The Struggle To Move From Cloud-First to Data-First

Image credit: iStockphoto/Orla

Companies face a “balancing act” as they consider their cloud computing options. According to participants in a recent panel discussion, a significant factor in determining the right decisions is data.

In late March, Equinix and supporting partners Dell and Nvidia held the NextGen Connectivity Forum with panels comprising industry participants and solution providers.

Sachin Tonk, the director of data, advanced analytics, and privacy at Standard Chartered Bank, told the Forum that while data was the “fuel” of transformation, the free flow of data was often challenged by requirements around regulation and compliance and created “bottlenecks.”

“So you need to balance out what needs to be stored in the cloud and what needs to be stored on-premises, and how do you perform the balancing act to achieve operational efficiency for your clients and your business,” Tonk said.

Different regulations in different jurisdictions, he said, created complexities around the treatment of data, so the balance was to ensure that data security was maintained while maximizing data agility.

“I think sharing, security, and democratization of data are key challenges for any global organization,” Tonk said.

Checklist for cloud decisions

Varun Verma, APAC head of data and analytics at global brewing giant Heineken, spoke of a “checklist” for companies as they approached their cloud decisions.

“There are a lot of stakeholders who are driving that checklist. It’s not just one team or the job of one function, and there are also external partners who help us with this checklist because we don’t have all the levers at hand in ticking off the checklist, so we do need help,” he said.

Heineken, added Verma, used proprietary data sets to create several operational solutions. To do so, it needed the right combination of cloud and on-premises architecture, with decisions driven by security and compliance.

“Going to the cloud seems a no brainer in optimizing our infrastructure, but while the journey looks simple enough from a high level, it really is, as Sachin said, a balancing act,” said Verma.

Cloud decisions becoming important

Simon Lockington, the senior director for global solutions architecture in the Asia Pacific at Equinix, said security and compliance issues had been pushing further up the decision-making chain as companies made decisions on cloud architecture.

“There is a lot of focus on moving to the cloud, but the cloud is just one tool in a toolbox, and it all depends on the business requirements as to which tools you use,” said Lockington.

The right approach, he said, was to “mix and match” the available tools depending on the business requirements, tempered by compliance and security demands.

“In terms of exchanging data, moving that data around the world has its level of challenge as well, and that is why private interconnection and moving from the data center is super important,” said Lockington.

“Understanding the apps in question is also super important. Are they high ‘chatty’ applications for which you may incur significant data egress charges which may be challenging to model? And if so, should you maintain that app on-premises and use cloud or bare metal to supplement that?”

Cloud maturity improves

Danny Elmarji, the vice president for pre-sales in Asia Pacific and Japan at Dell Technologies, said he believed the market had matured in the way it was thinking about the cloud.

Companies had begun with a “cloud-first” mindset as they moved to transform their business.

“They were thinking about cloud not as an operating model but as a landing zone, and it had to be with one of the hyperscalers,” Elmarji said. “But when you look at mass movements to the public cloud, that is where data sensitivity and performance starts to become a challenge, along with latency, and these roadblocks got in the way.

“What the industry has realized now is that cloud is not just a landing zone, but there are going to be several landing zones in future, and one will be edge — depending on your location — and another will be your own data center,” he added

The cloud-first mindset, said Elmarji, had matured to a “data-first” mindset.

“Applications are closely tied to data, so when businesses think about where they put their applications, they have no choice but to think about a data-first mindset,” he said.

Edge computing beckons

The panel also discussed the evolution of edge computing in the context of data security and flow.

For some companies, such as gaming, latency is critical, and data needs to move rapidly in a roundtrip of less than five milliseconds.

“Platforms can live and die depending on latency, and it is a critical key for content delivery,” said Lockington.

“Edge will come into its own and present additional opportunities as we see increasing velocity and data starting to overwhelm the centralized architectures that many have in place, and 5G will be a catalyst for this.”

Elmarji identified the evolution and maturing of edge services, driven by the “commoditized deployment of apps” from a situation where many organizations were deploying proprietary edge infrastructure.

“This commoditization means you can now offer it on cloud-like infrastructure,” he said. “And what is the gap there? We have to make it easy to access and consume. So, as a business, I may not want to own the edge asset anymore; I may like to use it as a service.”

Lachlan Colquhoun is the Australia and New Zealand correspondent for CDOTrends and HR&DigitalTrends, and the editor of NextGen Connectivity. His fascination is with how businesses are reinventing themselves through digital technology and collaborate with others to become completely new organizations. You can reach him at [email protected].

Image credit: iStockphoto/Orla