Whether you are new to cloud technologies or have shifted your business to embrace cloud fully, many businesses are challenged with how to be more effective with their use of cloud. Depending on where you are with your journey to the cloud, your challenges will differ. For example, a business that is just starting with the cloud may be more focused on controlling security while more experienced businesses using cloud might be interested in controlling cost. In this blog entry, I’ll be laying out some of the top challenges as they relate with where businesses are in their cloud journey and some key recommendations to overcome a couple of those challenges.
Cloud maturity can be broken down based into four distinct stages based on cloud utilization. These stages are published in RightScale’s 2018 State of the Cloud Report. If you haven’t had a chance to read through it, I highly recommend you do. The stages include the following:
Watchers are organizations that are developing cloud strategies and plans but have not yet deployed applications into the cloud. They want to evaluate available cloud options and determine which applications to implement in the cloud.
Beginners are new to cloud computing and are working on proof-of-concepts or initial cloud projects. Beginners want to gain experience with cloud in order to determine future projects.
Intermediate users have multiple projects or applications already deployed in the cloud. They are focused on improving and expanding their use of cloud resources.
Advanced businesses are heavily using cloud infrastructure and are looking to optimize cloud operations as well as cloud costs.
Take a moment and reflect on the above and figure out where you and your business may fit in those stages. Based on the report, respondents were asked to categorize their challenges in the cloud and the results are listed below:
Between 2017 and 2018, the report has shown a significant increase of Intermediate and Advanced organizations focusing on managing costs and security in their cloud deployments while beginners have seen an increase of challenges from having a lack of resources/expertise on staff to be effective. Let’s look at these challenges and make some recommendations to overcome.
Security in the cloud is a major challenge which most organizations are facing today. The challenges stem from businesses trying to extend their existing security posture in a radically different environment which is no longer protected by the four walls of their data center. The services provided in the cloud, however are very similar to the services in your existing data center so work to extrapolate exactly how you want to secure and monitor these services and spend less time trying to figure out how to mirror what you are doing today locally at an infrastructure level. For example, authentication can be provided in concert with your existing Active Directory through integration and mapping with AWS’ IAM service using their AD Connector proxy service. This allows you to use the same Active Directory accounts and groups in the AWS cloud. Integration reduces the complexity of authentication as you are managing a single point to administrate users and groups while providing similar levels of authentication-based security.
Additionally, Security can be monitored, audited, and tracked against best practices and even auto-remediated by leveraging a Cloud Management Platform (CMP). The CMPs which can help govern your cloud security posture with logging across multiple accounts/subscriptions and providing a centralized point for policy-based control and intelligence which leads me into the second challenge business are confronted with in leveraging cloud technologies…
Cloud can be expensive if not monitored and planned for appropriately. In the consulting engagements I’ve been a part of, it’s a major concern for businesses not just due to the actual cost but also the variability of those costs to understand and plan financially. From an Infrastructure-as-a-Service model, compute is the largest expense in the cloud. Many workloads are sized based on a like-for-like on premise where compute is a sunk cost and not metered. More than likely, this means they are oversized. RightScale assessed 60 of their customers and found there was, on average, 35% cost waste in their cloud environments. Optimizing costs is a major component of leveraging cloud to your advantage and something that is foreign to most businesses traditionally. There are several ways to optimize your costs, I will discuss two of them below:
- Cloud Infrastructure Assessments. There are several tools out there through which you can collect data points on your workloads and then compare them for a right-sizing process across multiple cloud providers.
- Cloud Management Platforms (CMPs). Once workloads are in the cloud, look for opportunities to migrate them to Reserved Instances (RIs), resize, move to another less expensive region, or schedule them to power off when not in use for cost savings.
There are many more challenges which businesses face in the cloud, I’ve discussed just two in this blog entry above. In the end, cloud is a very important and strategic component of many modern businesses today as they help reduce costs, increase business agility, and increase service uptimes. If leveraged properly, with the right tools allowing continuous inspection and improvement, your business can overcome these challenges and lower the burden for adoption for new services and solutions in the cloud.