IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Out with the Old, In with the New Cloud Order

Why flexibility, simplicity, and intelligence are key to optimizing hybrid cloud management and preparing for the future. By Jeff Kukowski

A majority (68%) of enterprises executing digital transformation initiatives declare hybrid cloud to be an explicit IT strategy, according to 451 Research. There are good reasons for this. A hybrid approach provides the operational efficiency, resource optimization, and agility organizations need to keep up with digital transformation and compete in a digital-first economy. However, these benefits also come with greater complexity. As hybrid cloud evolves and businesses of all sizes increase their cloud investments, they face growing needs around self-service IT, visibility, security, and governance.

Organizations try to get a handle on this by investing in scripts, cloud management platforms, infrastructure-as-code, and other tools. While this multi-tool approach is the basis for a new cloud order, it creates another challenge. The more tools, the more integrations are needed to advance automation initiatives. This creates layer upon layer of custom code that makes visibility challenging and can lead to security breaches and rampant cost overruns.

Ultimately, this increasing complexity requires a new way of thinking about hybrid cloud management and automation. Going forward, managed IT service providers (MSPs) and co-managed IT providers must encourage their clients to leave old assumptions behind and embrace a new paradigm that focuses on flexibility, simplicity, and intelligence as guiding principles. The following are three examples where these principles are most important.

Self-Service IT Made Simple, Made Flexible

Internal IT organizations have a lot on their plate, and they can’t always resolve requests from end users and developers quickly. Today, it’s easy for DevOps to bypass IT and spin up public cloud resources on their own, and when IT is backed up and can’t resolve tickets fast enough, many developers will do so. However, this creates “shadow IT,” where apps run in the background unbeknownst to IT, and this can get expensive. Gartner estimates that shadow IT accounts for 30-40% of all enterprise IT spend.

Many organizations resolve shadow IT by implementing self-service, an approach where IT or the MSP creates a preapproved catalog of resources that end users can access through a single web-based portal. By putting guardrails on these resources—permissions, usage quotas, and more—the business gains speed and IT maintains control. Everybody wins.

However, current self-service approaches aren’t necessarily well-geared for the new world. Many require end users to pick target cloud deployment zones, select AWS plan sizes, or even configure security groups. They demand high learning curves and are good for 20% of end users who have those technical skills. But what about the remaining 80%? And what if IT wants to quickly expand to new use cases? Indeed, 71% of IT leaders believe that self-service IT should be easy for end users, allowing them to “order” what they want without any special knowledge or expertise; 56% also believe that their self-service initiatives do not meet this standard.

Clearly a new approach to self-service is needed, one that focuses on abstracting away the what, where, and how of cloud deployments so end users can simply focus on outcomes. It’s based on rapidly extending to new use cases through APIs, instead of waiting years for vendors to implement them in their core products. Ultimately, it makes self-service a true “easy button” for cloud. With deep abstraction comes greater simplicity. And in the fast-moving world of cloud, simple is the way self-service should be.

Intelligence in Cloud Cost Optimization

As organizations continue to spin up more cloud resources, they also need to understand what resources have been deployed and optimize them when necessary. Naturally, different clouds offer their own built-in visibility tools. These tools are, however, cloud-specific. For instance, one can’t use AWS CloudWatch to monitor Google Cloud Platform. As a result, a single-pane-of-glass approach becomes increasingly important to provide organizations with a comprehensive view of all their clouds.

Moreover, current cloud optimization approaches are often ill-suited to the growth of cloud-based workloads. Despite the multitude of tools on the market, many organizations still must export cloud bills into Excel, analyze gigabytes of raw data line by line, or chase down engineers to shut off unused compute instances. These manual methods just don’t scale. Not surprisingly, the No. 1 problem cited by FinOps pros in the State of FinOps 2021 report was getting engineers to take action on cloud spend (39% saying this was their top issue). How can businesses better adapt?

In the new world, a more intelligent way is based on automation. For instance, if engineers are provisioning public cloud resources, they should automatically be notified of potential overspend, and be afforded less expensive options. New approaches should also be intelligent enough to continuously detect unused or idle resources, provide instant optimization insights, and automatically remediate in real time.

As it stands right now, 78% of IT leaders say they lack visibility into who is provisioning what, and 56% want continuous notification of cost overruns and security gaps so stakeholders can address them in automated ways across cloud environments. The ability to continuously take action will be critical to align all stakeholders—ITOps, DevOps, and FinOps—to target cloud efficiency goals and better adapt to the rapid pace of cloud evolution.

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