Rob Tribe, VP System Engineering at Nutanix tracks the recent evolution of cloud computing platforms, services, data workloads and applications to get us to where we stand today.
A point at which any businesses should now regard cloud computing not as an IT service per se, but as an operating model upon which an organisation first and foremost targets business outcomes and a higher purpose.
The evolution of cloud along with the components and coalesced connection points that go towards the deployment of modern cloud-native systems is being channelled by a number of key external and internal factors. As these new tectonic forces now collide, it is the business outcomes resulting from the way organisations use modern cloud platform services that matter most.
But there are many things happening here at the same time.
In order to know how we should progress, we need to understand how computing got to this point and what the evolutionary curve of cloud means in relation to the way staff and stakeholders are now tasked to work, innovate and build the next tier of value-add that every organisation will naturally seek to create and deliver.
When the first cloud datacentres were established, they were built from a purist engineering perspective. Rightly so. Nobody builds any first-generation engine room for comfort; these installations were designed for power, speed and the flexibility that cloud’s initial (and still current) technology proposition hinged around.
Over time, we were able to evolve this model and specialist implementers were able to make much of that infrastructure invisible, eliminating datacentre complexity with (positively) disruptive hyperconverged architecture solutions.
During this period, we saw databases, datacentres and data services all benefit from industry-wide momentum designed to prove automation, autonomous management and autonomic self-healing services to every layer of the data stack.
This portion of our recent IT history also saw public cloud vendors work assiduously to serve a more modern tranche of modern software programmers. These developers sought speed, agility and control just like all engineers, but they also sought on-demand access to compute and data services.
Opening up open source
It would be impossible (and unreasonable) to ignore the impact of open source on cloud computing’s more recent evolution and the way Cloud Services Providers (CSP) deliver it.
Key technologies including Kubernetes have helped facilitate cloud-to-cloud portability and pave the way to multi-cloud (cloud estates on more than one CSP) and poly-cloud (cloud workloads within a single organisation’s cloud estate on more than one CSP) to enable organisations to maximise cloud deployment efficiency.
As every cloud instance across the major hyperscalers (AWS, Azure and Google) has the potential to be different, there are different mechanisms, protocols and functions to manage, scale, secure and operate each one. Given that organisations will need to straddle this complexity within the boundaries of compliance and legislative regulation, the cloud management burden can still appear extremely heavy.
Cloud, as an operating model
At this point, we need to step back. Remember how this conversation started with a new imperative in the shape of business outcomes?
We already know that making cloud infrastructure is fundamentally important. We already know that managing cloud data services for files, objects, databases, analytics, messaging and event streaming is tough and that hyperconverged architecture can make the IT department’s life so much better. But we also need to know where cloud should now reside in terms of the total operational fabric of any business.
The cloud backbone will always be there, but cloud should now evolve to become the utility that it was always destined to become. Cloud computing should not necessarily be viewed as an entity, a destination or a thing; instead, cloud should be regarded as an operating model upon which a business can create a strategic set of business models.
Behind those strategic steps, a business can tactically allocate its operations to span on-premises, hybrid and public clouds with a consistent operating model. Software development teams can then build applications taking advantage of self-service consumption with most infrastructure management tasks either fully automated or delivered as a service.
This point of cloud invisibility
This is the point of cloud invisibility at which the business looks to users, customers and business outcomes first. It does not look, for example, at cloud provisioning to enable analytics calls with the scope to handle scaling management tasks across disparate infrastructures, it looks at the applications powering the business and how to use them.
The IT journey here continues and businesses in every vertical are able to take advantage of complementary platform-level technologies for full-stack lifecycle management, automation, intelligent operations, self-service and governance. An organisation is now able to use this more modern notion of cloud to run every type of application from mobile, to desktop to machine-based Internet of Things (IoT) apps in traditional machine form, or in modern cloud container-based form.
Once again, this is all about firms not thinking about whether their applications will be able to run successfully natively in public clouds, this is all about knowing that compute services are efficiently commoditised so that the first thought is business outcomes, customer experience and important higher-level concerns related to sustainability and wellbeing.
An important inflexion point
We have mentioned sustainability and higher purpose here, because this is one part of an important inflexion point in the total cloud universe. From the cloud hyperscalers to the cloud infrastructure and application specialists, there is a concerted effort to combat the complexity associated with running and managing applications across on-premises and multiple public clouds.
The combined result of these efforts is already having a positive impact on application teams. Developers are now being regarded as critical stakeholders to drive corporate cloud strategy. They are also moving from being regarded as a cost centre to a new higher status as a profit centre.
When the cloud application developer team finally become business outcome strategists, the legacy workloads of the past will dissipate and we will see the IT stack born in, and of, the cloud from the start.
Rob Tribe is VP System Engineering at Nutanix. Nutanix is a global leader in cloud software and a pioneer in hyperconverged infrastructure solutions, making clouds invisible, freeing customers to focus on their business outcomes. Organizations around the world use Nutanix software to leverage a single platform to manage any app at any location for their hybrid multicloud environments. Learn more at www.nutanix.com or follow us on Twitter @nutanix.
Featured image: ©Andrew Derr