Sunday, 20th September 2020

Evaluating the Public Cloud? The Time is Now

By Andrew Fitzgerald, Sales Director for Western Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa, Cohesity.

What first appeared to be a temporary economic downturn, has turned into a major global crisis the likes of which we have only seen through world wars. The effects of the CVD-19 crisis will be felt for years after this, but right now, we see immediate changes to the IT industry.

Disruption is a way of life, and one enterprise IT is used to encountering. Though IT departments have evolved over the past decade, one finger remains in the pie of legacy computing and strategy.

However, in the past few months, businesses have been making changes. Migration of data and workload to the public cloud has been occurring at a fast rate, as enterprise IT seeks to overcome the problems presented by traditional data centres, be it physical access constraints or hardware issues presented by vendor supply issues. Business cannot merely take such challenges on the chin and move forwards. Downtime costs revenue and reputation.

While we’ve all begun or extended the working from home culture to employees, the reality is we are hugely dependent on physical data centres for the most part. These warehouse-like structures, often in remote parts of the world or hidden in amongst the busy streets of cities, are critical to business staying online and remote workers having access to corporate IT networks.

In recent weeks an American multinational colocation provider brought in social distancing measures such as ‘one-in-one out’ at its data centre locations. Another is only allowing appointments to be made to visit, while most of its locations are shut entirely. What happens when there’s a hardware failure? Some colocation providers are offering to make maintenance repairs themselves, for a fee, and with risk. Keeping a data centre maintained during these times should not be underestimated. It is a significant amount of work, for both the hosts and the IT teams trying to maintain equipment.

In the UK, it took two months of the coronavirus pandemic before data centres were added to the list of sectors defining key workers. However, precious few data centre sites have been designated as Critical National Infrastructure (CNI), which would give them added status for protections and lower restrictions on access.

Coronavirus driving business transformation

Earlier this year, Canalys research estimated that the trend towards an increase in applications, both new and existing operating in public cloud environments would continue over the next five years. And, the cloud infrastructure services market will see spending rise 32 percent in 2020 to US$141 billion. That was pre-coronavirus and the issues mentioned above.

We ran a poll of IT decision-makers with predominantly on-premises infrastructure, and while not conclusive, it would suggest that the current situation with restricted access to data centres and delays to hardware supply has seen IT teams and senior management become aligned in their thinking. Over half of the 30 global IT decision-makers surveyed are now trying or about to make their first foray into the public cloud with a workload. The most common workload being considered for this approach was backup. This would make me believe there is greater confidence between both groups within the business as to the realistic benefits they can expect to achieve by using the public cloud, and the positive impacts for the business.

All of those IT decision makers confirmed they would not reverse the IT strategy once a ‘business as normal’ state returns, meaning coronavirus has indeed accelerated the cloud migration for many businesses, it isn’t just a temporary measure.

Looking at it from another angle, Google’s parent, Alphabet posted its financial results recently, and it showed Google’s cloud business had been bolstered by the pandemic, with an increased demand for Google Cloud services, seeing a rise in revenue of 52 percent for the first quarter. That includes both Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and G Suite.

And, just last week a significant European cloud service provider doubled its weekly factory capacity from around 700 servers to more than 1,200 to power its data centre.

Alistair Edwards, chief analyst at Canalys recently said, "I think many organisations will be using this as an interim step and once we get through the worst of this, they will develop strategies which incorporate what they've invested to a certain extent in public cloud, but also deploy more of that on-premise environment to build that hybrid model."

An expanded menu of as-a-service to be ordered from

While some operational IT change is taking place right now, cloud service providers are anticipating more projects once the economy restarts and all corners of the workforce begin to resume regular working practices. Technologies such as cybersecurity, collaboration, and data management, which have been on enterprise IT's 'to-do' list for some years are likely to be expedited.

Canalys recently published research regarding managed services trends that showed that cybersecurity and data centre solutions would see the highest rates of managed service attach in the coming years.

Demand for managed services is rising, as customers struggle to deal with increasing IT complexity, as well as a shortage of skills and in-house resources. IT reseller partners offer a wide range of IT managed services, including remote back-up, disaster recovery, network and system management, and IT help desks. Today, partners are selling more data centre products and IT orchestration as part of a managed services contract.

While it is not the scenario many thought would likely lead to a review of enterprise IT infrastructure, it does appear that businesses are considering and reassessing the need for on-premise data centres as a result of the pandemic. The increased agility for users, scale-up flexibility of consumption for needs, and minimal maintenance requirements is the business case IT leaders needed to get executive team sign-off.

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