IT strategy: The future is multi-cloud

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Many companies’ IT infrastructures are undergoing an extensive transformation. Cloud computing is becoming increasingly important over traditional approaches. This was the conclusion of Bitkom and KPMG’s study “Cloud Monitor 2018”: Two out of three German companies already use cloud computing.

But what trends dominate this exciting environment and what should retailers, manufacturers, and brands look for to choose the right cloud strategy? Today, we’ll provide a detailed overview of the status quo of cloud computing and show where the world’s largest cloud providers will be in 2019.

Cloud computing first

Many companies’ IT infrastructures are undergoing an extensive transformation. Cloud computing is becoming increasingly important over traditional approaches. This was the conclusion of Bitkom and KPMG’s study “Cloud Monitor 2018”: Two out of three German companies already use cloud computing.

But what trends dominate this exciting environment and what should retailers, manufacturers, and brands look for to choose the right cloud strategy? Today, we’ll provide a detailed overview of the status quo of cloud computing and show where the world’s largest cloud providers will be in 2019.

Source: Statista

Also in terms of market share, AWS is at the top with 33 per cent, followed by Microsoft Azure with 13 per cent, and rising. Then come to IBM (eight per cent), Google (six per cent) and Alibaba (four per cent).

Top rankings reflect those vendors offering the full range of cloud services (namely, service providers, SaaS, IaaS, and PaaS). However, there are cloud providers that specialise in some part of enterprise software.

More often, companies will combine large public cloud providers with a specialist. This is made possible not least by the many strategic partnerships of both parties, such as Salesforce with Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud and IBM. The same for Workday and IBM.

Of course, this doesn’t make choosing the right cloud provider any easier.

Amazon Web Services

Amazon Web Services (AWS) excels in its broad portfolio of 140 services in computing, storage, database, analytics, networking, mobile, developer tools, and software. Another strength of AWS cloud is its openness, flexibility, and ease of use.

Prices: In the summer of 2017, AWS switched its pricing from hourly to second-by-second, aligning itself with Azure and Google. The AWS Simple Monthly Calculator provides detailed information, as well as the competition, AWS also offers free entry levels and credits to lure innovative start-ups onto their platforms.

Hybrid approach: AWS has also recognised the potential of hybrid and private clouds and is now increasingly moving away from its traditional (public cloud) pathways. The leader in cloud territory is finally taking hybrid clouds seriously, offering a true hybrid solution for the first time thanks to its partnership with VMware and a new product called Outposts. This strategic move is hugely important in positioning itself alongside its biggest competitor Azure.

Cutting edge technology: AWS uses machine learning as well as a number of other high-tech functions such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and Serverless Computing (Lambda).

Microsoft Azure

Microsoft already holds a strong position in many companies. Therefore, the path from on-premise to cloud is already paved. The power of Azure is obvious, as the fundamentals, especially in the enterprise segment, are already there to take the next step and outsource data to the cloud, or even to hybrid solutions.

With a strong position in SaaS (Office 365 Business Services and Dynamics 365), Azure is a key driver in helping to create a cloud-first world. This is also confirmed by the price changes in October 2018. Speaking of prices: Here is where you can calculate how much your desired cloud services will cost.

Cutting edge technology: Microsoft’s Azure Machine Learning Studio enables specialised developers to write, test, and deploy algorithms, as well as a marketplace for standard APIs. In addition, Azure also released its Kubernetes service at the end of the year, enabling serverless architecture.

Google Cloud

Google entered the cloud market comparatively late. The attraction for customers in the enterprise segment is also manageable. With its industry-leading tools for deep learning and artificial intelligence, machine learning and data analytics, the company wants to stand out from the competition and, above all, attract the enterprise segment.

Prices: Google has recently offered big discounts to attract more customers. Examples include free use of up to 1GB of Google Cloud Datastore capacity, 2 million cloud functions per month, and limited access to products such as Google Cloud Natural Language, Cloud Vision API, and the Kubernetes Engine. Google has a price calculator here.

Gartner said, “customers typically choose Google Cloud Platform (GCP) as a secondary vendor and not as a strategic vendor.” However, GCP is increasingly being chosen by customers as a strategic alternative to AWS whose businesses compete with Amazon. Unlike Microsoft Azure, GCP is a good option for companies that are open source and/or DevOps-centric.

The hybrid approach in the fast lane

Today, more cloud resources are in use than you can imagine. Everyday activities such as direct communication between employees, server hosting, and the development of applications for online shops are already running in the cloud.

The reasons for this are the requirement for fast and uncomplicated data exchanges between persons and locations, as well as changed working conditions. At the same time, more and more threats are lurking, demanding significantly higher security measures.

That’s why the hybrid approach is gaining traction. The hybrid cloud makes it possible to copy or transfer data and applications from local storage to the public cloud. This allows companies to become more independent from the public provider, without the benefits: Having to forgo scalability and cost efficiency. Important corporate data and applications can also be stored in local storage.

Targeting multi-cloud

Due to the jungle of the cloud, in which many companies are already stuck, the multi-cloud approach goes one step further. Multi-cloud allows the parallel use of cloud services and platforms from multiple vendors and thus the connection of multiple cloud models (namely public and private) in a centralised, large cloud.

Regardless of the cloud service, organisations can choose flexibly between applications depending on the situation. Another advantage is the increase in availability and reliability. The more cloud platforms used the less risk of total downtime. In addition, a mix also has a positive impact on IT costs and application performance.

Of course, this model also has pain points. As the number of providers and cloud models increases, so does the complexity (of course). Not to mention any missing, consistent data protection and data security concepts. This makes it all the more important for a company’s multi-cloud managers to deal intensively with data protection and security, compliance and complexity issues so that all GDPR standards are met.

Multi-cloud strategy: Power in diversity

To deploy a multi-cloud solution efficiently in the enterprise requires a holistic view and control of the cloud services and IT infrastructure. This is ensured by a central management console or cloud management platforms (CMP), which bundles the administration of all services.

According to a study by Crisp Research and QSC AG, the majority of surveyed companies (73 per cent) don’t want to take care of it themselves but prefer to rely on external service providers to implement their multi-cloud strategy. This mainly ensures that all systems, integrations and interfaces run optimally and that the platform always remains up to date on optimisation measures and design planning.

Whether hybrid or multi-cloud, real cloud innovation can only come from those companies that uniquely combine the leading public cloud providers and connect them with specialised services and other cloud approaches.

Nevertheless, these new technological approaches are not a universal solution. Companies should individually assess which IT strategy in general and which cloud strategy, in particular, makes sense for them. But what’s clear: The cloud is here to stay.

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