“By the year 2020” isn’t the beginning of some young-adult dystopian sci-fi story. No, the painful reality is that by the year 2020, I’ll still be driving the same car I have now, and that car will still be under the manufacturer’s warranty. But the phrase “by the year 2020” is prominent in the latest installment of the Cisco Global Cloud Index, a report the company has published every year since 2011. The report notes trends regarding the number and nature of organizations moving their infrastructure to the cloud in some form.
The 2016 edition notes that by the year 2020, about 98 percent of all compute workloads will be processed by a cloud-based architecture. Out of that jaw-dropping percentage, 66.5 percent (or 68 percent of all cloud-based compute workloads) will be in public-cloud spaces such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, leaving 31.5 percent in private-cloud environments. Just these few numbers should provide a math-based context for the current gold-rush atmosphere surrounding investment in and development of cloud-centric tools and solutions.
But the report doesn’t tell the whole story, or at least it doesn’t capture the reality for today’s data center managers. For that perspective, you must look at a different set of numbers: those from the SolarWinds IT Trends Report, now in its fourth year. This year’s study, the SolarWinds IT Trends Report 2017: Portrait of a Hybrid IT Organization, also tracked cloud adoption. It revealed that although 95 percent of those surveyed have moved something to the cloud in the past 12 months, just 1 percent of the respondents are 100-percent cloud based. The majority have 1–25 percent of their architecture in the cloud; the rest remained on premises.
Hybrid IT is the condition in which part of your infrastructure is in the cloud and part of it remains on-premises, with your team remaining responsible for all of it—including the Internet, which connects the two. It’s not only a reality, it’s the norm among companies, according to the report. Although very few companies have resisted the urge to move something to the cloud, very few companies have moved everything “up there.”
For most, this information probably isn’t new. I’d be surprised if many haven’t yet experienced it. The report offers more insights, however: insights that could help guide your decisions and direction in the coming months.
To the Cloud…and Back?
Of the 95 percent who moved something to the cloud in the past 12 months, 35 percent said they had also ultimately moved workloads out of the cloud and back on premises. This reversal was due to either security/compliance or performance concerns.
This situation begs the question: why were those applications moved in the first place? Despite its novelty with regard to cost and overhead, a move to the cloud is almost identical to the projects of a decade ago where we moved from bare metal to virtualization. So, when did these companies get lost in the weeds? My guess is they were simply being caught up in the sheer enthusiasm of cloud migration.
Still, we must remember there’s no guarantee that we’ll find two scoops of savings and speed in every box of cloud cereal. Cloud isn’t a one-size-fits-all (or even one-size-fits-most) scenario.
The need for pretesting before a move to the cloud, as well as workload performance and security considerations, shouldn’t take second place to deployment speed. To better work with business leadership and avoid realizing too late that a workload performs worse in the cloud, you should participate in cloud conversations early (and often).
No Visibility, No Control, No Service
To be successful as an IT professional, you need three things: responsibility, accountability and authority. Most of us get the first two whether we like it or not. Authority is what we usually have to fight for, and it’s even more tenuous in a hybrid-IT environment. In fact, the SolarWinds IT Trends Report showed that over half of IT professionals consider a lack of control over the performance of cloud-based workloads a top challenge and still a considerable barrier to migration.
One trick is to remember that what’s almost as good as authority is visibility. If you can see the problem in question and communicate it to the provider down to the most minute detail, you have a much faster route to resolution, which in turn ameliorates some of the stress associated with moving a workload to the cloud. To that end, “trust but verify” should be the IT professional’s mantra in the year ahead as organizations work to identify how best to maintain an element of control and visibility into workloads and applications that are hosted in the cloud. It’s critical to ensure you have tools to monitor every aspect of your hybrid-IT environment, from on premises to the cloud and everything in between, and to give yourself a consistent and coherent source of insight.
One constant I have found over my 30 years in IT is the challenge many of us face in staying on top of new technology. It’s no surprise, then, that complexity remains both a barrier to cloud adoption and a major challenge for those who have already moved. Furthermore, according to the survey, data center managers admit they feel IT professionals entering the workforce lack the skills to successfully do their current jobs.
Of course, skills can be taught, learned and implemented to better equip you and your team to manage hybrid-IT environments and oversee systems migration in the cloud. Right now, the only consistent point of cloud adoption is that it’s inconsistent—across companies, departments, projects and even IT professionals. Data center managers must accept that bringing new staff up to speed on what “your environment” means when it comes to cloud, hybrid IT, functions as a service and so on is a fact of life.
Cloud: Not Both a Dessert Topping and a Floor Wax
Despite what pundits say, the cloud isn’t good for everything under the sun (or the fluorescent lighting) in the data center. According to the report, in the past 12 months, respondents have moved applications (74 percent), storage (50 percent) and databases (35 percent) to the cloud more than any other area of IT.
Most people focus on what got moved, but think about the things that were not moved. Obvious in that list of missing items are things like desktop computing and voice applications, but there are others. And keeping tabs on the cloud conversation as it happens in the news, on the web and in the pages of the Data Center Journal will help you understand what works well in the cloud and which applications, services and infrastructure elements should remain firmly on the solid ground of your data center.
The Cloud Isn't Free, but It's Pretty Cheap
Another interesting insight from the report is that over two-thirds of those who responded said they spend less than 40 percent of their annual budget on the cloud. That means your on-premises budget isn’t going to be gutted, but it’s also clear the budget for traditional data centers is on a downswing and wise data center managers must be prepared to soon pivot to the new reality.
We are clearly in the midst of one of those major shifts in computing that comes along every decade or so. Organizations of all sizes are implementing cloud computing to better meet the demands of a modern workforce. The rate of technology abstraction promises to increase systems migration and hybrid-IT complexity, requiring data center managers and their staff be prepared for the continuing shift in management and monitoring requirements. Cloud computing’s mounting importance and the shift to hybrid IT are evolving norms. With the findings of the above research in mind, it’s crucial that we all continue to learn new skills and adapt to the ever changing hybrid-IT environment.
About the Author
Leon Adato is a SolarWinds Head Geek and long-time IT systems management and monitoring expert.