Today, 95% of organisations use some kind of cloud infrastructure to power their business. In fact, according to a recent IDC report, total spending on IT infrastructure products for use in cloud environments will grow 18 per cent in 2017, reaching an estimated £35 billion. In contrast, investment in traditional non-cloud architecture equipment will decrease by more than 3 per cent over the next 12 months.
A wide range of organisations, from start-ups to large, global enterprises have adopted cloud computing technologies to launch their applications, automate processes, and store data. The reason is that by moving to the cloud, companies can reduce the size of (or even eliminate) their data centres, achieve always-on availability, improve mobility and collaboration, and benefit from flexible capacity, all of which translates into increased productivity, and shorter times to market.
Most notably, the original premise for many organisations moving to the cloud is cost savings. However this process can be expensive, as companies reshuffle and retrain teams, and as a result, many businesses are talking about the hidden costs of the cloud.
Cheaper simply can’t be the only reason to make a move to the cloud. Organisations need to reframe the decision to move their applications to the cloud around business value, and focus on two soft benefits which may be just as important as any cost consideration: agility and scalability.
Before cloud computing, it used to take companies a long time to build an application and get it to market, or to enter into a new market. For example, if a UK based organisation wished to expand into the US, it would have to buy a datacentre there, build the infrastructure, and hire a local team of experts there to troubleshoot when needed. Following this process, which could take several months to complete, the company would finally be in a position to launch services in the US.
However with cloud computing, an organisation can launch operations in a different region in just a few days, by hiring the services of an existing cloud provider. It can also use the cloud to build or update applications, roll out new features, or accommodate new customers. Companies can provision and deprovision unlimited resources as required, within hours instead of months, and with minimal cost. That is true agility – the ability to deploy and manage network services, applications, and edge IT as intuitively as downloading apps onto a smartphone, and as instantly as spinning up compute and storage resources into a public cloud.
An added business value of cloud technology is that it gives organisations the flexibility to scale up and down as needed — and fast. This can be particularly relevant for a range of companies and contexts. For instance, an organisation may launch a new app, attracting thousands of users to the company website, or a retailer may see website traffic increase exponentially on big shopping days like Black Friday or Cyber Monday. In both scenarios, failure to meet traffic demands can have a negative impact on organisations’ reputation and bottom line.
In the cloud, business success is about being able to scale up resources in order to support increased demand, and quickly update applications in order to correct problems or add new features so that users receive those updates automatically, wherever they are. By the same token, organisations also need to be capable of quickly scaling down when they have overestimated the capacity required for a particular application or time frame. The ultimate benefit of moving quicker and deploying faster is achieving larger market share.
Visualising the path to success
Guaranteeing the benefits of agility and scalability is easier said than done. Both depend on achieving optimal application and network performance, and can be hindered by problematic application codes, network and connectivity issues, and server failure.
Most companies take a fragmented approach to application performance management. Separate IT teams leverage specialised tools to investigate network traffic, real-time communications problems, infras infrastructure, and application performance-related issues. Each team sees only part of the transaction, and effective communication between those teams is challenging because they are using different, unsynchronised metrics. As a result, IT wastes time trying to determine the root cause for performance problems instead of fixing them. This translates into a reactive approach which falls short in the complex, application-driven world.
The key to success is for organisations to establish holistic, real-time, end-to-end visibility into application performance across the entire network, so that they can establish a clear line of sight into how apps are performing, and how they impact on the end-user experience. They need to be able to answer: What is the latency? What is the user experience? Where are users coming from?
This speeds organisations’ ability to pinpoint the root cause of any issue, regardless of whether it originates in the application, network, infrastructure, or end-user device. IT will then be able to take a proactive approach to detecting performance issues, instead of reacting to a problem after it has already hit.
IT will also be better positioned to help the business make better decisions, empowering organisations to respond to changes in the marketplace faster than ever before, maximising their efficiency and productivity.
(The author is the Regional Vice President for UK, Ireland and Sub-Saharan Africa)
Allan Paton, Regional Vice President for UK, Ireland and Sub-Saharan Africa
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