Distributed cloud changes IT architecture and planning

With modern applications distributed across multiple platforms and locations, IT organizations must adjust how they confront that greater management complexity.

The rise of distributed cloud application environments has radically altered application development, IT and business operations. Adoption of public cloud infrastructure services, such as IaaS and PaaS, has been extensive -- on the rise for years, and now pervasive.

According to research from Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), 86% of organizations use more than one public cloud infrastructure service provider; nearly two-thirds leverage more than two such providers.

As development teams use public cloud services to transform and accelerate Day 0, Day 1 and Day 2 operations, the distributed nature of contemporary application environments fuels increased complexity. In addition, it is not just an increase in the number of public cloud providers making infrastructure and application environments more distributed than ever: The data center is here to stay. Only 12% of IT decision-makers surveyed by ESG identified a goal of "getting out of the data center business" as part of their three-year strategy. Additionally, only 2% of organizations surveyed expected to have zero data centers five years from now. In fact, IT decision-makers expected the average number of data center locations that their organizations own, operate and manage to increase over the next five years. These figures also don't take into account expected upticks in edge locations and increased use of colocation facilities.

Distributed cloud refers to IT and application environments that span multiple data center and private cloud locations, multiple public cloud infrastructure providers, multiple edge and remote locations, and multiple colocation facilities and managed service providers. Modern IT environments are extremely disaggregated and this is forcing businesses, development teams and IT organizations to evolve.

The mainstreaming of distributed environments is changing how IT organizations need to operate.

Increasing the complexity of distributed cloud application environments is the rise of applications spanning multiple clouds and locations. As IT organizations add additional locations to the environment, those new locations or clouds are typically not silos, but connected -- where data movement is a regular practice, and applications that span multiple locations eventually become common. ESG research found that 49% of organizations move data across multiple public clouds "all the time" or "regularly." This movement is fraught with cost and complexity, however, as 65% of IT decision-makers agreed that their organization faces challenges with application and data portability across locations.

The mainstreaming of distributed environments, combined with the increased complexity these disaggregated environments present, is changing how IT organizations need to operate. A distributed cloud environment brings the following obstacles:

  1. It increases complexity and risk in architecture and planning, which slows IT and development operations when architecting and deploying new workloads.
  2. IT personnel face increased complexity burdens, slowing operations further while making it more difficult to hire and retain personnel with the right areas of expertise.
  3. Distributed cloud models add additional risk and cost when moving data and applications across the distributed environment.

To overcome those challenges, organizations are spinning up investments in a number of areas. For example, they are acquiring the following:

  • better tools to help with pre-deployment planning for workloads;
  • technologies that can help reduce the risk, cost and complexity of data or application movement;
  • observability technology to better monitor and understand the distributed application environment; and
  • better automation with integrated intelligence to reduce burdens on already overworked personnel.

These technologies should be on a CIO's radar and rank highly on the investment priority list. ESG is seeing evidence of such prioritization; for example, there has been a recent uptick investment in cloud-cost optimization tools in the last year. Tools that assist with cloud cost optimization -- such as those offered by Splunk, Spot by NetApp, VMware or Yotascale -- are showing large and immediate returns, with average per-month cloud savings of 33%, per ESG. These tools are just an example of how IT leaders are shifting their approach to managing and optimizing distributed cloud environments, helping give rise to the increase in adoption of FinOps initiatives.

The tools, however, can often suffer from a lack of usage. Investments are not enough: IT leaders must put the right policies in place to ensure that the tools are leveraged appropriately to achieve results.

Addressing the complexity of distributed cloud environments will require investment in multiple technology areas. Cloud optimization technology is only one example. ESG is continuing its research into the impacts of the distributed cloud, and as more insights are uncovered, more of those findings will be made available.

ESG is a division of TechTarget.

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