How to maximise your cloud computing investment

The cloud is known to bring agility and scale to workloads within companies. However, with such a competitive market currently in place, alongside other aspects to consider, such as security, governance and capability of facilitating remote working to consider, knowing how to maximise cloud computing investment can be a conundrum.

With this in mind, we take a look at how companies can ensure that money, time and talent isn’t wasted on cloud computing deployment.

Collaboration and partnerships

One step towards maximising cloud investment is to look for collaboration platforms and consulting services, both of which can help to get the best out of the technology, says Andrew Halliwell, product director at Virgin Media Business.

“First, it’s about choosing cloud collaboration solutions that offer simplification and integration within a single platform,” said Halliwell. “There are technologies available that create a joined up, personalised and differential worker and consumer experience across all departments and user types. So, rather than just buying a solution in itself, leaders are getting game-changing integration capabilities impacting every aspect of their organisation.

“Secondly, they need to seize on the potential of partnerships. The challenges enterprises face post-Covid are intricate and complex, and so they need to broaden the pool of expertise they draw on when investing in cloud infrastructure.

“By choosing partnerships, organisations can benefit from consultancy on every aspect of running their business — from improving customer experience to bolstering security — driving value and maximising investment.”

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A clear understanding

As with any technology strategy, the entire organisation must be clear about what the cloud deployment will entail, and what is needed from the cloud vendor.

“The key to a proper cloud strategy relies on a crisp understanding of one’s own particular usage model,” explained David Feller, vice-president, product management and solutions engineering at Spectra Logic. “For example, organisations that require high access to data over time should consider aspects such as egress fees and connectivity bandwidth; in such cases, maintaining additional on-premise copies of data is often the best solution. For workflows that heavily use cloud compute resources, the ability to deliver content to those cloud services that can be abandoned once processing is complete has also become a popular strategy.

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“Clarity on exactly what is needed from the cloud provider in terms of storage, compute power, scalability and application compatibility with specific public clouds, are all key variables that should drive decision-making to be weighed against budget. An awareness of hidden cloud costs (beyond the storage per-month fees) is the first step.

“Then, leveraging the strengths of cloud with a hybrid storage approach can create the best of both worlds and enable significant savings. This strategy involves keeping data copies onsite as well as in the cloud.

“Onsite copies enable organisations to control their own data, maintain copies offline on tape for air gap protection against ransomware, and avoid cloud vendor lock-in by being able to switch cloud vendors without paying excessive egress fees. Cloud copies can be utilised for extra protection and disaster recovery.”

A business-driven approach

According to Simon Pamplin, technical director at Silver Peak, maximising cloud investment can be ensured by having your cloud strategy be driven by business.

“At the core of the issue is that with a conventional, router-centric approach, access to applications residing in the cloud means traversing unnecessary hops through the HQ data centre, resulting in inefficient use of bandwidth, additional cost, added latency and potentially lower productivity,” said Pamplin. “To fully realise the potential of cloud, organisations must look to a business-driven networking model to achieve greater agility and substantial CAPEX and OPEX savings.

“When it comes to cloud usage, a business-driven network model should also give clear application visibility through a single pane of glass, or else organisations will be in the dark regarding their application performance and, ultimately, their return on investment.

“Only through utilisation of advanced networking solutions, where application policies are centrally defined based on business intent, and users are connected securely and directly to applications wherever they reside, can the benefits of the cloud be truly realised.

“A business-driven approach eliminates the extra hops and risk of security compromises. This ensures optimal and cost-efficient cloud usage, as applications will be able to run smoothly while fully supported by the network. If organisations want to keep up with and benefit from the pace of digital transformation, they must ensure they have the network infrastructure to do so.”

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Look beyond the costs

When addressing cloud investment, the cost aren’t necessary the be-all and end-all for success, and other factors must be kept in mind.

“Focusing on only reducing infrastructure cost is like looking at the tip of the iceberg but failing to see what lies beneath,” said Jason Rees, senior director, technology solutions & cloud engineering at Oracle UKI. “Infrastructure cost reduction is important, but businesses must also focus on the longer term gains.

“Don’t ‘boil the ocean’ — look for targeted changes like how to drive efficiency and improve processes, or deliver services faster and utilise the cloud to launch new solutions. Businesses should also consider that one of the greatest drivers of ROI (return on investment) is the cloud’s ability to scale horizontally or vertically.

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“To burst up and down as and when it is needed, ensure companies can cope with peaks in demand while not having to pay as they experience lulls. When that same approach is taken for enterprise class applications, with a simple pricing model, the total value that the new approach can result in can be sufficient. Zoom, for example, could burst up to cope with a sudden spike to 300 million daily users.

“A final point is that business leaders must consider all elements to ensure the TCO (total cost of ownership) is truly understood — whether they will face additional software licensing costs, network costs (egress charges), or duplicated or increased people and operational costs. Businesses, therefore, should work with cloud partners that help them operate at enterprise scale and make sure they understand all the benefits but also the full cost of moving to the cloud.”

Monitor performance

A final consideration when it comes to investment towards cloud computing must address the need for constant monitoring of performance.

Matthew Yonkovit, chief experience officer at Percona, said: “When you experience higher traffic, it can seem an easy fix to move up to the next package so you can handle the demand. The problem here is that the cost increase can be incredibly high, and it doesn’t necessarily give you a better grasp of the situation.

“Optimisation is key, not just scaling up. Better tuning of your instances can help, while making smarter decisions on how you deploy your databases can ensure you get better performance at lower cost.

“Flexibility is one of the key selling points of the cloud model, allowing for increases and decreases in capacity in line with demand. Businesses should utilise this flexibility when approaching the rise and fall of demand; scaling down at the right time is just as important as scaling up, and can save additional costs. Regular system audits, eliminating resources not in use, and reviewing the quantity of data, storage class and location are key to effectively scaling down.

“While your cloud provider might manage your infrastructure, they don’t have your insight into your businesses unique needs, and they don’t carry out tuning for your specific circumstances. What you have will work — it may even work well — but it’s designed to suit the vast majority of companies, rather than your individual needs. This can end up costing you more money than it should. Ultimately, the only person responsible for the performance of your analytics project is you.”

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Aaron Hurst

Aaron Hurst is Information Age's senior reporter, providing news and features around the hottest trends across the tech industry.