The cloud is central to enterprise technology provision now—and that role will only intensify going forward. But foreseeing the future of cloud requires understanding its evolution.
Scott Clinton, vice president of product marketing at Hortonworks, says cloud has evolved in multiple aspects. It began as a way for firms to use and enjoy value from applications faster. The cloud also helped businesses offset their IT costs, particularly with infrastructure. “It’s been about making different parts of the stack easier to consume, manage, and utilize,” says Clinton.
However, the evolution in workload management techniques is not the whole story. As the cloud has become increasingly popular, its widespread use has also helped create data silos. As new software-as-a-service applications are run in the cloud, end users also need to consider infrastructure-as-a-service solutions, says Clinton.
“What you can end up with is a complex setup with silos of data,” he says. “In the new world of the cloud, more companies are looking to evaluate how to manage this spread of data in a hybrid fashion. It’s an evolution from cloud applications to infrastructure and onto the idea of hybrid cloud architectures to help manage and optimize governance and security.”
CIOs are struggling to reach that hybrid stage. As analyst Gartner observes, the cloud has helped support the rise of shadow IT, meaning line-of-business units can easily purchase services on demand. “That makes it difficult to get control and governance over applications where IT might not have sight,” explains Clinton.
IT departments are being circumnavigated. Clinton suggests as much as 80 percent of cloud-based procurement in some organizations doesn’t touch IT. Yet despite that lack of interaction, IT is still responsible for the governance and security of data in a corporation—and for the cost.
“We’ve had customers where business groups have spun up new instances without the input of IT,” he says. “But, at the same time, they’ve driven up huge bills. Understanding how much the cloud costs is a complex calculation—we’ve had customers who’ve ended up with large bills and who’ve determined IT is still responsible for that bill.”
Unplanned bills, multiple applications, and myriad governance policies continue to complicate things for CIOs. “It’s making the move to the cloud painful for IT, while making it—at the same time—easier for the business,” says Clinton.
There is hope, however. First, businesses must craft effective governance policies when units introduce new cloud-based applications. “You’ll never catch everything, but you need a mechanism through which new workloads are evaluated, whether that’s delivered by the IT department or not,” Clinton points out.
Second, CIOs must ensure data governance is part of the business strategy. “Too often data becomes decoupled—data is something you store and analyze,” he notes. “Looking at it as a strategic component and linking that back to the cloud strategy is something customers need to do actively.”
Third, CIOs should brainstorm ways to extend their existing enterprise security and governance policies. This extension should reduce the number of instances that the IT department needs to manage. “Create a governance and security strategy that encompasses both cloud and on-premises workloads,” says Clinton. “Put steps in place to enforce that approach.”
In the end, businesses should know where their data is located. Data classification—and understanding how that data is governed—is crucial. While it sounds basic, many organizations are only just getting started. While they might have taken a location-based approach with on-premises information, they haven’t done so for the cloud.
Businesses should also focus on cost management. CIOs need to collect data that allows them to assess workloads across the business. “Understanding those workloads is going to help CIOs work out the charges associated with cloud services,” says Clinton. “Knowing whether cloud is being used for a short- or long-term project will help determine the value. Having a tight grip on value will allow CIOs to create an informed, hybrid cloud strategy.”
Clinton has already seen movement toward multi-cloud approaches across organizations. He says the future of cloud strategy will be driven by two key principles: a focus on data and strong governance.
“Every organization is going to have more than one cloud,” he predicts. “In some cases, they’re going to have five or more clouds. They’re going to have scenarios for data governance across those services. Tomorrow’s cloud is going to be agile and connected to on-premises resources, too.”
Clinton envisages a future hybrid state when the boundary between cloud and internal data center resources is blurred. “There will be no difference between the public cloud and on premises. Workloads will be moved easily between the two states, without the effort that’s required today,” he suggests.
“There’s going to be one, integrated architecture. And there’s going to be more predictability around the manageability of costs. As a CIO, you’ll start to find an easier way to manage your workload issues.”
The future of cloud is upon us. CIOs must establish a data-first strategy to develop an effective approach to the cloud. Too often, organizations implement the cloud before turning to data. Executives should instead adopt a data-first strategy as the basis for the application of workloads across an integrated infrastructure.
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