The year of the cloud: flexible, agile and scalable

The cloud is a tool that offers organisations flexibility, agility and scalability in an increasingly connected world.

The amount of data being processed by organisations is growing dramatically and the cloud – in all its forms – provides a haven to store, communicate and utilise the increasingly vast amount of data being generated.

Flexibility is the buzzword that cloud users often flag. Cloud offerings allow users to switch applications with ease and speed, which allows for a more efficient, innovative and cost-effective business strategy.

The surge in cloud adoption can be pinpointed to the range of possibility- driven opportunities it creates for organisations by allowing them to move away from the rigidity of traditional networks.

Indeed, the cloud reduces business expenditure by reducing hardware costs, while also providing universal access.

>See also: Enterprises set for a secret cloud dividend in 2017

The benefits of cloud use have long been established, so the main trend for cloud storage in 2017 will be an increase in its use. More organisations already using cloud will increase their cloud storage capability, while more ‘cloud virgins’ will adopt the software than ever before, breaking into uncharted but opportunity-filled territory as they do.

Public cloud adoption

The rate of cloud storage adoption will increase dramatically this year. The reason? Data. As Rob Lamb, cloud business director and CTO UK&I at Dell EMC, points out to Information Age, ‘90% of the world’s data and digital footprint has been created in the past two years, and the number of internet connected devices is increasing exponentially. As a result, customers can’t reasonably expect to store all of their data on an on-
premise server or in a private cloud infrastructure. The more widely IoT technologies are adopted, the greater the need for low-cost cloud archive storage.’

Key to increased adoption of the cloud is the Internet of Things. As society enters the IoT era, billions of devices are becoming increasingly connected. This throws up a number of security concerns, but in terms of storage it presents a really big problem. Where and how can you store the data safely, in an accessible and cost-effective manner?

The data being generated is vital for driving business operations and advancing consumer engagement. The need to embrace the open cloud, therefore, is essential for businesses and their clients who are looking to take advantage of this data revolution.

In a recent survey, Dell EMC found that 48% of business leaders said moving to a cloud model would expand software development capabilities and enable faster innovation and deeper insights from data.

This will be key to implementing successful digital strategies that are necessary to remain competitive. Where will this increase in cloud adoption take place then? The fastest adoption, suggests Peter Grimmond, head of technology, EMEA at Veritas, ‘will continue to be for office automation workloads such as email and sync-and-share.

>See also: Why cloud, mobile and the education sector make a perfect match

However, enterprises will also begin to make more extensive use of cloud storage for long-term data retention, including backup and archive data, as costs reduce further and technologies for optimising data storage, such as deduplication to the cloud, mature.’

So it is clear that cloud storage in 2017 will further enhance storage capabilities. But it will also enable organisations to reduce their on-premise data centre footprint, which will lead to significant cost-saving opportunities.

‘The opportunity to scale quickly as requirements change, both up or down, means you can deliver agility,’ suggests Lamb. ‘This has benefits in terms of not having to provision infrastructure which may then stand idle as the requirement reduces. Also, for industries where collaboration is key over certain data sets, it is often easier to share data that is cloud hosted than that which sits behind corporate firewalls.’

The cloud will, therefore, play a critical role in accelerating and maximising the use of data, not just storing it. It ultimately provides the virtual infrastructure that enables businesses to generate, use, store and analyse huge volumes of information.

However, ‘not all data can be sent to the cloud’, according to Michael Tso, CEO and co-founder of Cloudian. Customers who are looking to optimise their use of storage technologies to build the best solutions for them will require bespoke hybrid solutions.

The hybrid/multi model

Many organisations, especially large enterprises, will begin to integrate a hybrid cloud solution into their operations. This refers to a combination of ‘public cloud and other compute resource delivery models, such as private hosted cloud, on-premise servers, managed hosting and colocation’, informs Matthew Finnie, CTO at Interoute.

Currently only the most cloud-advanced organisations have a hybrid IT environment that uses multiple private and public clouds, based on economics, location and governance policies.

A successful hybrid cloud environment will run as one platform across all applications. However, this will often require an experienced cloud service provider.

As a result of this, 2017 will witness an expanding choice of cloud storage services. Vendors and suppliers, including telcos, systems integrators and technology resellers seeking to take advantage of mass cloud adoption, will transform their business operations to offer cloud services.

Grimmond highlights this and suggests that ‘while using similar base platforms to deliver storage services, these different players will seek to differentiate themselves in a variety of ways: some by assuring compliance with local data privacy laws; others by offering wrap-around managed services to ease organisations’ migration to cloud; and others by tailoring their services to meet the specific needs of their customer base’.

A result of this growing choice of cloud storage providers will be the uptake of multi-cloud. More businesses will look to multiple service providers that tailor to different applications.

>See also: What’s in store for cloud in 2017?

Essentially, users are drawing on resources from many separate clouds – for instance, SaaS apps like, Office 365 and Slack. Joachim Mason, head of data centre at Cisco UK&I, recognises the significant role that multi-cloud will have in driving an organisation’s digital strategy.

‘Conventional data centres will continue to host human resource applications as well as traditional data-oriented workloads such as enterprise content management and data integration,’ he remarks. ‘This will enable organisations to manage “different clouds for different crowds” based on reliability, scalability and security demands.’

It seems like the importance of cloud in 2017 is indisputable, but its adoption will present risk.

The drawbacks

Lamb reveals to Information Age three risks that could threaten the surge of organisations looking to adopt and expand their cloud capability in 2017. He first identifies the financial risk. ‘For companies that have historically used capex for IT expenditure and that value predictability of spend, cloud consumption and a move to variable monthly charges can come as a big surprise. The CFO needs to fully appreciate the budgetary ramifications of the shift.’

The second risk comes from the fact that implementing a cloud-first strategy is a massive undertaking, and this presents operational and technical challenges.

He notes, ‘For regulated industries, there may be a requirement to know exactly where your data is – this isn’t always possible in a true cloud model.’

With the European General Data Protection Regulation set to take effect in May 2018, this factor could be hazardous and costly. The ability to locate specific data is a key requirement of the regulation.

The final drawback that Lamb notes is the ROI implications that a surge in cloud adoption could have. ‘Appropriate cost analysis needs to be done for any re-architecting and if any application scales more rapidly than was first thought. If you already have data centres, and therefore some stranded cost, it can often be cheaper over a five-year TCO to host an application in a private cloud than in a public one.

>See also: The year of the cloud: availability and agility

‘The lifecycle of an application needs to be factored into the decision- making process. There is also an issue of security, with the number of cloud breaches set to increase. Widespread adoption opens the door to significant vulnerabilities.

Ultimately, however, risks are built into every business decision. On balance, the cloud in 2017 will open up more possibilities, create more agility and allow for more flexibility in increasingly competitive environments than it will present dangers.

Simply put, the cloud is necessary for businesses in a world governed by data.

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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