The Shift from Experimental to Intentional Multi- and Hybrid-Cloud Strategies for the Enterprise

By Atos staff

The discourse surrounding the desirability of cloud computing applications in a modern business environment oscillates between passive skepticism to advocacy. But the cloud has indeed captured the attention of technology decision-makers over the last decade. While global spending on public cloud, at the beginning of the decade, stood at $77 billion, the figure hit a high of $411 billion by the close of the decade, as reported by Statista. Further, IDC predicts that by 2028, over 80% of business IT expenditure will be cloud-related.

Industry experts are anticipating tectonic shifts in cloud implementation and development practices this year. In an interview with distinguished thought leaders, two of the most prominent voices in the cloud industry, experts unearth a series of imminent changes, both in mindset and strategy that are heralded to dominate the industrial cloud adoption scenario.

CIOs will gravitate toward conscious exploitation of native capabilities in hybrid and multi-cloud environments for driving efficiency and arbitrage

Traditionally, CIOs, who are the stewards of technology investments for their enterprises, are tasked with experimenting and determining the scope and scale of the enterprise cloud systems. Their chief concern centers around evaluating and aligning the strength of various cloud platforms with organizational goals. In 2020, to better position for success, CIOs need to look beyond mere trials, treating the cloud as an organic extension of the business IT and opt for hybrid and multi-cloud scenarios with full-spectrum application to the enterprise and its framework.

CIOs will need to entrust specific business workloads to cloud platforms with relevant competency and cost advantages. For instance, says Michael Kollar, SVP, Chief Digital Officer and Global Head of Cloud Engineering, Atos North America, “we’ll see CIOs investing in two cloud providers and using them for different but specific use cases. Financial services will choose to employ Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) strengths in online transaction processing for better user experience, while also utilizing Google Cloud Platform (GCP) for data analytics.”

Our cloud adoption studies on the infrastructure and platform side reveal that CIOs are inclining toward a more intentional addition of vendors and differentiation of cloud-native capabilities in their IT portfolio to address the emerging business needs effectively,” says Allan Krans, Principal Cloud and Software Analyst, Technology Business Research (TBR).

As multi and hybrid cloud adoptions assume to be the new normal, DevOps is evolving in tandem to ensure seamless application and infrastructure development in hybrid and multi-cloud scenarios

Evolving from the preceding years of the waterfall and agile approaches, hybrid and multi-cloud strategies will embrace DevOps as the dominant philosophy, guiding infrastructure building, and application updates. However, according to Kollar, “it is important to remember that DevOps demands a different approach to develop, package, deploy and support. So, as developers become more centric to projects, there rises a need to implement the infrastructure parts of the application, the application codes on top of it, and then address the data integration.

Kollar goes on to explain how in a multi-cloud architecture, the first part of the issue is mitigated through infrastructure pipelines, with their ability to automate provisioning and management of core infrastructure changes, bypassing iterative and error-prone processes.

The real-time advantage of the DevOps model has also appealed to the application developers who are building infrastructure-related services like core databases, middle-ware app-servers, virtual machines, and EC2 instances for an infrastructure pipeline,” says Kollar. “They are using application pipelines to tame the complexities of continually packaging and deploying updates to their codes for three main objectives: simple bug fixes, efficiently packaging releases, and making significant changes in the application environment.”

Allan Krans further adds, “the increasing use of containers and container management platform facilitates the integration of DevOps into the processes. As most of the cloud platforms today possess container management and orchestration capabilities, their conscious adoption can shorten the development and the deployment cycle and improve the overall quality. Also, it allows the ability to continuously release updates to reinforce performance, efficiency and security of the systems.”

The automation of the application pipeline also comes with sustaining high-quality standards. In a hybrid and multi-cloud environment, with the application pipeline taking care of all the dependencies and providing a controlled platform, we can now safely push a host of updates into production without making wholesale changes in the application environment. Also, an application pipeline eliminates the necessity to reinvent the wheel, leveraging code repositories, saving development time and resources and thus shortening the overall deployment cycle.

As enterprises become more intentional in leveraging the cloud, standardizing native functionalities across multiple platforms becomes a key concern for the vendors

As hybrid and multi-cloud adoption gain popularity, it becomes crucial to maintain capability consistency across the services available on different platforms for smooth integration into the cloud strategies of businesses. According to Allan Krans, “in a multi-cloud world, customers want a high level of consistency across multiple cloud environments. Cloud vendors need to find ways to harmonize their offerings to resonate with the overall management vision of their clients and drive business value.”

APIs: Driving digital transformation through seamless integration of cloud functionalities across multiple providers and legacy assets

The quality of business services reflects the integrity of the underlying business processes. For instance, to ensure the optimal functioning of an order entry facility, a large number of systems, from supervising the availability of raw materials to the shipping of the actual order, need to work in sync. In a typical on-premise operational environment, a lot of these systems are hardwired, and that makes it difficult for businesses to scale and orchestrate them to externalize services and ensure maximum customer value.

Michael Kollar proposes API-fiction or leveraging the service integration potential of APIs in a multi-cloud ecosystem as a solution to this bottleneck in the value chain. “It is a top-down approach in which enterprises need to review their overall value statement and then find technology solutions that can be conceived with various cloud-native functionalities and presented to its stakeholders: partners, customers, and suppliers. Such solutions should standardize inter-stakeholder interactions and facilitate management.” For achieving this, it is imperative for enterprises to harmonize integration and data flow across multiple cloud platforms, while maintaining control and without gearing down innovation.

Edge computing driving efficiency by bolstering capabilities of multi-cloud systems to address ultra-low latency operational mandates

The tag-teaming of edge and multi-cloud systems is imminent to survive future production environments. According to Allan Krans, the cloud so far has been the centralization of compute, work power, and processing. However, both the experts consider edge and cloud to be complementing each other as more compute and analytics task loads typically reserved for big cloud hubs and data centers are pushed to the edge of the industrial networks, near the end-user. For instance, during the manufacturing process, an airplane engine goes through multiple quality checks and validations to ensure compliance with specifications. Besides user safety, sticking to quality benchmarks contributes to cost control, as engine downtimes add to maintenance overheads and result in revenue loss for the operators.

With better integration between the edge and core cloud services, more tactical workloads with ultra-low latency windows, concerned with manufacturing, will be entrusted to it. Continuing with the airplane engine example, IoT devices can be used to take pictures of the engine components undergoing assembly. Such images will be compared to reference images of the desired finished products, and any deviations will be addressed in real-time. With Kubernetes making it feasible to package and run IoT applications on the edge with a minimal operational footprint, the said approach “will increase the quality of the product, increase revenue, decrease cost and increase customer satisfaction,” says Kollar.

Further, Allan Krans views the edge as the watchdog of data relevance. Only high-quality and relevant data from the closed-loop discrete manufacturing processes will be exported and integrated with several other sources like real-time streaming from engines in operations and can be assimilated at data lakes residing in the core cloud platforms. Then, through analytical applications, it will be possible to generate insights to optimize business performance and service offerings further.

For progressive enterprises that intend to sustain dominance through technological ascendency and creative business tactics, the conscious adoption of hybrid and multi-cloud strategies is but a fait accompli. In a competitor-rich environment fraught with shifting customer expectations, service standards, and evolving technologies, full-spectrum adoption of hybrid and multi-cloud architectures empower businesses with unprecedented scalability, performance, innovation, and risk mitigation advantages, absent in legacy or single cloud scenarios.

However, a hybrid and multi-cloud-state is no way the culmination of an organization’s journey to achieve cloud maturity. With the growing portability of applications, seamless data integration, and emerging business alliances between vendors, enterprises need to posture themselves for Omni-cloud adoptions soon.