Understanding Contemporary Cloud With Dr. Christopher Richard
In a quest to understand contemporary trends of cloud applications in the enterprise-wide environments, Faiz Askari of SMEStreet spoken to Dr Christopher Richard, MD & Chief Cloud Architect, G7CR Technologies. In this exclusive conversation many interesting trends came to light and also some critical reasons for next-generation cloud adoption were also emphasized. Here are the edited excerpts:
Faiz Askari: How is Hybrid Cloud impacting on the enterprise cloud market?
Dr Christopher Richard: When you say Hybrid cloud, then you are looking at multiple factors like technical factors, business factors and there are economic factors as well. So, if I need to address each one of them in terms of the impact we are having in the industry, the hybrid cloud gives you the luxury of ensuring that you are not dependent only on a single cloud provider but you are using multiple and different data centres for your solution. It comes with a cost burden though which is majorly the bandwidth cost, that is too high today when it comes to businesses using bandwidth, because you cannot use normal DSL lines which are being used but instead you need to use the leased lines which have the same download and upload speeds and the reliability and availability of these connections always becomes a problem. Hybrid cloud could be that you are using two different public cloud providers, or it could be that you are using your existing data centre which you already have on-premises along with one of the cloud providers or multiple cloud providers. In all these cases, you must consider that the hybrid cloud will come with a cost and extra bandwidth consumption and hence, the bandwidth cost is something you need to factor. So today if we look at growth factors for Hybrid Cloud, I see a lot of cases where I am engaging with enterprises. I observed that the minute they see the bandwidth cost, it becomes a burden to have a hybrid cloud. Although it sounds nice, it is better to go for a single cloud unless of course, you are looking at expanding existing capacity from the data centre that you already have. In that case, Hybrid makes sense. But if you are looking hybrid as a strategy to have multiple cloud players, then it does not make sense. It is better to go with one cloud player and use only infrastructure on that cloud and not use any of the platform components which will ensure that you have the independence to move from one cloud to another cloud quickly and also basically saves you from the bandwidth consumption you will need to pay for, if you are going for the hybrid cloud.
Faiz Askari: What are the basic and most sought-after challenges in cloud management?
Dr Christopher Richard: One of the biggest factors I would say is managing your disaster recovery and high availability that people do not think about enough. Usually, you think of disaster only when it has occurred. Otherwise, you are always with the notion that if you are on the cloud, nothing will happen because the cloud provider is taking care of everything. Yes, the cloud provider takes care of everything but at the end of the day it is infrastructure, cloud data centres can go down. We have seen it happen with different cloud OEMs. Planning a disaster recovery and security are the two components which most probably are the main management components that you need to consider on the cloud.
“The second problem that you have on the cloud in terms of management is the constant change that happens. You have got these major OEMs like Microsoft, AWS, Google etc, competing to bring out the best which is all healthy and good for the industry. In their competition you are basically seeing innovations, disruption and new things come out almost on a monthly basis. So, keeping yourself up to date with all these new things, leveraging these newer features and technologies which are coming your way will be your biggest management challenges.”
Faiz Askari: How are Cloud Security issues influencing the customer mindset?
Dr Christopher Richard: It is a big influencer, especially because we are very experienced with the Indian market. When we talk with lots of people, we do see security as a major concern. But to be frank this is more of an opinion or a perception about security being a concern on the cloud than it really is. Let’s look at it this way, If I had to set up my own data centre in my office, and I had to basically bring my own servers and secure them, just imagine how much of money, me as a company, is going to spend on innovation in terms of research and analytics to basically keep myself protected from all the latest security risks. There is a limited amount of money that I could spend as an individual. But when you talk about the Microsoft data centre which is having close to $ 20 billion of consumption from people using the cloud, they have huge budgets in terms of having R&D teams and ensuring that their cloud is protected from the latest security threats. So, if you ask me, the perception is that clouds will create security problems, but the fact is you are far more secure on the cloud with Microsoft, AWS and others spending billions of dollars on research to be protected from the latest threats. This is something you will never be able to do probably if you have your own data centre.
Faiz Askari: In today’s context, What are Cloud Migration risks and benefits?
Dr Christopher Richard: There are plenty of benefits of migrating to the cloud. You can move from CAPEX to OPEX and you can also pay as you use. If you don’t want something, you can automatically turn it off. Basically, you stop paying immediately which is unlike when you are buying a server because you cannot do away with it. So, the benefits of migrating to the cloud are plenty.
The risks of migrating to the cloud, as I have said before, are majorly about the decisions that you make. And these decisions include with whom you are working, with an experienced cloud provider who knows how to migrate or not. A lot of failures during migration have not really been the cloud, it has been actually the person who is doing the migration or the skilled team who was supposed to do the migration or the approach which you took for migration. The only risk I have seen, and I continue to say is about having the right experts do it for you, assuring you give it the importance you have to give, spending the necessary time and preparing a proper project plan, proper assessment and everything being done in a phase-wise manner. If this is done and ensured, there are absolutely no risks of moving to the cloud and you will most probably be able to leverage the entire benefits which the world is leveraging today on the cloud.
Faiz Askari: Why does migration fail?
Dr Christopher Richard: I can explain this with an example. We were migrating a series of servers. Normally it is not as simple as a situation where we migrate only one server. We have handled projects ranging from 120 servers and higher. Now when you are talking about 120 different servers, different applications, different components of those applications, there is going to be this whole concept of dependencies where one application needs to communicate with another application; there is a dependency between them. The failures that happen is that there has been no proper assessment, not enough time was spent in understanding those dependencies and then planning for those dependencies and moving it accordingly. So, the two reasons where I have seen failure is when people never did a proper assessment. Hence, they never understood the dependencies well. After they moved to the cloud everybody was confused. No one knew what was not working because the dependencies were missing.
The second reason for failure is sizing. You actually need to accurately size as to what kind of infrastructure you need on the cloud compared to the infrastructure you currently have so that you don’t run into performance issues. Because there have been times where the migration was successful but after that, they were not able to use it because the sizing was wrong and also they were not able to see the performance, things were slow, not working etc. These are the two reasons for failure- No proper assessment/dependencies missing and second, no proper sizing.
Faiz Askari: How these risks in migrations can be avoided?
Dr Christopher Richard: First, to protect from failures, please take out time in terms of assessment. Ensure that you have a proper assessment and basically a proper diagram drawn based on the dependencies and the communication of various components in your applications that you are trying to migrate. Second, before you migrate please do a test migration. Please take the testing seriously because, in a lot of scenarios, people do not take testing seriously. Also, choose the right partners who are capable and experienced in migrating.
Faiz Askari: What are the Dos and Don’ts while migrating?
Dr Christopher Richard: Migration is like moving your home, it needs to be planned and you need to have the knowledge of at least what are the things you have and what are their dependencies. Your old fridge may not fit into the fridge space of your new home or the power sockets of a legacy electrical appliance may need an adapter to work in your new home. Most importantly, you need to spend time accessing all you have and what they depend on to function. There is no point in taking your gas stove to the new home and forgetting to transfer your gas connection. There are always dependencies. Never do this in a hurry, take the time to understand what you are hosting, how they communicate, what are the dependencies, do a pilot, and also take the pilot seriously.