Blurring Lines Between Private and Public Clouds

To tame complexity of hybrid and multi-cloud IT operations, new technologies aim to seamlessly translocate applications and data when business needs shift.

By Brian Carlson

By Brian Carlson July 13, 2020

Running a business on public cloud services makes sense for many startups and companies that don’t want to own their IT infrastructure, but most businesses today are finding the right balance. It takes time, new technologies and skill sets to get a hybrid, private and public cloud, IT system humming.  

According to the Enterprise Cloud Index, the vast majority of 2019 survey respondents (85%) selected hybrid cloud as their ideal IT operating model. The research by Vanson Bourne and Nutanix, based on feedback from 2,650 IT decision-makers in 24 countries around the world, revealed businesses and organizations expect to invest substantially in hybrid cloud IT systems over the next five years.

Upfront capex savings from using public cloud services instead of investing in private data centers has proven false for many, according to Madhukar Kumar, Vice President of Product Marketing, Cloud Services for Nutanix. Today, savings and efficiencies come from a businesses’ ability to match applications with the right computing resource: public or private cloud.

Kumar said that the first step to hybrid cloud is understanding why public cloud services became so popular. Speed and flexibility are the most common reasons for choosing a public cloud.

“If it takes traditional IT three to six months to stand up an environment, it's very frustrating,” said Kumar. “One of the things that the public cloud offers is an ability to spin up things immediately.”

While the public cloud offers a tremendous amount of flexibility to IT groups that need to spin up and scale quickly, it also creates a number of challenges. For one, a private cloud data center is typically well governed, while the use of easy-to-access public cloud services may not be so tightly managed. Parts of a business would use public cloud services while central IT is left to pay the bill without being able to easily track how each business unit actually used the services.

“Because it is easy to spin things up, it leads to cloud sprawl,” said Kumar.  “It becomes impossible to manage that sprawl manually and thus people just leave stuff running rather than putting in the necessary work to manage it.”

This leads to what’s known as shadow IT, where individual project managers turn to public cloud without oversight from central IT.

“Now the central IT folks who used to have a good sense of what is happening across their network don't have visibility into what's happening on that shadow AWS or Azure setup,” said Kumar.

To address this dilemma, IT leaders today use software that monitors the use of public cloud but increasingly they’re evolving their own data centers to be software defined, making them easily scalable like public cloud services. According to Kumar, these companies leverage their private, on-premises data center for ongoing needs then turn to public cloud services to run non-sensitive data workloads. This so-called cloud bursting quickly adds resources when capacity of a private cloud is maxed out.

IT groups have good reasons to use public cloud services like AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform.

“They can swipe a business unit’s credit card or allocate a budget to run a testing area or something that’s not core to the business,” said Kumar.

The need to maintain control of critical apps and data mixed with sudden or unforeseen demands is what led many to take a hybrid cloud approach.

“There's going to be both public and private cloud, so IT departments need the skill set and tooling to manage both from a unified plane. In addition, if the infrastructure can be programmed and the code is portable, IT and engineering teams can more easily come together and run an extremely fast innovation cycle ”

Kumar said new software and services will help bridge the skills gap by allowing IT teams to use the same policies and control console to manage on-prem and multiple public clouds.  Public cloud and on-prem specialists can work with infrastructure managers using the same control plane.

Clusters Bridge Private and Public Cloud

Moving and managing applications and data between private and public cloud requires new skills and new tools that automate and speed the process. When a company wants to migrate from on-premises to public cloud today, it initiates a huge, challenging re-platforming project.

Kumar pointed to Nutanix Clusters, which will allow IT to manage applications in private and public clouds without retooling or rearchitecting between environments. It allows applications and infrastructure to run in multiple public clouds just as it runs on-premises, using the same platform on both clouds. This reduces the complexity of extending, bursting or migrating applications and data between clouds.

“There’s a need for spinning up multiple clouds,” Kumar said. “This allows the same teams with the same skill sets to move the same applications without needing to retool and re-platform. There is no need to re-architect the application.”

As more businesses use a multicloud approach, it’s more critical than ever for IT decision makers to avoid cloud vendor lock-in, said Kumar.

“IT managers don’t want roadblocks. They need flexibility to move between clouds.”

Brian Carlson is a contributing writer. He is Founder of RoC Consulting and was Editor-in-Chief of CIO.com and EE Times. Follow him on Twitter @bcarlsonDM

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