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4 ways to move into the cloud

What does the cloud mean to you? With so many definitions and interpretations, sometimes it’s difficult to know what’s best. Here we examine the four main types of cloud, their advantages and disadvantages, and give our predictions for the future.

1) Private cloud

The cloud is owned and controlled by your business. Infrastructure, resources, monitoring tools and automated services are allocated solely for your requirements. This level of management means you can expect to pay more costs for managing a private cloud, because you lose the advantage of economy of scale that is offered by sharing the same infrastructure with other organisations. However, you benefit from greater security and overall control.

There are two ways to manage your private cloud:

On-premises. You can use existing or legacy infrastructure, which can reduce costs. Of course, you’ll need on-premises expertise to configure, manage and maintain your cloud. If you don’t have that…

…you can use a third party-hosted private cloud. The third party will be a specialist in cloud infrastructure management. You’re not sharing infrastructure, it just means you’re outsourcing control of your cloud environment. The third party may in turn outsource its cloud environment, so you’ll need to check if this is the case, and make a risk assessment. You’ll also need to confirm who’s responsible for any downtime and delivering the business continuity plan.

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2) Public cloud

Your business operates in a cloud which is operated and managed by a third party provider. It’s public because other businesses are sharing the same resources, applications, infrastructure and platforms.

That means no investment in infrastructure, repairs or upgrades. That’s why a public cloud is popular among organisations looking for a fast, scalable and cost-effective way to get into the cloud. But it means there is less control, so you’d need to evaluate the impact on risk and security.

3) Hybrid cloud

Some cloud services (such as infrastructure or applications) are provided by your organisation, and others are hosted in the cloud. Workloads can be shared across platforms, for load balancing, increasing flexibility, and “cloud bursting” (where additional resources are leveraged to handle spikes in demand, for example at Christmas for e-commerce enterprises).

With hybrid cloud, one of the key issues is interoperability. Let’s say data is acquired via a public cloud, and then ported to a private cloud for analysis and strategic recommendations. This process requires robust connectivity, high-level encryption, and probable API compatibility.

4) Community cloud

Organisations with a common interest or purpose (for example, government agencies or charities) come together to share one cloud. The cloud is configured to suit their collective needs, and can be hosted on-premises or via a third party provider.

A community cloud offers many of the advantages of a public cloud (such as cost-effectiveness), alongside advantages of a private cloud (such as security).

However, as with any communal arrangement, rules need to be clearly set out to avoid conflict. How will costs be split between the members? Who takes responsibility for managing the community cloud? One of the big advantages of the cloud is its scalability. How does this work if one member wants to scale up, and another wants to scale down?

The future

Which cloud is right for your organisation? The simple answer is… it depends. There are many factors to consider. For example your infrastructure, strategic plans, current level of expertise. Then there’s the future. The following trends are already having a major impact:

  • The Internet of Things (IoT)
    According to Gartners: “Processing large quantities of IoT data in real time will increase as a proportion of workloads of data centres, leaving providers facing new security, capacity and analytics challenges.” As more devices connect to the IoT, the volume, velocity and variety of data pouring into data centres is going to grow on an unprecedented scale (an estimated 26 billion units by 2020). Data centres will need new levels of bandwidth, storage, and security.
  • Software Defined Networks
    Dell forecasts an increase in server virtualisation, replacing hardware solutions and leading to “whole new markets for servers in places where we never saw servers before.” SDNs will become SBNs (Software-Based Networks), leading to major advances in server technology. Data centres will have to adjust to incorporate these innovations, which Dell expects to see appearing from 2016 onwards.
  • Shortage of qualified workers
    As demands on data centres increase, the need for skilled employees will grow accordingly. A study by Development Economics, in association with o2, found that 750,000 digital-skilled workers will be needed by 2017 to support the UK economy. Some data centres may struggle to find the technical capability to keep up.
  • Performance issues
    The data centre cooling market is expected to exceed $11.5 billion by 2020, fuelled by increased demands for data, applications, and services from verticals such as health and e-commerce. The future belongs to data centres which can simultaneously increase energy efficiency and reduce costs.

The next step

It’s clear that the cloud solution which is appropriate now may not be the right solution in five years’ time. That’s the reasoning behind the Digital Centre, recognising that the cloud industry is changing, and businesses need to adapt accordingly.

Contact us to discuss your present and future cloud needs, and to find out whether a Digital Centre migration could benefit your organisation. And if you have experience of switching clouds, or can offer any advice or recommendations, please let the Digital Centre community know in the comments below.

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