DCD 2016 dives deeper into cloud

Conversations at this year’s Datacenter Dynamics Converged/Cloud Symposium shifted from discussion of general trends in cloud deployment to more laser focus on factors that are hindering or accelerating successful adoption. Organized by InsightaaS and the TCBC, the Cloud Symposium was one of three tracks covering diverse topics in cloud, servers and storage, power and cooling design, build and colo, security and risk and the core/edge  presented at the conference in Toronto’s Allstream Centre.

This year, cloud panelists took a deeper dive into such issues as networking infrastructure, economics and process change – all areas where they expressed strong opinions in terms of the hurdles facing CIOs and business leaders today.

In the session Optimizing Hybrid IT Environments in Canada, for example, the discussion revolved around issues in hybrid cloud adoption and management. Peter Near, national director, Systems Engineering at VMware challenged the panel with the statement: “The big question we need to ask ourselves is why are we doing this? But those whys are changing as we move up the chain.”

The big ‘why’ was the need for adaptability and agility, although IT departments are falling short of the mark, argued Robert Krauss, director, Global Sales, CenturyLink. “IT departments are not adept or fast enough, which leads to widespread FOCL [fear of cloud lock-in],” he said, adding that there is a significant gap in understanding between the business and IT communities. Overcoming that requires organizations to keep themselves open to options, find new ways to put processes in place, and apply governance.

Malcolm Smith, director Sales – Managed Services, Scalar Decisions
Malcolm Smith, director Sales – Managed Services, Scalar Decisions

Security was considered a main roadblock to achieve that.  “Agility is the number one driver, but the reasons we can’t get there is security,” stated Malcolm Smith, director Sales – Managed Services for Scalar Decisions. “Networks are the last thing being modernized. What we did with servers in terms of virtualization, needs to be done on networks – for example firewalls, load balancers and routers need to be configurable based on policies.”

Every customer wants agility, but proper management is table stakes,” Krauss confirmed. “Hybrid means you are working with some legacy systems that need to be managed no matter where they are. The best practices are the same. It’s just more pieces to manage and monitor.”

The On-Ramps to the Cloud proved to be a fitting follow-on, as it began with the premise that the cloud is only as good as the network it relies on. Dany Charland, senior director, Solutions Delivery with Rogers Communications said this year customers want flexibility and shortened planning cycles. “Plans were 36 months out. Now planning cycles are 12 months out. So how do you provision networks and get the adaptability needed?”

Ian Rae, founder and CEO of CloudOps, said given the trends in data consumption, there will be challenging times ahead for networks. “There’s a bit of a network Armageddon in play,” he said. “It’s getting a little scary 10 years out. The question today is, how can we get to the cloud as efficiently as possible when many are starting from a non-cloud infrastructure? Things still need to be provisioned; there’s a lack of software-driven, API and integration automation. That’s what carriers are now focusing on; but it will get messier before it gets easier.”

Brian Ochab, cloud practice leader, Unity Collected Solutions
Brian Ochab, cloud practice leader, Unity Collected Solutions

A complicating factor is the addition of voice on the network, said Brian Ochab, director of Hosted Solutions Sales, Unity Connected Solutions. “Voice is now data. How do you put that on the network and what does it look like? It’s a hand-holding exercise, especially for IT folks who’ve been buying premise-based PBX solutions forever.”

With IoT and the move to LTE and mobile you have to look at it wholistically, Charland said. “What type of security do you need to apply? What are the commitments and costs associated with it? You need to look at networks in combination with your cloud and IoT strategy.”

Rae laid out two steps in working with customers when addressing the network challenge. First is determining what the business is trying to achieve. The second revolves around location. “The speed of light is not getting faster. You can add more lanes to the highway but will have trouble shortening it. Location matters far more than before. If you can’t do faster, you can do cheaper, but you can also bring the elements closer together.”

The Economics of Cloud: A Senior Management Guide session saw panelists examining the impact of cloud on IT costs. The question for debate was: do senior managers have enough insight into cloud/IT costs, and can they make their case to the top level?

A key argument presented during the session was around the nature of cloud economics. “Executives understand [the economics] from a cost centre perspective, but not necessarily from a topline, competitive perspective,” stated Rae. “They look at ways to drive revenue, reduce costs, and increase profitability and shareholder value.”

Ian Rae, CEO, CloudOps
Ian Rae, CEO, CloudOps

Cost-centered economics doesn’t drive cultural change, he added. “It’s about how to connect the dots. Agility will not come unless cultural change comes from the top. But the actual change happens in the trenches.”

Risk mitigation is another key factor to consider, Rae said. “Any platform or methodology that comes along to do things faster introduces new risks or enhances existing ones. Cloud-enabled means more opportunities to screw up. It’s a complicated environment and people in charge have more to handle.”

Barney Baldwin, global head of Risk Technology for RBC reiterated the added risk of complex environments, as they open channels via different portals, and suggested standardizing servers and software at the core. “It’s a multi-dimensional problem. If you can accelerate and standardize, you can tighten release cycles and track them.”

During the Cloud-Enabled Process Change session, participants covered the thorny issue of onboarding staff and apps to cloud-based models. Shawn Rosemarin, VMware Chief of Staff Americas Systems Engineering, noted that while senior executives know they have to move to the cloud, it can be a challenge getting support from the CFO. “IT has been a financially based equation,” he said. “Change has to start with the CIO direct reporting to the CEO. Only the CIO can take the mandate and keep it relevant.”

Michael Loftus, senior director, Infrastructure Planning and Design at CIBC noted that building new processes is neither fast nor cheap. “You can be excited about DevOps. But that doesn’t mean you can forget about regulators and auditors.”

Everything must be viewed in the context of business goals, said Arturo Perez of president and CEO of Solsteace. “You have to analyze policies. The CIO needs to be part of the equation.”

Rosemarin offered an analogy about the relevance of investing in processes. “Think of [process change] as an infrastructure build,” he suggested. “For 20 years industry has invested in tools that make it faster and cheaper to automate processes. Without standardized architecture and policies, it would be impossible to make decisions. You need a policy or script to get the same outcome each time. Automation only takes place if the process itself is defined.”


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