Guest post from Dale Vile, Freeform Dynamics Ltd.
Cloud computing has almost certainly found its way into your world, and by now you’ve undoubtedly discovered that no one cloud service or platform – public or private – can meet all of your organizations’ needs.
The trouble is that as you accumulate different cloud platforms and services, and even see the same cloud options used differently across the business, you can quickly end up with a degree of chaos that some refer to as ‘cloud sprawl’. It then becomes hard to keep track of what’s going on and to manage operational costs and risks.
Meanwhile, having to design, write and test for multiple target environments, then integrate between them when necessary, complicates the jobs of developers.
It’s against this background that the requirement for a multi-cloud strategy emerges. This recognizes that you need to exploit multiple cloud options, but at the same time have to minimize sprawl by focusing on a few key platforms then managing them coherently.
We say ‘platforms’ here, rather than software stacks or services, because another goal is to achieve location independence wherever possible. By this, we mean having the freedom to deploy an application anywhere – public cloud, private-hosted, and/or on-premises – without incurring excessive porting costs.
Separating the platform decision from the question of where, physically, to deploy an application not only makes life easier for developers, it also caters for situations in which the ‘right’ location for an application changes over its lifetime.
You can initially roll out on-premises, then move the application to the public cloud if usage patterns jump or are unpredictable. Conversely, you might move an initially fast-growing application from the public cloud into a more economical on-premises or privately-hosted environment once resource requirements settle and become more predictable.
While you’ll always have lots of factors to consider when deciding on the initial location and subsequent movement of an application, the freedom and efficiency gains can be significant if you remove the multi-platform concerns. But how does it work in practice?
Microsoft’s current hybrid cloud solution is a good example, because it combines the traditionally separate worlds of the public cloud and on-premises computing. It does this via Azure Stack, which as the name suggests is a software stack that you can install in your data center or hosting environment.
This mimics the Azure public cloud, providing developers with a consistent set of services and APIs that are essentially location-independent. Operations staff then get a consistent set of tools to monitor and manage their Microsoft cloud platforms across all locations.
Azure Stack is delivered as an integrated system by Microsoft partners such as Fujitsu. The partner provides the hardware, software and management tools, with everything designed and sized as a complete solution to suit your needs.
For consistency with the public cloud, the default commercial model is subscription-based, though capacity-based licensing is available for disconnected deployment scenarios.
When selecting a supplier to work with, it’s essential to think beyond the immediate requirement. While Azure Stack bridges the gap between the public cloud and on-premises computing, it only does this for the Microsoft platform.
As you formulate your multi-cloud strategy, the chances are that you’ll be incorporating other cloud platforms into the mix. A supplier with a robust partner ecosystem that encompasses all or most mainstream cloud platform vendors and service providers can help you make the right choices for the right reasons.
Also look out for complementary services and technology in areas such as system lifecycle management, application and data migration, and data protection and recovery.
Azure Stack might be a compelling hybrid cloud option if Microsoft platforms are important to you, but it’s still just software underpinned by hardware, so familiar enterprise infrastructure operations and management principles apply.
To find out more about Azure Stack and how to work through some of the practicalities associated with it, download our whitepaper “Accelerate to hybrid cloud”.