It’s difficult to talk about modern computing infrastructure and architecture without focusing on the cloud. According to recent research, a staggering 96 percent of organizations surveyed use cloud services in one form or another, with 81 percent of them already implementing a multi-cloud strategy to better suit their needs. Although more data and applications are being stored or managed in the cloud than ever before, that doesn’t mean every organization is using its cloud resources wisely.
The biggest motivator, of course, is cost. Saving money by turning capital expenses (CAPEX) into operating expenses (OPEX) is a surefire way to sell the C-suite on a scalable IT solution.
But the flexibility of cloud platforms is another huge benefit. Public cloud services give startups and growing businesses the freedom to pay for infrastructure that would otherwise hold back their growth. Investing in servers and other computing equipment not only carries a high sticker price, but also locks a company’s growth potential into the capacity of its existing infrastructure.
The likes of Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, and Amazon Web Services (AWS) give organizations the computing infrastructure they need without the suffocating investment. There are even smaller cloud providers that cater to specific industries and their business needs, although companies should be careful to select a provider that isn’t likely to go out of business anytime soon.
Modern cloud computing strategies leverage more than public clouds. A hybrid cloud architecture combines a public cloud with a business’s private cloud or colocated servers. This arrangement offers the scalable power and flexibility with the security and control of a private network. Sensitive data is stored in the private portion, while the public component provides computing resources for delivering services and building applications. Multi-clouds are similar, but they add additional public cloud services to the equation, allowing companies to select from a variety of providers to build the ideal solution for their business needs.
For businesses with enough capital, having complete control over their own private cloud infrastructure is extremely attractive. Private data centers can host cloud environments and support mission-critical applications on-premises, allowing companies to manage every aspect of their infrastructure. All this control comes at a cost, however. In addition to the massive capital expense of building an on-premises solution, all of that equipment needs to be maintained and managed. Servers, backup power systems, and cooling infrastructure carry significant ongoing expenses as well as demand time and attention from IT personnel who might otherwise be focused on how to better serve their customers.
Third-party colocation data centers have built their own infrastructure to help companies connect their private network to public cloud services. A colocation provider can also help them to optimize their computing performance, prevent or minimize costly downtime, and meet security and compliance requirements. For companies investing in internet of things (IoT) devices and delivering streaming content services, edge data centers are particularly beneficial since they’re located closer to end-users, IT personnel, and customers at the edges of their networks.
Developing the ideal cloud computing strategy depends on having a thorough understanding of a company’s goals and requirements. When making these tough decisions, there are several cloud computing best practices to follow within the four critical needs companies face: security, performance, connectivity, and reliability.
Data encryption for both in-transit and stationary data (end-to-end encryption) keeps critical information safe from leakage and breaches. Privacy controls, including user data access and time restrictions on data storage, limit data exposure. Encryption utilities like hardware security modules allow companies to establish even stronger encryption protections for data. Consistent vulnerability testing should be conducted to identify weaknesses in cloud infrastructure and processes. Systems and software security updates and patches need to be implemented consistently to strengthen identified vulnerabilities. And lastly, every company’s website should have security certificates (SSL) to encrypt links between its web server and browsers.
Public cloud platforms offer a scalable solution for companies that need high-end computing power for their mission-critical applications. Whether they’re utilizing a software as a service (SaaS) provider to provide everyday productivity tools or a more robust platform as a service (PaaS) that allows companies to build the software solutions they need, it’s important to find a cloud computing strategy with flexibility, power, high uptime, and the ability to scale services quickly. Colocation data centers can build the hybrid cloud and multi-cloud networks needed to make the most of these services.
However an organization designs its infrastructure, it’s critical that their network has extensive connectivity options when it comes to accessing cloud computing providers. While it’s possible to connect over the public internet, colocating infrastructure in a third-party data center provides the additional benefit of accessing cloud servers directly via a single cross-connect for superior speed, performance, and security. Some providers even offer the added benefits of direct connections like Microsoft’s Azure ExpressRoute, which extends the edge of a company’s network into Microsoft’s cloud servers. By bypassing the public internet completely, these direct cloud connections can reduce latency and reduce the risk of data being intercepted en route.
Your cloud environment is only useful if users can access any file or data they need, at any time. Preventative maintenance must be proactive to minimize server downtime. To that end, cloud or colocation providers must constantly monitor power usage, network traffic, and cooling needs to identify trends that could be used to improve data availability. Data center infrastructure management (DCIM) platforms offer unparalleled visibility into a network environment to better prevent and minimize downtime while also enhancing performance.
As edge computing architectures and server virtualization continue to transform the ways companies think about their infrastructure, many organizations are shifting away from relying entirely on public cloud providers. The growing popularity of virtual private servers (VPS) and colocation services have made it easier for companies to pursue more customized network solutions like hybrid clouds and multi-clouds.
Carrier-neutral data centers have played a major role in building these solutions through the data center as a service (DCaaS) model. DCaaS takes a “pay for what you need” approach to infrastructure that benefits both colocation customers and managed service providers seeking to bundle services for their clients. The cloud reseller market has also afforded companies a range of connectivity and provider options that were more difficult to access even a few years ago. As fully virtualized software defined data centers (SDDCs) become more common in the future, smaller organizations will have an even lower barrier to entry when it comes to building a flexible IT infrastructure that allows them to compete with established players in their respective industries.
Cloud computing strategies will undoubtedly continue to be a huge part of every organization’s network strategy in the coming years. With scalable power and flexible services, cloud providers give companies the tools they need to drive better business results. Data centers have a key role to play in building these infrastructures, making it critical that IT professionals keep a close eye on the latest developments in these interconnected industries.