Hybrid models will dominate South Africa’s cloud landscape

Over the past 15 months, we have seen South African organisations accelerate their adoption of cloud-based business models to support work-from-anywhere and digital customer experiences. Yet many enterprises have raced to the cloud with piecemeal, ad hoc approaches that will not necessarily enable them to reap the full benefit of cloud computing models in years to come.

Now is the time to take a step back and look at exactly what the cloud is and why it matters. We believe that cloud isn’t about IT operations, but about the business models of the future. It is an opportunity to transform how your business works.

Consider the inflexibility of IT when it was a capital expense. If you needed additional computing power or storage, delivery and fulfilment would take at least two weeks and usually more like a few months by the time you had evaluated bids, chosen a supplier and installed the hardware.

By contrast, with the cloud, IT becomes an operational expense and the need for more computing resources can be fulfilled within a matter of minutes.

As an on-demand, consumption-based model for IT procurement, the cloud has a ripple effect across the business. The time you once spent planning and deploying new equipment can now be used elsewhere, as can the capital budget. This not only enables you to eliminate wastage and scale IT as your business grows, but it also gives you the flexibility to rapidly deploy innovative new services.

What is often forgotten in the cloud conversation is that these benefits are not only available from hyperscale cloud providers like Google, Amazon and Microsoft. They can also be found from a range of providers that offer on-demand computing using shared resources and a subscription-based or pay-as-you-use models.

Let’s break it down further and look at some of the options.

Private cloud
Microsoft offers this definition of the private cloud:

“Cloud computing resources used exclusively by one business or organisation. The private cloud can be physically located at your organisation’s on-site data centre, or it can be hosted by a third-party service provider. But in a private cloud, the services and infrastructure are always maintained on a private network and the hardware and software are dedicated solely to your organisation.”

Sometimes referred to as a hosting or data centre model, the private cloud is generally used by large enterprises running legacy workloads on core applications that have been developed and heavily customised over the years. The model is suitable for customised systems with heavy dependency on processes that require large amounts of compute or storage.

Moving these applications to the hyperscale or public cloud computing platforms is generally expensive and impractical because the software is not optimised for a multi-tenancy, shared model.

Public (hyperscale) cloud
Again, let’s use Microsoft’s definition:

“The public cloud is defined as computing services offered by third-party providers over the public Internet, making them available to anyone who wants to use or purchase them. They may be free or sold on-demand, allowing customers to pay only per usage for the CPU cycles, storage, or bandwidth they consume.”

Public clouds liberate organisations from purchasing, managing, and maintaining on-premises hardware and application infrastructure. They are best suited to workloads built around PaaS (platform as-a-service) architectures. Use cases include DbaaS (database as-a-service), message broker as- a-service, code pipelines as-a-service and serverless computing.

Managed private cloud
A managed private cloud enables an enterprise to create and use a private cloud that is owned, deployed, configured and managed by a third-party vendor. Cloud resources (like servers and storage) can be configured in a multi-tenancy or shared model, allowing  the enterprise to take advantage of the cost-savings achieved through sharing of infrastructure.

This model is well-suited for workloads that require enterprise grade computing at an affordable price as well as workloads that need the freedom to be customised in an opex model. This is a sweet spot for quick gains via offloading server room applications and backups/disaster recovery to the cloud.

No-one-size-fits-all solution
As outlined above, different cloud models are suited to different applications and workloads. We can thus expect hybrid cloud approaches, where organisations use a mix of private, managed private and public cloud services, will dominate for the next few years. Indeed, IDC research shows that 84% of South African C-suite executives are pursuing or planning hybrid cloud strategies.

We recommend fitting each of your workloads to the approach that delivers the optimal price/performance and interoperability between your applications. For most companies, the adoption to the cloud will be a multi-year journey. As such, you could begin the journey by using private or managed cloud platforms to transition systems and processes to new computing models, before moving up the stack to software-defined cloud services or software as-a-service (SaaS) with the hyperscale providers.

Also, be sure to opt for cloud models and providers that enable you to avoid vendor lock-in. As your use of cloud computing evolves in the years to come, you will want to have the freedom to explore multi-cloud strategies — incorporating multiple public clouds from more than one cloud provider — to enjoy the flexibility of using the best provider for each workload.