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Prepare for hybrid cloud headaches

IT will often need to run different workloads on-premise or in multiple cloud environments

The major cloud providers generally support on-premise workloads, with some offering IT admins a way to manage multiple public clouds from one place, but IT leaders say that it is hard to have a single view of the whole cloud hybrid environment, which complicates IT management.

According to analyst Gartner, most organisations have fully operationalised at least one major public cloud infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) or platform-as-a-service (PaaS) provider, and many are looking to add a second cloud provider to support additional applications.

For instance, one cloud provider may offer a better environment for machine learning workloads, while another may simply be more cost-effective. Some businesses may be required to host certain data in their own datacentres, which may be in a private cloud or an entirely standalone version of public cloud infrastructure that is available to run on-premise.

Oracle, like other major public cloud providers, offers both multicloud support and the ability to run the Oracle cloud on-premise through OCI, the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure platform.

Vodafone uses both, as Pedro Sardo, group IT operations director at Vodafone, said: “New applications are easy to put into the cloud. We’ve been using the public cloud for five years, but we want to move everything and modernise all our business applications.”

He added that using the public cloud offers a far greater level of automation compared to what can be achieved on-premise – as well as features such as OCI’s autonomous database – promises to automate management and upgrading of Oracle relational databases. But since not all applications can be migrated to the public cloud, Vodafone has used OCI dedicated region feature, which enables the telco to run the Oracle cloud privately in its own datacentre.

As is the case with Vodafone, many IT leaders will find that not all of their workloads can run in the public cloud. They may be technically constrained or restricted by data regulations that prohibit or severely limit the ability to host publicly identifiable data about customers in a datacentre that may fall under the jurisdiction of a foreign power. This means that some workloads will remain on on-premise IT infrastructure, which need to be managed and maintained alongside public cloud-hosted applications.

Whether it is run on-premise, in a private cloud or a public cloud, multicloud strategies are hybrid environments that offer IT leaders greater flexibility than public cloud infrastructure, but they also increase complexity and cost.

A recent survey from Vanson Bourne for Nutanix, based on a poll of 1,500 IT decision-makers, reported that the majority of respondent organisations (64%) expect to be operating in a multicloud environment as their most commonly used deployment model within three years.

This represents an almost doubling of the proportion of organisations that have already gone multicloud. In the UK, the Nutanix/Vanson Bourne poll found that UK companies lead in their use of mixed IT infrastructure, with 73% reporting the use of multiple IT environments compared to a 60% global average.

Gartner recommends that IT leaders can manage multicloud costs and complexity by defining a strategy for cloud workload placement. It urges IT leaders to start by choosing a primary, preferred provider, and then when the organisation has business requirements that the provider cannot meet, add additional providers in an orderly fashion driven by specific business needs.

But public cloud platforms evolve, which means over time, one cloud provider may offer cloud services that represent a better fit or deliver a more compelling business case for an existing application.

The IT leaders who took part in the Vanson Bourne survey said that their organisations struggle to manage heterogeneous cloud environments and moving workloads among them. Most (87%) agree that succeeding with multicloud infrastructure requires simplifying management and operations across public cloud services delivered by different providers. This is due to the fact that public cloud platforms use different management tools, dashboards, and approaches to configuration.

In addition, while 91% of organisations have moved one or more applications to a new IT environment over the past 12 months, 80% agreed that moving workloads to a different cloud environment is currently costly and time-consuming, and 77% described workload portability as a moderate or significant challenge.

Nutanix’s approach to simplifying management of multicloud environments is its NC2 platform. One of its customers, Forestry and Land Scotland, has been using NC2 to provide a hybrid cloud environment across the public cloud and its own on-premise IT environment.

Discussing the deployment, Nick Mahlitz, senior digital infrastructure manager, Forestry and Land Scotland, said: “Some of the key benefits I found in our time on NC2 was the ability just to stretch our environment seamlessly from on-prem into the cloud.

“We have a definitive time pressure to exit our private datacentre and what struck me initially was that NC2 could become a contingency plan to extend our datacentre and migrate workloads to it without having to transform them to native cloud solutions.”

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