It’s easy to see why today’s organizations are flocking to the cloud. Hyperscalers give software developers access to a wide scope of resources for creating and managing applications. They also enable rapid scaling, and foster innovation by making it easy for developers to incorporate new features. As millions of customers provide feedback, new iterations are constantly being built and deployed.
For organizations, it makes sense to take advantage of the cloud’s innovations and scaling capabilities by using SaaS applications for standard business functions such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM), office productivity software, and video conferencing. Fifty-four percent of businesses say they have moved on-premises applications to the cloud, and 46% have created applications expressly built for cloud use, according to the IDG 2020 Cloud Computing Survey.
In the multi-tenant public cloud, organizations also avoid the heavy capital expenses of purchasing infrastructure and pay-as-you-go pricing also allows them to avoid spending money on unused capacity.
Still, many organizations prefer to hold the more individualized and sensitive parts of their business processes – applications controlling finance, manufacturing, or supply chain operations, for example – in the data center. This hybrid cloud model allows IT to focus on hosting internally the services that make the company unique.
From Hybrid Cloud to Multicloud
The norm for today’s enterprises is the multicloud. Fifty-five percent of companies are using at least two public clouds in addition to their own data centers, the IDG survey found.
One reason is that AWS, Microsoft Azure, and the Google Cloud each have different features and pricing structures. IT managers make choices based on the performance and services a platform offers, which vary according to application type. IT leaders also optimize costs by selecting the storage options best suited to their needs.
And because the public cloud is a dynamic environment, with providers continually creating new services, a multicloud strategy allows organizations to avoid vendor lock-in and take advantage of these innovations as they are introduced.
Management and Data Challenges
The sprawling multi-cloud-and-on-premises environment gives IT leaders a wide array of choices for managing resources and data. While having more options is a boon, 46% of technology leaders in the survey said it has also increased management complexity.
IT teams must constantly evaluate the environment and decide where it is best to locate workloads. Some decisions are relatively straightforward. Security or compliance regulations keep certain applications on premises. Another big issue is lag. Kim Stevenson, Senior Vice President and General Manager of NetApp Foundational Data Services, points out that “Some applications don’t tolerate even a nanosecond of latency.”
But for many applications, decisions aren’t so clear-cut. Technology leaders must weigh their options, running calculations to determine the advantages and disadvantages of on premises versus Cloud A or Cloud B.
Sometimes it makes sense to move applications permanently to the cloud. Other times, it may be better to shuttle them between cloud and data center as the organization grows, tries out new services, or responds to changing demands.
“If you’re in retail, you need to do a lot more credit card processing on Black Friday. If you’re an accounting firm, you need to do a lot of tax application processing in the first quarter. At the end of the fiscal year, you may want to tier off older data to object storage,” Stevenson says.
But applications and data don’t always move smoothly between the on-premises environment and the cloud. Inconsistent data formatting can lead to confusion and errors.
For example, dates can be expressed in several different formats, making data containing them difficult to transfer. Customer records may contain 16 characters in some data stores and 20 in others. If a company moves them from a 20-character to a 16-character format, IT must pause to determine whether any important information will be lost, and if so, what to do about it.
Because data about application use and costs is scattered across public clouds and the data center, it’s tough for IT to see the big picture. Different clouds use different management tools, making it even harder to have visibility into actual IT resource usage and spend forecast predictability.
Improving Operations with Unified Management
Today’s technology makes managing the multicloud, hybrid environment much easier. Solutions such as NetApp ONTAP standardize data architecture, so companies can move applications at will and automatically tier off old data to cheaper storage without worrying about quality control. They have strong and consistent security protections surrounding their data wherever it goes.
IT leaders can also see and manage infrastructure both at home and across multiple public clouds – all from one central control plane. A unified management platform also enables cloud features like automation and advanced AI algorithms to be extended to applications in the data center.
“A single management console helps you do two things,” Stevenson says. “It diagnoses problems and shows you where they’re located, and it gives you the tools to solve them.”
Administrators can manage everything with a single toolset, making training easier and avoiding the confusion that can arise when switching among on-premises and public clouds.
Managers can view resources across the entire organization or parse them according to business unit or service type. This unparalleled visibility enables them to avoid guesswork when creating a technology strategy, as well as make informed decisions based on reliable and timely operational data.
Businesses can also increase agility by scaling compute and storage resources separately, helping them respond better to shifting workloads and customer demands. Remote teams can collaborate seamlessly using data from both on-premises storage and the cloud.
Making Better Choices
The hybrid, multicloud environment gives companies choices, but without a coherent framework, conflicts and inefficiencies are bound to arise.
Today’s technology allows IT leaders to literally see what they’re doing and judge how one move on the chessboard will affect other pieces of the business. Whether they’re building their own private clouds or deploying resources in public ones, they can make sound, data-driven decisions about operations, costs, scaling, and services. By bringing the best capabilities of the cloud to the data center, IT leaders can finally achieve their elusive goal of aligning IT strategy with business strategy.
“The cloud and the on-premises environments will continue to coexist for a long time,” Stevenson says. “Organizations that enable them to work well together will realize the full benefits of both, giving them a competitive edge.”
Learn more about how NetApp is the hybrid cloud leader who can help you navigate the journey ahead.