Cloud Decisions Can Get Foggy

It’s time to shed some light on the issues

No two clouds in the sky are alike. Even an individual cloud changes shape over time. The same is true for cloud computing technology. Every organisation will have its unique requirements. So, it’s no surprise that when it comes to planning how to best manage our data and applications, we might feel we are trying to navigate through thick fog. So, let’s turn the fog lights on and navigate a way through cloud decision-making.

Increasingly, company directors and senior executives need to be entirely familiar with decision-making factors as cloud technology can impact due diligence and regulatory compliance. And this will only become more so the case because applications are growing rapidly and still developing.

However, this investment in time and effort to get it right, is well worth it, as on average, organisations are unlocking between 5% - 17% of cost when migrating their workload to the cloud.

Growth and Maturity are major drivers of cloud decisions

What is also interesting is that part of that maturation is the advent of ‘hybrid cloud’ or ‘multi-cloud’ as a model of IT infrastructure architecture. And much of the growth is being driven by automation and the introduction of new applications, which suggests an app-centric approach makes the most sense. In turn, this typically means a hybrid cloud model will appeal to many.

As the name suggests, the hybrid cloud model combines the use of both public and private cloud platforms, and these different platforms have their strengths and weaknesses. They also have different tools and service packages. Invariably, this means different configurations will have cost implications.

Indeed, in May 2022, analysis in a strategy paper by Harvard Business Review refers to the following research findings:

“Among survey respondents—who are familiar with how their organizations approach cloud technology—a large majority (85%) say they use at least two clouds, with 25% reporting that their organization employs five or more.”

So, before heading into the clouds, it is prudent to carefully think through the objectives you have over the medium-to-long term. You need to understand your current state and accurately forecast your future needs. Your business objectives drive that future state.

Next, consider how public or private platforms stack up against those objectives. Most organisations will likely want a hybrid cloud solution, but the emphasis will vary depending on the nature of your existing investment and future plans.

Ideally, an organisation may even want to consider two to three options and have these costed, because the ongoing cost is invariably going to be a factor in decision-making, and such purchases tend to be sticky as IT architecture is not something you will want to change with any frequency.

Public and private platforms both offer advantages

An easy analogy that highlights the difference between private and public clouds is to think of a private cloud as a freestanding house, with its own connections to the services and infrastructure it needs. A public cloud is more like a block of apartments, where a lot of the core services like lifts and parking spaces are shared, even though you might have individual meters for your gas and electricity.

Given the above analogy, you would expect that a private cloud is more secure, more bespoke, and more expensive. The public cloud is less bespoke, less expensive, and less secure – think parking spot versus lock-up garage.

Part of the appeal of apartments is about the economy of scale, and so too is a public cloud, where two of its major attractions are the ability to scale easily and to access almost unlimited computing power.

By contrast, a private cloud is not only typically more secure, but also much more suited to allow customised configurations and tools, and this is a major consideration for most organisations.

How bespoke and how secure do you need to be?

Public clouds, such as Amazon Web Services, are formidable businesses and the computing power they offer is impressive by any measure. But these services are more rigid in terms of the monitoring and security tools they offer, as well as the fees they charge.

A private cloud can start with a set of basics: a dedicated environment with security and storage. You can then choose to run your own show in that environment, or you can buy various managed services within the provider’s ecosystem.

So, where does that take our thinking about a hybrid cloud solution? As a rule of thumb, we can say an organisation’s most secure and bespoke data requirements should, in the first instance, go to a private platform. Data operations that are less precious, but which require scale and speed, are, in the first instance, better served by a public platform. At a minimum, this split might offer a starting point for modelling options.

In our experience, considering two-to-three possible options will really clarify which cloud solution will be optimal for your organisation. Every option comes at a cost and with its advantages and disadvantages. Our independent advice can act as a fog light and help illuminate a reliable path through cloud decisions.

In our next piece on cloud computing, we’ll look at some of the practical implications for procurement planning and decision-making.