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Editor’s Question: What advice would you give to companies struggling to cope with cloud complexity?

Editor’s Question: What advice would you give to companies struggling to cope with cloud complexity?

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We asked three industry experts what advice they would give to companies struggling to cope with cloud complexity. Here are their responses.

Jim Steed, Managing Director, Nutanix A/NZ

Jim Steed, Managing Director, Nutanix A/NZ

It is critical to understand that cloud is a tool, not a destination.

For years, the cloud has been thought of as somewhere an organization ‘goes’ and, by doing so, the business is magically transformed.

Unfortunately, this ‘destination’ mindset has led enterprises to try and shift all their applications to a single cloud provider in a bid to get ‘out of the data center business’ – regardless of the specific nuances of each individual workload.

But just as every business is unique, the same is true of every application, every workload and every dataset a business relies on.

As the enterprise understanding of cloud has matured, ‘cloud first’ initiatives have evolved into ‘hybrid multi-cloud’ strategies.

Hybrid multi-cloud approaches are anchored in an understanding that there is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to cloud.

Some applications might be suited to one public cloud provider, some to a different public cloud, while others might need the control and security of private cloud, or the proximity to far-flung devices and sensors that only an edge cloud can provide.

Further, the best place for an application today might not be the best place for the same workload tomorrow. Navigating cloud complexity comes down to breaking down the silos between different clouds and allowing business needs to dictate where applications run.  

Hybrid multi-cloud management platforms, like Nutanix, sit at the center of an enterprise’s cloud architecture and unlock the freedom and flexibility to shift apps and data back and forth between multiple cloud providers as required, at the same pace that business needs change.

For any organization struggling with cloud complexity, the first step should be performing an internal audit of each application to understand which infrastructure best suits its specific requirements.

Then, instead of asking ‘how do I get to the cloud?’ the best question to ask is ‘how do I best use cloud for my business?’

Enabling your business to respond rapidly to anything the world throws at it – and in recent years we’ve seen that can be anything – requires a hybrid multi-cloud model that gives you flexibility and freedom of choice to use the infrastructure that best fits each application.

Chris Sharp, CEO Pax8 APAC

Chris Sharp, CEO Pax8 APAC

As organizations move to the cloud or develop as a born-in-the-cloud company, the growing complexities of cloud environments are posing a significant challenge. To keep up with the current pace of change, companies must look to navigate these challenges. The first step to thrive with cloud technology is identifying the most crucial areas where complexity can be overwhelming.

Billing and provisioning complexity

Many companies find themselves faced with increasing complexity around billing. In many cases, Managed Service Providers (MSPs) function as aggregators on behalf of customers, thereby navigating billing and provisioning from disparate sources.

This complexity is further exacerbated when cloud providers work with several different vendors, and often conflicting, schedules and methods of charging/invoicing. For example, some charge based on consumption, while others charge per unit. The ability to reconcile these charges to usage and consolidate billing is paramount to combat complexity.

In addition to having the right skills and policies in place to ensure streamlining and simplification of billing and provisioning, being confident that the cloud environment is built with the necessary toolsets in mind can mitigate the challenges of cloud complexities. Being able to continually innovate and question how to ensure automation and integration as much as possible through streamlined support at a technical level, streamlined support in deployment, and streamlined support in billing is key.

Security

Arguably, the most important factor to consider when addressing issues of cloud complexity is security. Cloud environments increasing in complexity come with a greater need for a strong security posture.

Security must be a primary concern throughout the entire process, from the end-point device, through to the cloud provider being used to implement the cloud-based solution. The entire environment must be secure through well-managed skills, policies, and infrastructure.

Infrastructures ‘born in the cloud’ have the ability to go faster, be more agile, scalable and drastically more secure. The normalization of variables and the overall simplification of delivering the same amazing experience to all customers allows for scalability of security, while enabling operational efficiency.

Infrastructures converting to cloud are, unfortunately, at a disadvantage, while at the same time maintaining business momentum. The momentum which should be used to an organization’s advantage to implement the necessary structures to ensure adequate security.

The overall concept of an infrastructural-world centered on protection of devices is shifting to an identity-centric world centered on protection of the individual no matter which device they happen to act on. This means a dramatic change in how security is viewed – and it is a change that is long overdue.

Naran McClung, Head of Azure – Macquarie Cloud Services

Naran McClung, Head of Azure – Macquarie Cloud Services

My first piece of advice would be to spend time on identity and access management upfront. This will help with Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) adoption right away, and will support safer and more efficient Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) consumption down the line.

Also have some outcomes in mind with the various standards you might need to address upfront – whether they’re security or compliance related. If you’re not sure – CIS 1.3 or ISO 27001 are a good place to start for controls, and references like Microsoft’s Cloud Adoption framework will help with further context and methods.

At Macquarie Cloud Services, and when managing Azure services specifically, we start with the foundations like an expertly-designed landing zone. It’s also important to have a careful arrangement of services, with performance, security, operations, resilience and Disaster Recovery in mind, and to adhere to best practice.

If services are already live, we’ll hook up our ‘Macquarie Lens’ platform for a read-only and automated analysis of what’s in place today. Design can be a subjective exercise, so our Macquarie Lens insights will typically range from genuine risks as we find them suggestions for improvement.

A review of cost, compliance, governance and security will almost always help with understanding and planning where to go next. This in turn reduces complexity.

Cost management and service optimization are super important, too, and popular of course. I haven’t met a customer yet that wasn’t motivated to pay Microsoft the least amount possible. In my experience, when customers feel as though they’re getting maximum value from their cloud platform, they’re much more likely to look to the same platform to solve future business problems – and this is a good thing!

The mere act of optimization gets you closer to your requirements and service architecture, and the discipline often evolves into transformational activities – like greater PaaS adoption or ‘moving up the stack’ as it’s known. This might sound difficult initially, however in our experience it’s well worth it. You’ll consolidate, tune and transform – and you’ll reduce complexity.

Lastly, don’t go it alone. Even if you’ve got excellent in-house skills, I suggest you seek an opinion from an experienced vendor in this space. I often shamelessly brag about adding more customers to Azure than any other partner nationally – and while I enjoy how this sounds, it’s the exposer to projects that’s of real benefit here. The sum total of our experience means we’ve likely solved the same or a similar problem before, and we love sharing what we’ve done and what we know.

Complexity shared is complexity reduced.

Naran McClung is the Head of Azure for Macquarie Cloud Services (MCS).

MCS is Microsoft’s fastest growing Azure Managed Services business within Australia, and the only Azure Expert MSP that’s a member of the Microsoft Intelligent Security Association.

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