Strategy first with multi cloud
That was one of the key messages from the panel at the latest TechFire event, discussing multi cloud.
“Strategy starts with the business outcome,” said Tadhg Cashman, services director, Logicalis, “what is the business looking to achieve?”
“A lot of people want to start with the technology, but that is not the most important part of a strategy”
“Once you have set down what the business is trying to achieve,” Cashman continued, “you need to start with discovery, what’s currently there, and what we have seen is that a lot of CIOs often don’t know what is there in their estates. There are a lot of data sets, a lot of applications, that the CIO has responsibility for, but shadow IT may have developed within business units, for which they have no visibility.”
“It starts with profiling the “as is” — databases, data sets, applications and their dependencies. Once you have all that, you can plan your future state and what the path needs to be.”
“A lot of people want to start with the technology, but that is not the most important part of a strategy,” said Cashman.
Another important consideration raised by Scott McConnell, sales director, Ireland, Equinix, was that of cloud exit.
“Of the 170 odd customers on the [Equinix] cloud exchange,” he said, “only a handful as yet are using multiple infrastructure as a service (IaaS) providers, and the concern is how to exit, as well as how to move between them, in terms of datasets and everything else. So a lot of it depends on what they are using, and what they want to do.
“Software as a service (SaaS) seems to be ok, but in an IaaS environment, it is different,” said McConnell.
When asked if multi cloud as topic had been raised in internal discussions for organisations, around a third of those present said it had.
However, one attendee posed the question of how many organisations are already on the road to multi cloud without having had the conversation.
Kevin O’Connor, channel manager, Equinix, observed that this is often the case.
He said, in his experience, it is often the case that an organisation finds they have a service they are still using but thought they had removed or are paying for one not in use.
“There is already a multi cloud environment here,” said O’Connor. “But the one thing is, there is rarely a full picture there of everything that is running in their environment.”
Following on from the theme of visibility and discovery, the point was raised that the ‘single pane of glass’ view is often difficult to achieve in a complex environment, such as multi cloud.
“If a vendor comes in telling you they can give you a single pane of glass to rule them all, helping you understand managing all elements of your infrastructure, applications and cloud,” warned Logicalis’ Cashman, “that simply doesn’t exist.”
“There is a whole market segment around cloud management and it has come from different angles. The story of the IT industry is the story of integration. And cloud is even more about this. We haven’t seen, yet, much of parallel mutli clouds working together.”
“There are no technical barriers to connecting multiple public clouds and multiple private clouds — it comes down to skills and management,” said Cashman. “That’s where the single pane of glass can add value.”
A question from the floor asked in the context of governmental usage, how do you develop a multi cloud strategy where you are trying, with several cloud providers, to have the data stay on premises?
This was in a scenario where data would reside on premises but was potentially available to cloud-hosted applications from multiple providers for analytics purposes. It was pointed out that currently, compute-intensive analytics are often best carried out where the compute capability is close to the data.
“Data governance is key,” said Cashman, “so that has to be central in your overall strategy for how you leverage multi cloud. Putting the right applications, the right data sets in the right cloud is a key part of your decision making when you are defining your strategy.”
The end user interviewee on the day was Stuart Halford, head of Technology Services, Goodbody Stockbrokers. He advised keeping things simple, and standard.
“Keep it simple, keep it vanilla. Pull in the data streams as natively as you can, and then you can do all the actions on-premises with the level of control you need to apply,” said Halford.
Halford advised against too much customisation of tools and services, as the closer they are to standard, the more resilient they tend to be.
“This also supports automation, because you have kept it simple, you have kept it clean. And it means that the next platform upgrade does not break your set up,” he advised.
The interlocutor pointed out that another key aspect of governmental usage of these services was cultural.
“People still believe that you take your data more seriously if it is on your own premises,” he said.
Citing the poster children of eGoverment, the Estonians, he said even they still keep a lot of data on-premises.
Government, he added, has the added complexity of not being one entity. Here, he said, it represents about 50 different legal entities, each of which has an accounting officer, so it is difficult to come up with a common approach to managing data, because depending on which piece of data is compromised, it could be a different minister and a different accounting office that is having to go on the airwaves to explain what has happened in the event of an incident.
Another public sector audience member, who said they are already a multi cloud user, said the thought those clouds talking to each other keeps them awake at night.
“The thoughts of where that data might go keeps me awake. The further it might get from Ireland the more concern there is, and the thought it might go Stateside is just not bearable.”
Goodbody’s Halford addressed this point from experience.
“Security became less of an issue as we went on, as we became more comfortable with the capabilities on offer, and with our own usage,” he said
Treat each new move as a new outsourcing arrangement, he advised.
“Not all cloud providers are equal,” Halford warned. “You do need to look at your own requirements to know that your legal requirements are covered and your customers safe, then hold up that prism to each provider and see who meets the test and then go into the technicalities of their various solutions.”
“Fundamentally,” he stated, “this is about the basics first, and not getting ahead of yourself with the complexities.”