoption for many businesses especially in the financial sector.

With the global pandemic raising questions to IT for agility, accessibility and flexibility, there has been a renewed focus on the operational demands shifting how businesses leverage cloud computing into the future to remain competitive and scalable. Serverless Architecture, AI platforms, Edge computing, DevSecOps, Open source etc are some trends being cited into 2021 and beyond that are gathering steam and taking cloud computing into the 4th industrial revolution that blurs the boundaries between the physical, digital, and biological worlds.

Gartner3 predicted that by 2021, over 75% of midsize and large organizations will have adopted a multi-cloud or hybrid IT strategy. This will give rise to cloud native technologies and some of the components that will make the cloud native technology stack are Serverless computing, Orchestration platforms (like Kubernetes) and containerisation (to transport workload between multiple channels). Cloud adoption is truly a journey we have embarked on and not a destination per se.

Rather than the focus to make technology faster and flexible, enterprises should not forget that the real reason of investment and cloud adoption is to drive business growth and beat competition which depends on strategic business outcomes while leveraging the latest tech capabilities.

2 ITRS2 – ITRS Group
3 Gartner3 – 5 approaches to Cloud Application integration

 

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