The cloud world is evolving fast, leaving legacy / on premise systems light years behind. Cloud has the ability to transform the way organisations work, but with any change comes a time of adjustment and the process of cloud adoption comes with its own set of challenges. Questions about expected service levels, support contracts and technical flexibility are just some of the issues keeping IT leaders awake at night.
Where cloud is concerned, one of the next biggest obstacles for businesses to overcome is the implications of live migration across geographically disparate locations. With this new capability service providers will be able to load-balance more easily, disaster recovery within the cloud will become a lot more straightforward, and customers will benefit from the economies of broader usage patterns across countries and regions.
I predict that the future of hosting will be around load-balanced, floating workloads. For example, if you take a use case - i.e. a need for 10 web services running in the UK - the alleged live-migration over distances that VMware touts, combined with a new focus on cloud-to-cloud DR and shifting usage patterns, means that hosting providers and users can benefit from a more flexible back-end model.
However, this is only going to work if customers have complete visibility of their workloads and know exactly where they are located. Rules and regulations must be firm so that customers can be confident that workloads will not leave the region or country. Cloud locations must grow to make this viable, of course.
The load balancing choices also need to be made with customer priorities in mind or it could lead to a fast path from this to airline pricing and over-booked flights. Providers will need to be committed to customer success above all. There will undoubtedly be technology required to get to this point but, what strikes me as more important is building the trust between cloud / hosting provider and customer.
The partnership aspect of the relationship between cloud service provider and customer, which I believe has fallen by the wayside with the advent of big-box cloud, will become critical going forwards. Throughout IT history, the growth in automation - and reliance on automation - has always been tied to an increased trust in the management system. In the cloud space, this translates into an increased trust in the cloud provider. Technology may require a spark of genius, but trust is born of consistent care, which can be hard to replicate.
Pundits and analysts have been quick to brand cloud infrastructure as a commoditised market, but the reality is cloud customers continue to report that their experiences with different vendors vary greatly. Industry research that we commissioned with Enterprise Management Associates, shows that many companies are in the process of switching vendors or adding more vendors into the mix.
In the end, customers need to find a complete cloud solution - resource, pricing model, management tools, SLAs and customer support - that matches the needs of their business. When you get passed the blitz of cloud pricing wars and look at the details of an offering, there is a huge divergence in what vendors provide. As cloud experimentation and adoption continues to rise, this will only become a bigger issue.
A big part of cloud experimentation includes disaster recovery-as-a-service (DRaaS). I predict that the cost of on-premise DR solutions will begin to look like a waste of IT resources, particularly when failing to meet compliance requirements. As more people move to DRaaS, stories will start to appear about have-and-have-not successes and failures.
After an emergency, some companies will be able to tout continuity while others will not - and DRaaS will be the difference. However, as always, awareness of complexities will emerge. Physical systems, co-location, network configuration - the ‘silver bullet’ will seem less sufficient as broader footprints move to DRaaS.
Companies should, and will, be looking to work with vendors that will step up to meet the challenge and that have made an effort to cultivate a trusting relationship through transparency and reliable service.