Riverbed Technology commissioned a survey at the AWS re:Invent conference in Las Vegas from November 11-14, which asked 122 respondents about how their companies engage with Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). What I learned from the survey results is that cloud computing has matured to become a critical part of IT’s responsibilities. And that brings a whole host of collaboration, skills, and technology needs.
Since this survey was at AWS re:Invent, I think it’s fair to say that the audience is more cloud-friendly and cloud-experienced than the mainstream. In fact, 80% reported having deployed their first app to an IaaS cloud more than a year ago. But that only means that their experiences are an indication of things to come. Here are some of the key survey findings illustrating the maturity of IaaS cloud usage:
Skills are important, but the gap has gotten smaller
When it came to concerns, the laggard was not having the expertise to deploy apps using IaaS – only 32%, versus the 90% concerned about reliability. This caught my attention, too, because it suggests that skills have caught up to trend. And the diversity of roles that were at the show and responded to our survey reinforces that – companies are sending their IT managers (31%), IT workers (11%), and other technology-related roles (14%) to shows like AWS re:invent to learn. The dimishment of ‘lack of expertise’ as a concern and clear investment in deepening IaaS skills across IT should be good news to cloud vendors and enterprises alike. Overcoming the skills barrier is a necessary precursor to wider IaaS adoption for production and business-critical apps.
Best practices in the age of cloud computing
How can more organizations harness the power of IaaS and gain the most sought-after benefits, like improving computing scalability (87%), reducing the time it takes to deploy apps (81%), and reducing costs (81%)? That’s where learning from the trail-blazers can help mainstream organizations enjoy a smoother ride into the age of cloud computing:
1) Engage cross-functional teams (early). What's clear from this survey is that the trail-blazers at AWS re:invent have more than their app development teams on board. But, this is 2013, and there were undoubtedly some hard-won battles to get there. As applications in the cloud go from test and dev projects to production and business-critical applications, network, security, and app operations teams are going to have to get involved. Don’t treat network latency and bandwidth, or monitoring, or firewalling as an afterthought. Get in front of some of those headaches by soliciting input from those teams earlier in the planning process.
2) Understand your worst-case scenario. Given that reliability and performance topped the concerns for the trail-blazers at AWS re:invent, these are evidently very serious challenges. Ideally, you can architect your application to scale to an unthinkable volume of users, some of whom are accessing from the remotest parts of the world from very flakey mobile networks. But before you can architect for that, you need to know what those volume and latency variables could be for your cloud applications.
3) Embrace the complexity of multicloud. One thing that sets business-critical applications apart - and threatens reliability and performance of those applications whether they are running in the cloud or on premise – is the complexity of multi-tiered applications. IaaS reinforces service-oriented architectures (SOA) and the ease with with developers can add services from cloud and third-party services leads to very, very complex applications. Even on-premise applications can have cloud components and dependencies these days. And the complex web of inter-dependencies doesn’t stop at “hybrid” cloud connections – with greater adoption of various SaaS applications and multiple IaaS vendors, applications in one cloud may depend on data served from another cloud and vice versa. A first step is to map these application dependencies holistically to understand which cloud services your various applications rely on.
For a visual take on these survey results, check out this navigation-themed infographic on the “Voyage to the Cloud”:
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