Going public: A networking guide to public cloud
We delve into the steps that networking teams can take when their companies make the move to public cloud.
It is no secret that, in the Middle East, adoption of public cloud services remains sluggish among enterprises. Of course, many organisations have woken up to the benefits that cloud-delivered IT can bring, but the preferred cloud model here seems to be private cloud, largely due to the fact that public cloud services tend to be hosted in Europe or North America.
According to Neil Rickard, research vice president at Gartner, this fact has made Middle East enterprises wary of public cloud for a number of main reasons. The first is, of course, to do with data security – Middle Eastern enterprises tend to be careful about allowing their data to be hosted outside the country in which they operate.
Indeed, for some businesses, it might not even be legal to allow data to travel outside the country. The second issue is more basic – latency. The sheer distance between the Middle East and a foreign data centre is too great to guarantee protection against latency problems. And if bandwidth is affected by an undersea cable cut, for example, the cloud service is going to be all but inoperable. Finally, it is much more difficult to fix problems if your public cloud provider is operating in a different country within a different time zone. Organisations here simply can’t get the responsiveness that they need from their public cloud providers.
“The Middle East is more likely to encounter issues than, say, if you were in the Netherlands and Microsoft’s hosting in Amsterdam. But when you’re in the Middle East, and Microsoft’s hosting in Amsterdam, you’re an awfully long way away with high latency and expensive connectivity between you and there,” Rickard explains.
All that said, the promises being made by some public cloud services are proving too attractive to ignore for many organisations in the Middle East. Rickard concedes that there might be less uptake of public cloud in this region, but there is certainly uptake going on. And his opinion is echoed by Saurabh Verma, programme manager for IT services at IDC MEA, who says that public cloud is gaining ground in this region as global cloud providers increase their footprint in the Middle East. Indeed, some vendors, such as Microsoft, are even beginning to offer software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions through local data centres, which will only result in more enterprise customers becoming willing to take the plunge.
Unfortunately, from a network perspective, the move to public cloud is throwing up all manner of issues. The first of which is that, according to Rickard and others, network managers are often left out of the conversation when enterprises decide to give the go-ahead. Rickard recounts horror stories from Gartner clients explaining that the CEO has decided to implement, for example, a Microsoft Office 365 package, and because the network is not geared up for the solution, everything that can go wrong does go wrong.
“We’re talking about large applications which are vital to business breaking. The networking people often don’t get told about this until after it’s happened. In other words, no-one says to the networking guy that the company is thinking of deploying the following cloud applications in 12 months’ time – perhaps he’d like to tell them what budget he’d need and what readiness steps he’d need to support it. What they say is that they’ve signed the Office 365 deal, they’ve rolled it out to half the users, and now the users are complaining. The networking people don’t get to pick and choose whether this is done, or on what timetable or with what technologies this is done,” he says.
Cherif Sleiman, general manager for the Middle East at Infoblox, reports hearing similar problems from customers. He says that, because the CEOs of companies care about things like competitiveness, agility, and the ability to respond to market trends quickly, they get very excited by the promises of public cloud-delivered IT such as SaaS. After all, these models can help organisations go to market very quickly with low capital investment, so switched-on CEOs are listening to the cloud debate closely, and giving public infrastructure a little more priority than they were before. Unfortunately, Sleiman says, because the value is being delivered to stakeholders from outside of the IT department, the buying decision is often taken away from IT.
“For example, with SalesForce.com, the organisation’s sales personnel will utilise it as a public SaaS. The decision has therefore gone from the IT team – which is usually tasked with managing on premise deployments – to functional heads who can now make purchasing decisions while completely bypassing IT. Adopting public cloud fundamentally creates a new paradigm of decision making that can lead to network engineers being side-tracked,” he says.
Happily, some companies are taking a more sensible approach to public cloud – at least that’s what Sandor Fulop, operations director at Orixcom, says based on his conversations with customers. He says that, when Orixcom speaks to organisations about their public cloud needs, network engineers have been very engaged, particularly when the talks move beyond strategy and into phase to do with evaluations and requirements. Indeed, he says that Orixcom’s customers seem to grasp pretty firmly the fact that network teams are key to the success of their cloud deployments.
“While cloud is transforming all facets of business and technology functions, the CXO team recognise that the nuts and bolts of delivering the performance of cloud projects is down to the network engineering teams and their expertise,” he says.
All about inclusion
Fulop asserts that, if the network team is not involved in the conversations leading up to a public cloud deployment, the organisation is setting itself up for failure. “It’s a recipe for disaster,” he says. After all, the network team is responsible for everything from technical operations to uptime, as well as compliance with corporate, government and industry standards. The assumption that internal integration with a public cloud is dependent only on internet bandwidth availability is way off, he says, because other factors always make themselves known. And Infoblox’s Sleiman agrees wholeheartedly with this.