It’s never been easier to spin up Cloud infrastructure and get going. The obvious brands are, well, obvious – the Hyper-scalers, as they’re known – and they grease the on-ramp with free credits for start-ups; uploading and storing data is free; firing up a few instances is so simple. What could go wrong?

Three trends are changing this landscape, and the issues never stay the same when you scale.

There’s been a big shove given to the adoption of on-line services across the board. It’s not that eCommerce, Zoom calls and Cloud infrastructure weren’t being used before, they were. On-line services are a necessity now though, and used by almost everyone in almost every area, almost all of the time. This puts much greater pressure on performance and resilience, making infrastructure capability a critical factor for tech enabled organisations. This is not going away, and is becoming more significant as on-line services penetrate ever further and deeper.

Those on-line services are getting more rich and dynamic, as they get smarter, more complex and capable. There was a time when we just had to think of the three straightforward kinds of tech workload: Compute, Store, Network. It’s just not that simple any longer because on-line services aren’t that simple. The dynamics of demand need bursting capability and load management. Different parts of the tech stack need very different performance characteristics to deliver them, be it the traffic dynamics of user demand loading on throughput, or the heavy processing demands of AI and ML, or the very different needs of data at rest versus latency. IoT, autonomous devices, and OTT services are adding to these pressures and pushing platform architects to separate central services from transactional processes and move slices of the tech effort out to the edge.

Of course innovation is driving the third trend, with more and more variety of specialised services and capabilities becoming available to tech enabled organisations. Yes, the Hyper-scalers have lots of services and they innovate, too, but few people buy everything own brand from Tesco or Sainsburys – there are just too many other great things available in the diverse world we live in. Besides, many of us enjoy the service and specialities we get from artisan bakers, craft beer micro breweries, and independent restaurants. The big brands are great for some things bit not for everything.

With the world changing so quickly, more diversity and specialist services becoming available and needs are shifting, decision-makers in tech enabled business must look to choice and flexibility first, never more so than when scaling demand and opportunity are driving their agendas. Being able to respond is the key, having the flexibility to respond to changing needs and circumstances at will is the stuff of business, and it’s the business considerations that should come at the top of the list in driving choices about technology and Cloud. These things should be the servant of the business, not a constraint. Tech enabled organisations have to decide how Cloud will be their servant, not a master.

Peter is chairman of Flexiion and has a number of other business interests. (c) 2020, Peter Osborn

Peter and Eltjo Hofstee discuss these issues in this Horizon Scan.

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