Has the Cloud Era Arrived? Thoughts from Cloud Field Day 8 #CFD8

I don’t need to explain how crazy this year has been. Everyone realizes that we live in “unprecedented times” and that 2020 has more than likely stamped permanent change to many aspects of our lives. The same can also be said for the corporate IT landscape. Cloud adoption has been steadily increasing over the last few years, but 2020 and the sudden shift towards work from home brought a dramatic uptick in cloud consumption. Not only was this increase evident through tech industry news and personally via customer projects, but even the cloud related blog posts on this website jumped significantly in daily views.

Even with the craziness that has unfolded this year, I was thrilled to take part in my first Cloud Field Day event. For those that follow Tech Field Day, I’m sure you are very well aware that these events, like most others, have gone virtual. This was unfortunate for those involved, as the Tech Field Day experience wasn’t quite the same. Regardless, it is always great to meet new folks (even if virtually) and of course, there is a lot to learn about new technology. Cloud Field Day 8 (CFD8) provided a TON of vendor content, so much that the event was split between two sets of delegates. As part of the “early” delegate group, I took in presentations from six different vendors. CFD8 reinforced to me that we are definitely living and working through the cloud era of IT. Read below for my insights, and listen to many more with myself and fellow delegate Ned Bellavance on his Day Two Cloud CFD8 Wrap Up episode.

Traditional IT plays in the Cloud

A number of CFD8 presenters would be been right at home in a Storage, Networking or Tech Field Day event. The fact that many of the CFD8 sponsors are familiar from the traditional IT landscape says something about the current state of cloud. There are certainly many new players in the cloud marketplace, but there is still a lot of room for vendors who made their name on-prem to make a splash with new cloud products.

If the cloud hyperscalers had products or services that met every customer need, there wouldn’t be so many third party products available today. The fact of the matter is, customers still want to use trusted platforms whether on-prem or in the cloud. If enterprises were buying in completely to refactoring for public cloud, maybe this wouldn’t be the case. In reality, moving to the cloud still involves a lot of “lift and shift” and hybridity, and cloud native products alone don’t suffice for many customers.

Cloud data needs protection too

The cloud shared responsibility model almost seems like a basic IT fundamental at this point, so it is amazing to me how many people still overlook the necessity of data protection in the cloud. Sure, cloud makes it much easier to architect availability, but that does completely remove the need for backups. Veeam kicked off CFD8 with a corporate update and presented their vision for the Veeam platform in the cloud. New updates to Veeam backup for AWS and the more recently released Veeam backup for Azure were highlighted. Veeam is a vendor that built a reputation from protecting on-prem VMs. Many customers first experience with running cloud workloads involves migrating VMs from on-prem into cloud instances. Most cloud providers do have native backup tools, but Veeam brings enhancements and cost insights to backing up cloud instances that the native tools lack. On top of that, protection is free for up to 10 instances, and that foot in the door may be enough for customers to find a “sticky” backup solution that provides a similar management experience. Cloud isn’t just VMs though, and updates to Veeam Backup for Microsoft 365 (previously Office 365) now include Teams, which goes to show how important collaboration data is, especially as organizations continue to implement work from home.

Zerto is another vendor that is well known for VM protection. Zerto resilience for public cloud is another service that looks to capitalize on the reality that VMs still lead the way for many applications. The ability to use public cloud as a disaster recovery site is very powerful, and Zerto provides the flexibility to choose from many options for keeping VM workloads resilient across all the clouds. While VMs won’t go away any time soon, cloud native applications are certainly on the rise. Zerto provided an interesting take on backup and DR for Kubernetes and Container apps at CFD8. The jury is still out on how best to protect cloud native applications, but vendors like Zerto certainly see the writing on the wall that adoption will only continue to grow.

When it comes to cloud, most people think of the big players like AWS and Azure. It also seems like until more recently, cloud adoption was mostly driven by enterprises and startups. Many times when it comes to the state of the IT industry, SMB customers are left out of the discussion. While there may be some hesitancy for SMBs to move to public cloud (costs, skill set, if it works don’t fix it, etc.) there are still many other companies out there offering cloud solutions as an alternative to the big players. Infrascale presented their cloud backup solution to the delegates, which is targeted mainly to SMB customers for end point data protection. The time is certainly now to capitalize on protecting end points, with so much work taking place outside of anything that a company can contain within it’s own walls.

Hardware still runs the cloud

One of the great things about cloud is that customers can consume services without knowing or caring what is really running things under the covers. We all still know that there is hardware required to process stuff, and it is very interesting to see how cloud is changing the hardware industry. Cloud native apps and Kubernetes present an challenge in that the way we define performance has shifted more towards the application layer than the physical layer. Diamanti Spektra and Ultima look to capitalize on customers that need purpose built hardware to run Kubernetes workloads on high performing storage. Whether customers want to run these workloads on their own hardware remains to be seen, but the Spektra platform seemed like the bigger cloud play, allowing for the integration of all places you could run workloads (including Diamanti hardware) under one umbrella.

Aruba also brought a number of presentations to the early CFD8 panel. While there wasn’t one single product or platform of focus, we did get a lot of insight into AIOps for networking and storage hardware. AI is another big topic as it pertains to cloud, and one reason is the amount of data that is available to source from. When you have a huge number of devices powering private and public clouds, it makes sense to put that information to use. AIOps is an interesting way to enable the next generation of cloud hardware to bring administrative focus back towards DevOps and applications.

The one product to rule them all

With SO many vendors out there vying for their piece of the cloud pie, it seems like the enigmatic single pane of glass (SPOG as it is humorously called) is the true unicorn that will elude customers for eternity. Multi-cloud, hybrid-cloud, next-gen apps and other hyphenated terms are thrown around, and the truth of the matter is that no single best practice or platform fits most cases. Because of that, organizations end up consuming a bunch of different clouds, services and products to run their business. Morpheus Data presented how they enable hybrid cloud application orchestration at CFD8, and it proved to be a powerful look at something that may come close to a “one size fits all” solution. The addition of cloud economics (FinOps) into the platform really pushed the demo into something that could check off a lot of boxes for customers. Just because one tool can do so many different things and integrate with all the clouds doesn’t make it the easy button though. I can see a ton of value in something like Morpheus Data, but only for customers with the willingness to put in the work effort required to mold it towards their particular cloud vision.

virtualBonzo’s take

I realize I’m not taking a huge leap in saying that we are presently in the cloud era. Changes like that happen over the course of years, and cloud has been around for a while. The last couple of years have been pivotal with many organizations finally taking the step from just talking about cloud, to actually consuming cloud. It also seems like 2020 made many companies who had future cloud adoption plans scramble to start implementing right away. Regardless, cloud is a new normal in IT and will only continue to grow moving forward.

Even though cloud has solidified it’s place in the IT landscape, it still is kind of like the wild west. Cloud means many different things to many different people. On the surface it is sometimes seen as just AWS or Azure. It is also Gmail, Microsoft 365, Netsuite, ADP, Netflix and so on. It is also smaller cloud providers that allow customers to move their data off site. You want cloud to just mean someone else’s computer? Sure!

At the end of the day, it really just means a whole boat load of more options than having to buy your own servers, rack them and cable them up to run applications. All of those options are viable solutions to business problems, and they will continue to evolve as the technology and business needs evolve with them.

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