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Monday, July 15, 2024

Modern Cloud vs. Mature Cloud: Are You Wasting Money?

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Not all cloud is created equal! Learn the difference between “modern cloud” and “mature cloud” deployments and how platform teams can optimize costs.

Cloud is modern. It has taken our previous notion of the computer that stands on our desk, on the company server, or in the IT department’s central guts and placed some (in hybrid environments) or all of that power in a cloud service provider data center to be operated, managed, secured, maintained and updated remotely.

But given that cloud (as we understand the term) has been with us for around two decades now, we can perhaps talk more clearly about the service-based delivery of compute, analytics, storage, and now new strains of artificial intelligence in a more contemporary way.

Could the reality be that all clouds are modern, but not all clouds are necessarily mature?

What Modern Cloud Means, Usually

In general terms of modern cloud computing platforms, it is normally because we’re about to reference the automation, optimizations, abstracted simplifications, and user-friendly visualizations made by the major CSP hyperscalers designed to make the cloud easier. That’s easier for cloud-centric software engineers to program with, easier for operations staff such as systems administrators and database professionals to underpin our applications with… and it’s also all about making it easier for end users to have great so-called “experiences”.

Part of that ease-of-use factor extends to the more dynamic elements of cloud operations and might include best practice playbooks to guide operational workflows. Then there are observability and optimization technologies designed to help engineers avoid the perennial problem of over-provisioning, a predicament experienced in many cloud environments, including those that run as Kubernetes container-based deployments.

In short, it’s an all-modern cloud, so how much of the cloud is modern?

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Shared Servies, Surely?

Cloud infrastructure company HashiCorp has used its 2024 State of Cloud Strategy Survey to suggest that as little as 8% of organizations are modern (and therefore mature) enough with the cloud to fully realize the business benefits of their cloud investments with standardized shared services.

Why is the use of the use of shared standard services so important? Because cloud computing is meant to be a macroeconomic entity, i.e., it is large enough to be web-scale, broad and wide enough to be hyper-scale, and expansive enough to be inherently enterprise-scale. That means we should be looking for ways to find standardized elements of operations across the cloud stack that we can coalesce, refine, and repeat.

As Meghan Liese, VP of Product Marketing at HashiCorp, says, “Highly mature cloud organizations build, deploy, and manage their critical applications through a holistic approach across the entire infrastructure management lifecycle with unified workflows to reduce risk and boost developer velocity. Mature cloud is a question of adopting, standardizing, and scaling key practices across the entire organization. [In our survey’s estimation], most organizations struggle to deliver cloud programs, resulting in positive business impact: less than half of low-maturity organizations report they are still waiting for their cloud investments to pay off.”

Above All, Platform Teams

Liese and team advocate the message that is echoed by many of the cloud computing cognoscenti these days when she says that the answer lies in adopting a platform engineering playbook. Organizations that describe running the most mature cloud programs have implemented cloud practices to provide standardized shared services for infrastructure and security lifecycle management – and that’s generally due to delivering these services through a platform team with its higher-level holistic view.

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The suggestion is that these organizations get a better return on their cloud investments with centralized management and automation. So, while highly cloud-mature organizations may spend more on the cloud, they also waste less of that money.

“Organizations who have done the right things and achieved high cloud maturity are realizing benefits, including increased productivity, stronger security, and reduced cloud costs. We’ve seen that the path to cloud maturity lies with platform teams and gaining control over their cloud estate with infrastructure and security lifecycle management,” said Liese.

HashiCorp wants us to think about its market analysis, which suggests that around three-quarters of firms have reported increased cloud infrastructure spending in the last year, with almost all of those companies saying that they have experienced at least some cloud waste. There’s still an acute shortage of skilled staff to put these platform engineering technology propositions into motion… and although almost all enterprises have at least started the process of establishing a platform team, less than half currently rely on their platform teams to fully standardize cloud operations throughout the organization.

Cloud, Always At A Crossroads

If we consider the propositions here (and let’s remember that some of the threads in this cloud infrastructure tale that promote and promulgate platform-level standardization processes for cloud infrastructure are being put forward by cloud infrastructure company HashiCorp, Inc.), we can see that cloud computing is once again at something of a crossroads.

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While cloud computing wants to deliver its services in increasingly automated ways from an enriched infrastructure perspective in the platform engineering sense, it also wants to be able to apply itself at a surface level to increasingly custom-tuned bespoke application structures that ultimately become more and more complex by the way they are compartmentalized into “more efficient” (yet tougher to manage and update) microservices. That’s not the only dichotomy of cloud; it is beset with trials, tribulations, and tradeoffs; perhaps things need more time to bed in and standardize.

Is the cloud richly flavored, nutrient-packed, and good enough to melt in a sandwich yet? It would only be lightly mature if it were a cheese, so perhaps it is not always.

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