Here at Veritas, we work with clients on a variety of projects and many of them involve using technology to create business impact. We primarily operate within the energy industry where technology adoption tends to lag Silicon Valley. While the cloud may be old news for other industries, many of our clients are in the early stages of the migration of their applications to the cloud. For those that have made the leap, the benefits have been highly transformative. For those on the other side of the leap, a paradigm shift in thinking is required. In this post, we will cover how to think about the cloud and the benefits that come with moving your business systems to the cloud.
Think What On-demand Did for Video or iTunes Did for Music
The cloud forces us to think about infrastructure differently. An analogy we use is what happened with DVD’s over the past 8 years. It used to be that we each owned a DVD player, had our own personal library of movies, and these movies were available whenever we wanted to watch them. If we wanted to add something to the collection, all we had to do is buy it. The reality is that the equipment and the movies sat on the shelf between uses. On-Demand and streaming enabled most of to eliminate our players and movie libraries. We can now purchase or rent movies from our favorite streaming service. Today, it cost us less money to watch movies and we can access them from any location on multiple devices.
Clearly corporate infrastructure is a lot more expensive and complicated than home AV equipment, but the analogy holds in that the conventional way of thinking is that if new hardware is required, it needs to be procured, installed and maintained. The paradigm shift for the cloud is that a new application can be installed without buying any hardware. Instead, components are reserved and configured within a cloud provider. These components can be left on all the time or only when they are required and accessing them only requires an internet connection. Easier access and more control are just two benefits that the cloud provides. Let’s take a more in-depth look at many of the benefits that come with moving your business to the cloud.
1. Reduced Cost
While cost savings many not always be the main driver for cloud, many have experienced savings. Upfront hardware costs can be reallocated back to the business and in some cases, the total cost of care may be lower. A lot of the care and feeding that went along with on-premise infrastructure is now bundled with the service from the cloud provider. Racking and stacking equipment, connecting it with other components is now all done virtually. In the cloud, the expertise required is centered around configuration and logical design as opposed to building the physical environment. Maintenance overhead is further reduced in the cloud because managing operating system patching and version control can be eliminated when using serverless and container approaches for applications.
Also, since the cloud is like “renting” space, companies can pay cloud-based services monthly or prepay for a discount vs. investing large sums of money on upfront hardware which make costs more manageable.
2. Access to Broader Range of Features
Cloud providers are constantly innovating to be one step ahead of their competition and customers reap the benefits. Cost savings is one dimension of the cloud, but another dimension is that customers have access to a continually developing and evolving set of features at a pace that greatly exceeds what could be done by a single customer alone, all due to economies of scale. New and enhanced functionality is regularly introduced into the cloud and made available for customers to introduce into their own environments with a low bar of entry. For example, when Amazon introduced Workspaces, it enabled our clients to use them as an alternative to Citrix. Previously, additional servers and software would have been required. With Workspaces, it was available the second Amazon released it.
3. Low Barrier of Entry for Companies
Little monetary and human capital is needed to move to the cloud, making it more accessible and competitive for small to mid-sized companies. Hardware for on-prem environments take time and money that only Enterprise companies could easily afford. Cloud solutions from Microsoft, AWS and Google have made it possible for small and medium customers to have access to the same quality of equipment/features that possibly would have not been economically viable.
One of the first steps in architecting an environment is to define the needed components (e.g. app servers, database servers) and the hours they will run in order to get a sense of how much it will cost to operate in the cloud. In an on-premise scenario, companies think about how many environments they need and procure servers to support that. That environment is usually up and running 24x7. They must think about future demand and predict future costs and resources. In the cloud, there is less burden to predict demand and future demand because cloud offers flexibility to scale up or down as needed, real-time, and instead of running 24x7, these components can be easily turned off when they are not in use and charges are only incurred when the components are in use. Below is a sample chart for a company that recently moved to the cloud:
Estimating costs in the cloud is a factor of what components we need and the hours that they are in use. If the PROD environment is not used between 9:00PM and 6:00 AM or on the weekend, then it can be turned off. We can also add components (e.g. app servers) for the 1 hour per day during critical processing times. Bottom line, we only pay for what we use, we have the flexibility to scale up or down as needed and less burden to predict upfront demand and costs.
5. Increased security
All the 1st tier cloud providers (Amazon, Microsoft and Google) provide secure private clouds for consumers. Cloud providers have come a long way since the early days of cloud computing and have dedicated a very significant amount of capital to keep customer’s information safe. There are best practices that can be followed to create an environment in the cloud that is generally more secure than what could be done on premise without adding the complementary software and hardware to harden an environment (i.e. increase on-prem cost, maintenance and upkeep of the security appliances).
To be fair, it is not uncommon for multiple on-prem environments and applications of enough complexity to lend themselves to unexpected security issues; this is especially common when trying to maximize utilization rates on on-prem hardware. These issues could persist if moved to the cloud without making sure they are addressed in a more cloud-oriented way. The ability to easily and cheaply use segregated virtual hardware in the cloud provides an easier way to mitigate risks and manage access rights.
As standard core functionality, clouds support encryption of data at rest (keys and approaches are controlled and configured by the system architects and security teams). To ensure protected communications, encryption in flight should also be used (secure transports); cloud vendors support load balancing encrypted traffic at no additional cost. One should encrypt early and often; make it a corner stone of your cloud environment at little to no cost.
If a user’s device is somehow compromised (this is one the most vulnerable parts of any architecture), the rest of the enterprise can be kept safe through series of cloud systems that provide coverage and control when properly architected into your environment.
6. Availability from Multiple Devices
A major benefit is mobility. Employees are able to work remotely with the same reliability that you would get from being in the office. You can also access work from multiple devices without much being installed. As long as there is an internet connection, you can access work anytime, anywhere.
7. Environment Agility and Elasticity
The flexibility and scalability with the cloud enables teams to work with more agile and proactive approaches. It eliminates wait times when a new server, database or load balancer is needed. In fact, in many cases, each team or developer could have their own environment stack to work within reducing cross contamination issues. For example, one could quickly create an environment stack that replicates a specific environment, use it for 2 days to troubleshoot a problem and then terminate it when done releasing all the resources allocated and the cost would be limited to the time used.
The cloud also enables new ways of working when installing and configuring applications. No longer are services burdened to have a server allocated or find an existing server. Serverless models in the cloud reduce cost and eliminate management and providing elasticity in the service. Veritas’ preference is that of DevOps and SRE and to exploit as many of the tools that are within the cloud providers environment available to our resources as possible. We can stay coordinated as a team and iterate through development cycles at a much faster rate than we were even a few years ago.
From reduced costs to increased security to improved development processes, there are many benefits businesses can take advantage of from moving to the cloud. Don’t let the unknown of what the cloud is deter you from beginning to think about migrating your applications and systems to the cloud. All you need to understand is that there is a different way to think about how to cloud operates and what benefits it provides. Companies that specialize in cloud transformation, like ourselves, can help you build a roadmap to migrate your business applications and systems to the cloud.
At Veritas Total Solutions, we are experienced in cloud transformation. We offer a range of technology solutions across the business spectrum including cloud migration. If you are interested in learning more about our specific capabilities, contact us to learn more or subscribe to our blog to stay connected!