The challenges associated with cloud computing have generated anxiety from the very start. The reasons for these anxieties vary, but over the past decade a significant amount of effort has been put into resolving them. As we begin 2018 it’s a good time to take stock of what’s been sorted, and what’s left to do.
Historic cloud challenges
Cost control is a very real anxiety whether you are using cloud computing or doing your IT on site. Cloud computing, however, brings a whole new dimension to the problem that old school IT didn’t have: self-service.
While cloud users forgetting to destroy unneeded instances or resources are a long standing concern, increased use of IT automation presents its own challenges here. Add one zero to a script and you are spinning up 1000 instances instead of 100. Make this error somewhere in a loop, and the cost excursions can quickly become significant.
Data sovereignty and regulatory compliance have also been traditional areas of concern. The laws that apply to your data may not be the same as the laws that govern your organization… or at least not all of your organization. This is further complicated when the governments overseeing the cloud providers in use are unpredictable in their enforcement of laws or observance of international treaties.
Keeping track of your organization’s obligations becomes further complicated as workloads and data move around the world. Not only has this gotten easier as the cloud has evolved, but automating the movement of data and workloads is now commonplace.
Business practices have traditionally proven inadequate at resolving issues surrounding cloud costs, data sovereignty and regulatory compliance. The problems are too complex to expect humans to solve them simply through attentiveness and discipline. Thankfully, modern management solutions have begun to put these issues to rest.
Privacy and security
Privacy and security anxieties are often overblown regarding cloud computing, especially where the cloud in question belongs to someone else. Yes, public cloud workloads usually work on infrastructure that your organization doesn’t control. But where they are not managed entirely by the cloud provider, the workloads in question are at least derived from templates originally configured by that cloud provider.
Chances are very high that the cloud provider in question is better at creating “secure by default” workloads than the overwhelming majority of cloud users. The large public cloud providers have huge teams of security experts whose only job is to solve exactly this problem.
Another mark in favor of cloud computing is that making effective use of cloud computing all but requires the use of composable infrastructure. Composable infrastructure makes applying patches and keeping workloads up to date much easier. In emergencies, the cloud provider can even force a cloud-wide update.
While it is true that legitimate privacy and security concerns persist with cloud computing, they are the same concerns that exist with all other forms of IT. The possibility that the bad guys can break in to our workloads or pillage our data always exists.
Nothing can ever fully solve the privacy and security problems in the cloud. This is a perpetual arms race between attacker and defender, and it will be true forever. By implementing security by default, however, cloud computing does force us to make a deliberate choice to be insecure.
Management tools help a lot
The management tools available to organizations today are quite a bit more advanced than those that were available when Amazon first launched AWS, making “cloud” a household term. Today even the native management solutions offered by public cloud providers have basic cloud cost controls, as well as workload and data zoning to help with data sovereignty and regulatory compliance concerns.
Third party management solutions do the public cloud providers one better. Third party cost controls are often intricate, with sane defaults and the ability to tweak thresholds based on a dizzying array of parameters. Data sovereignty and regulatory compliance tools are generally more robust than anything the public cloud vendors offer natively, often including best practice analysis, monitoring and alerting.
Third party management solutions also offer the ability to manage multiple cloud services, with a governance model that allows profiles, policies and best practices to apply to workloads and data regardless of the cloud upon which they’re located. This capability is increasing in importance as the major public cloud providers seek to differentiate themselves by offering proprietary services.
Organizations looking to act on their data using multiple proprietary public cloud services quickly find third party management tools an absolutely necessity. Without them, management and governance simply become too complex.
Third party management tools usually offer wizards, analytics and other tools to help reduce billing complexity and cloud sprawl. They can even catch automation-based cost excursions. Cost controls can include recommendations about cloud instance sizing as well as right-sizing running cloud instances to match actual usage.
Third party management tools – especially those that have invested in multi-cloud management – also help with security and privacy. Robust authentication and authorization integration helps to ensure that only authorized individuals can access an organization’s cloud accounts, and that those individuals can only access the portions of those cloud accounts they absolutely need to access.
In addition, third-party management solutions are increasingly offering monitoring capabilities. Cloud storage, blog installations and more can all be monitored for intrusions, often with the ability to perform actions (such as shutdown a compromised instance) when a breach is detected.
Cloud challenges that remain
While third party management tools bring a lot to the table, they don’t solve everything. Interoperability and portability of workloads between cloud providers remains a real world problem. Third party management tools and the use of composable workloads solves this in most cases, but not all.
Non-composable workloads – workloads that require individual care and attention, and where the data is stored inside the workload – remain a significant problem for organizations looking to use the cloud. Similarly, “serverless,” and any workloads using proprietary public cloud services remain a problem. For example, the tools don’t yet exist to make it easy to use image recognition offerings from Amazon, Microsoft, Google and IBM on the same data set.
One part of the multi-cloud problem is multi-cloud storage availability. Getting data in to public clouds is cheap, but getting that data back out can be prohibitively expensive. Third party storage solutions are beginning to emerge, though competition remains sparse and the offerings available are still young.
Perhaps the greatest remaining cloud challenge is a lack of resources or expertise. Moving from a traditional IT deployment to a cloud-enabled one requires learning new skills, and may require increased investment in development and test capacity as well.
For organizations looking to work with multiple clouds, third party management tools are no longer optional. It is impractical to do any meaningful amount of work in a multi-cloud environment without a multi-cloud capable management toolchain. Similarly, working with the cloud at scale – or where complex governance concerns exist – also demands the use of third-party management tools.
Ten years ago, the only option to solve cloud challenges was to essentially write one’s own management solution that talked to the public cloud provider’s APIs. Today, organizations can simply subscribe to high quality third-party management solutions as a service.
With third-party management solutions proliferating and becoming commonplace, the strategic advantage is going to belong to organizations that choose a solution that includes the ability to work with more than just the Big Four public clouds. Integrating on-premises infrastructure (and including regional service providers) is the next ease-of-use frontier.
If you are still struggling with the common cloud challenges discussed above, then perhaps it’s time to take a closer look at CloudCheckr. We can help with these things.
Schedule a demo to see how CloudCheckr can help you worry a little less, or try a 14-day free trial.