Public Cloud – on-line computing resources from the big brands – was seen as the obvious choice for many and technologists love them, but several key problems have emerged for business users:
- Costs can become prohibitive when usage gets underway
- Lock-in strips away business flexibility and choice
- Privacy and security issues concern many
- Support is hard to come by unless you’re a big enterprise
Decision makers need to find solutions to these problems if they are to build economic and effective organisations around the technologies of Cloud.
Services from the big Cloud brands have important advantages for certain things but because their costs are driven by usage, they can become prohibitively expensive when that usage starts to ramp up. Using Public Cloud for everything is like using taxis for every journey – yes, you do only pay for what you use, but that can be prohibitively expensive when used across the board.
The large availability and variable costs charged by the big Cloud providers works well for handling unpredictable demand and unexpected spikes in requirement, but is often uneconomic for steady usage and fixed requirements. A pragmatic approach to the requirements of the business is called for, and a specialised solution that blends services is likely to deliver superior economics while still satisfying the needs of the technology.
Business Flexibility and Choice
There is an inherent conflict of interest at work in Public Cloud:
- Business leaders want to have freedom of action, but
- Cloud brands want to stop customers leaving if they can.
The big Cloud providers use a variety of techniques to make it easy to start work and do more with them, but make it harder to move away to another provider later. This Honey Trap is often not apparent until it’s too late: Hotel California!
The most obvious example is the pricing of data movement. A common technique is for it to be low cost or even free to send data to the provider and store it, but cost heavily to get the data back or move it elsewhere. All the technology works but the business is trapped. Specialised solutions can be built that put volumes of data where flexibility and pricing meets the needs of the business without compromising the needs of the technology.
Privacy, security and regulation
Attitudes towards data are hardening and getting more complex for businesses to deal with. Regulators and authorities seem to be working on solutions to yesterday’s issues while those same issues are changing in front of them. National and regional attitudes shift competitively – think China versus USA versus the EU – and there’s a continual power game going on between politicians and big tech – think EU versus US based tech, China versus US big tech. As if that changing landscape wasn’t enough, corporations and enterprises have their own policies and preferences, causing refusals to allow their data to be housed with this or that public Cloud provider, depending on internal attitudes, preferences and legacies. All this can be fiendishly hard to navigate.
With these unpredictable and changing realities, businesses must be pragmatic and flexible in their approach, and able to respond to the situation on the ground as they find it in their quest for customers. Cloud should be a flexible business resource, not a fixed technology. Cloud Operations can be set up to respond to change and deliver that pragmatism for the business and its customers. The right skill sets and organisational partners will bring that responsive focus to the design and evolution of the Cloud services underpinning the ambitions, achievements and economics of the business.
Business grade support
The management drumbeat changes as soon as technologies are working and service delivery begins. This is when user expectations and all important service stabilty drive the need for timely technical support. Yet this can be hard to come by from Public Cloud brands and, as more and more businesses deploy Cloud, the people needed become harder to find and too costly to have in-house for the kind of cover required to support user services.
Delivering user services from Cloud requires business grade support, with the routine monitoring and management techniques and processes that keep everything in top condition and identify and fix issues swiftly when they happen. Specialist Cloud support firms are springing up, who have all these systems in place and ready, and with access to the right skill sets. These firms provide business leaders with a highly effective, scalable and economic solution that is likely to be more straightforward than diverting management time and resources to build this in-house.
Business solutions in the Cloud go beyond the technology
Using Cloud successfully in business is only partly about the technology. The bigger impact on the business comes from the implications of the way that the services are structured and who provides them. These implications often begin to bite as usage climbs, which is the most difficult time to start making changes to the architecture.
Specialists in Cloud solutions for business, such as Flexiion, will work alongside technology teams to help devise, implement and operate practical services that meet the needs, ambitions and objectives of the business.
Peter is chairman of Flexiion and has a number of other business interests. (c) 2021, Peter Osborn