The journey to the cloud isn’t a straightforward path, says a Gartner expert. It involves a mix of computing styles.
LAS VEGAS -- As enterprises continue a journey to the cloud, cloud computing can help them become more fleet-footed and innovative. But today the path to the cloud involves diverse computing models, which can be difficult to manage.
IT complexity is the name of the game in data center operations. A combination of computing models has become a reality as enterprises consider hybrid cloud infrastructure, said Thomas Bittman, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner Research, at the recent Gartner IT Infrastructure, Operations Management and Data Center Conference.
Hybrid clouds involve a mix of application workloads that are housed in private, virtualized cloud environments on-premises or in hosted environments and public cloud services. Doing so enables scalability and dynamic use of resources, with orchestration between the environments. Managing this orchestration, and knowing which applications to deploy where, is now the key to successful infrastructure management and data center careers, Bittman said.
Source: Gartner estimates based on cloud adoption surveys (2014 to 2016)
“We’re on a journey to the mix,” Bittman noted. “Our job is to enable good management and capability for a variety of apps. IT is becoming the broker for heterogeneous styles of computing,” he said.
While some applications may have performance or security requirements that keep them within the four walls of a company’s data center, others, often newer apps, flourish in public clouds. And some new data requirements may require altogether new computing approaches, such as edge computing, Bittman said in a session on the journey the cloud at the Gartner conference.
As a result, Bittman emphasized, today’s IT is about mapping IT infrastructure strategy based on application requirements.
“It’s important to have a strategic plan not so much for your infrastructure as for your apps,” Bittman said.
To date, though, enterprises have faltered with cloud computing because they are looking for a single path to the cloud, Bittman said.
“One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen . . . is to try to bring all these requirements into one architecture,” he noted. “If you try to do everything, you’ll end up doing nothing well. It will end up being a pretty gnarly ball of yarn,” he said.
Bittman said that it’s important to think about your architecture in a multipronged way.
“We have choices to make. It’s not a unilateral or monolithic choice. It’s a choice about what best suits your application,” he said.
Data confirms that companies use a mix of services in their journey to the cloud. According to Gartner estimates, 56% of enterprises used cloud services in 2016; that percentage will increase to 81% in 2018. For the period between 2014 and 2020, growth rates for Infrastructure as a Service, Platform as a Service and Software as a Service delivery models are estimated at 32%, 20% and 19%, respectively.
Bittman noted that categorization of applications can help companies think about how best to create a hybrid cloud architecture. He encouraged companies to think about where to place workloads based on application requirements.
Private clouds. Private clouds help enterprise IT run better, by isolating (and often virtualizing) workloads. These environments are for traditional applications that companies want to run more efficiently or to maintain applications with regulatory, IP or other requirements. Private clouds may be best suited to mode one applications, which are those workloads that are more stable and predictable. The primary metric of success here is quality of service and efficiency. Bittman said the market for private clouds will focus on IT modernization, not traditional private cloud functionality. By 2020, less than 2% of workloads will run in true private clouds.
Public clouds. These environments are for net new applications that enterprises want to use to innovate, grow and develop applications in need of dynamic and scalable computing power. Mode two applications are more agile, more volatile and are often cloud-native. These workloads may be microservices or virtualized. They will grow to nearly half the data center’s portfolio by 2020.
Today, the reality is also that many companies use multiple cloud providers. According to data by IDC, 67% of enterprises use two or more public cloud providers.
Edge computing. Edge computing is emerging as a way to handle the growing volume of data generated by more people interacting with more devices. Instead of sending data back and forth to data centers, or to the cloud, edge computing brings that compute power to the network’s edge, where these people, devices and data reside. According to Bittman’s research, while less than 1% of enterprises use edge computing today, that percentage will explode to 40% by 2021.
These uses revealed themselves in a real-time poll taken during Bittman's session. For nearly 100 attendees, the top reasons for using a public cloud were enterprise agility, business modernization and innovation. Cost savings were nearly at the bottom, weighing in at the top seventh reason. “For medium and large companies, it’s not about cost as much as it’s about agility and innovation,” Bittman said. About 25% of attendees are using public clouds today.
Bittman said that managing the mix of computing models in an intelligent way is the central IT goal for the future.
“In the end, your challenge is to have traditional private clouds of different flavors, public cloud providers and also the edge as part of what you’re offering ... in some kind of intelligent, brokered way,” he said.
“Don’t try to drive all of that to one architecture. The goal . . . is to add value in whatever you’re trying to do.”
For more on this topic, check out our hybrid cloud strategy guide.
Lauren Horwitz is the managing editor of Cisco.com, where she covers the IT infrastructure market and develops content strategy. Previously, Horwitz was a senior executive editor in the Business Applications and Architecture group at TechTarget;, a senior editor at Cutter Consortium, an IT research firm; and an editor at the American Prospect, a political journal. She has received awards from American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE), a min Best of the Web award and the Kimmerling Prize for best graduate paper for her editing work on the journal article "The Fluid Jurisprudence of Israel's Emergency Powers.”