Since public cloud exploded onto the scene, adoption rates around the world have been borderline frenzied as organisations seek to modernise their IT and stay on the pulse of innovation.
This hype has led to IDC forecasting global spending on public cloud services in 2018 to have hit US$160 billion.
However, Nutanix Asia Pacific and Japan Systems Engineering vice president Jeff Smith says public cloud is not - and never has been - a panacea, and it seems the rest of the industry has caught up to that fact.
“Indeed, even the undisputed king in the public cloud world, Amazon Web Services (AWS), is now investing in on-premises hardware with the reveal of its Outposts technology in order to deliver the hybrid environments that are practical for today's CIOs,” says Smith.
“Unfortunately, however, many organisations and CIOs have become victims of over-promising; they were told public cloud would tick all boxes, but weren't aware of just how much it would cost them over a longer period of time, nor that not all applications work as they should within the public cloud. Worse yet is that most of them are stuck – locked in without the funds or resources to get out.
So the question is, what caused this change in sentiment?
The main change of heart for public cloud devotees has been the realisation that while it offers many advantages to businesses, it comes with limitations, restrictions and costs, and is not a one size fits all answer. The true value of cloud is only realised when a mix of cloud environments are combined to maximise the benefit of each environment,” says Smith.
“A single environment that utilises multiple public clouds so companies can optimise the economics while satisfying developers, security and operations teams and at the same time best serve the demands of the business. The German's have a word – Gestalt – it means an organised whole greater than the sum of its parts. That's where the true value of cloud lies.
Smith says many public cloud customers are already shifting and settling into a multi-cloud approach.
“This gives them more flexibility against restrictions, lock-in and provides better pricing leverage. However, it comes at a cost, complexity,” says Smith.
“On-premises ‘clouds' are seldom cloud-like. Many customers will simply accept the “easy” single vendor approach. However, increasingly, more and more customers will look for multi-cloud options, including seeking solutions like Nutanix that limits their exposure to lock-in.
Smith says the reason it has taken so long for many organisations to realise public cloud can't actually fix all question comes down to bureaucracy.
“As is common in any business – once significant sunk costs have been invested, returning to the status quo ante or opting to change again meets a lot of resistance,” says Smith.
“Many CIOs and leadership teams saw public cloud as the way to escape the tyranny of traditional IT and their traditional vendors, recognising that the time, resources and reputations invested in the ‘cloud-first' decision was made in haste or failed to deliver the desired outcome. Thus, even with the obvious benefits, efficiencies, savings and flexibility of hybrid cloud solutions – overcoming the resistance to change can be overwhelming.
Smith is certain that hybrid cloud is a huge opportunity for businesses in a hyperconnected world.
“Truly pragmatic businesses will have already spotted the trend and be well on their way to a successful, business-focused hybrid cloud environment. The next stage is incorporating an edge or distributed cloud network into the mix,” says Smith.
“The nature of modern, always-on, latency-sensitive applications means that data needs to be processed at or close to the action. Businesses need to think about how they can incorporate a hybrid edge environment to handle these applications.
And so looking ahead to the future, Smith says the wheels are already in motion for a number of fundamental changes.
“Cloud is already undergoing its own transformation as the sector realises that the public cloud can't meet full expectations– the future lies in greater flexibility of offerings, workloads and clouds. As the customers move to this middle ground we are beginning to see two competing models develop,” says Smith.
“First – the public cloud giants are rapidly shifting to provide on-premises and public cloud solutions. We've already seen Amazon create an on-premises offering. Though it's a remarkably long timeline by AWS standards, perhaps a sign of caution and inexperience around enterprise IT by a company accustomed to selling to developers and releasing software features at a lightning pace.
Smith says alliances are emerging as public cloud vendors look to ‘buy' the expertise and access they require to rapidly secure a foothold.
“Meanwhile, Microsoft is expected to strengthen its messaging around being both an on-premises, enterprise IT and public cloud provider with an integrated solution,” says Smith.
“This will clearly continue to appeal to enterprises well bought into the Microsoft story but their solution is still primarily an end-to-end Microsoft stack.
The other model, Smith says, is to opt for third-party operating systems and solutions to provide the interoperability between on-premises and public cloud environments.
“This approach avoids lock-in by providing options and optimising simplicity. Ideally vendors should look for solutions that are suitable or today's requirements yet adaptable and flexible enough to cope with those new, or yet to be developed,” says Smith.
“While a number of traditional tech companies have begun exploring or offering these solutions they tend to be add-ons, tweaks, or versions of traditional and existing technology, which means they bring all the restrictive, clunky, and complex baggage inherent in infrastructure 1.0.
Smith says there are a number of solutions to overcome this issue.
“There are new vendors that have developed solutions to deploy and manage an on-premises solution that provides the advantages of the cloud, from the ground up, with the tools, intelligence and automation to enable multi-cloud based on the workload at hand to recognise the specific economics of each particular workload,” says Smith.
“The new solutions bypass single vendor lock-in, increases flexibility - with the ability to mix and match clouds, tools, apps, operating systems, and hardware while being built with simplicity and scale in mind.