A deeper dive into why hybrid cloud and cloud consolidation were significant trends in 2021
Based on feedback from my December article, 2021 Insights to Continue in 2022, we felt that two of the trends—hybrid cloud and cloud consolidation, needed a deeper dive. These two trends are dependent on each other, predominantly as they are driven by the same strategic initiative—simplifying IT governance and operations. However, the more significant impact of hybrid cloud and cloud consolidation is improved business operations capability.
Taking a cloud-first strategy for applications creates agility and flexibility to deliver workflow improvements across the entire business operation. This approach can mean deploying an application across the whole business, like a human resource management (HRM) system. It can, more importantly, mean that the company can deploy workflow improvements to small teams throughout the organization. This is a shift from on-premises deployments where there was always a cost justification that you couldn’t make without scale. Software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and to a lesser degree, infrastructure as a service (IaaS) have provided businesses with new flexibility to deliver applications on a small scale and supply many operational efficiencies across business operations. The need to work from home accelerated this trend. The hybrid cloud approach to business effectiveness through new applications and workflow automation can be a real game-changer.
IT & Cybersecurity Operations
For the last two-plus years, IT and cybersecurity operations have become a hot topic in many (almost all) business sectors. The challenge was that the tools and knowledge have been challenging to cost-justify for many risk businesses. Best effort IT and cybersecurity operations have been the norm. These trends towards hybrid cloud and cloud provider consolidation have simplified this challenge. Public cloud providers have expanded their own IT and cybersecurity operations capabilities and have extended these tools and capabilities to their customers as a service.
These capabilities include simplified deployment and integration, device management, log management, patch management, security policy enforcement, security information and event management (SIEM), plus security orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR). Artificial Intelligence (AI) based cloud analysis has brought advanced security to the masses. This security allows a small organization to comply with the most advanced IT and cybersecurity operations standards (like NIST CMMI). Thus, enabling the business to be a global player in a supply chain. It also means that larger organizations that consolidate their public cloud operations can often improve their IT and cybersecurity operations and reduce costs by moving to these services.
Many businesses provide information or services to customers and suppliers through applications and websites. These services often require custom software/website development or customization by the organization. This process involves a combination of practices and tools that enable the organization to deliver and update these services—often referred to as DevOps or continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD). Good DevOps capabilities were challenging for organizations due to infrastructure and licensing costs. Organizations can now take advantage of PaaS DevOps cloud systems integrated into public cloud providers’ IaaS platforms. The integration and use of these DevOps systems are often easier when businesses consolidate public cloud providers. These systems standardize the workflow for developing and deploying changes in a structured manner that reduces risks.
IT Staff Knowledge
Perhaps the most significant driver for public cloud consolidation that we encountered over the last two years was IT staff knowledge. Staff struggled to maintain the skill sets to manage the various systems in organizations with IaaS and PaaS solutions that spanned multiple public clouds. The result was that the organization didn’t achieve the desired results or had higher-than-expected costs. There’s a real argument for best-of-breed solutions. However, it does require additional investment in staff education, which an organization doesn’t always consider or budget. Cloud provider consolidation for PaaS and IaaS can allow staff to gain a deeper and broader knowledge on that platform. Focusing on one public cloud platform improves support, expands feature use, and reduces overall costs.
The overarching benefit of reducing the organization’s dependency on internally hosted applications and moving to SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS for applications is, simplifying IT governance. IT governance is the overall process of implementing, managing, and monitoring an organization’s applications while providing standard and consistent infrastructure support. Cloud-hosted systems (IaaS) enable standardized deployment of resources (servers, networks, security, etc.) using infrastructure as code (IaC) and configuration management tools and systems.
This process is more challenging in private data centers as these capabilities need to be built and maintained. The public cloud providers have these systems included in their offerings and have PaaS solutions that enable governance policy enforcement and monitoring of the systems. The added availability of these capabilities to be provisioned on an as-needed basis significantly simplifies implementing IT governance for the organization’s systems.