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Colocation to cloud — stepping stone or business objective?

Javid Khan, Chief Cloud Officer at Pulsant, explores how more cloud companies are recognising colocation as a valid option and are making allowances for it, especially during migration.

The benefits of cloud are well recognised; resilience, agility, cost savings and space savings to name a few.

These benefits are hard to ignore and go a long way in explaining the increasing adoption of cloud across many businesses. Indeed, in a survey carried out by LogicMonitor, respondents predict that 83% of enterprise workloads will be in the cloud by 2020. Conversely, 17% of workloads are predicted to be on-premises, while 22% of the 83% will actually be in a hybrid environment. The question then becomes, why will over a quarter of workloads still be on-premises? This can be explained by concerns around security, compliance, performance and geography, as cited by the majority of respondents when moving to public cloud.

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However, these fears are not just restricted to public cloud. Furthermore, for some businesses, their legacy infrastructure and applications just don’t translate easily to a cloud environment or require a large-scale transformation exercise which adds further cost and time, despite the promise of longer-term benefits. For other business, moving everything to the cloud may not fit with their objectives, or it might not be the right time.

But there is a way to capitalise on the benefits of a virtualised environment while still maintaining physical control of any infrastructure. Colocation is the answer. Third-party datacentres provide flexibility and operational outsourcing and, with the right colocation provider, dynamic connectivity to cloud fabric to accelerate the journey to cloud.

A hybrid model — how to get there

The cloud is making every business rethink their approach to IT. As the big four public cloud vendors compete to offer lower costs, superior agility, data transformation programmes and state-of-the-art services, it is easy for businesses to become overwhelmed by the vast number of emerging technologies entering the typical workplace. From artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), to big data and the Internet of Things (IoT), organisations need to take a step back and adopt a more holistic approach to their journey to the cloud that inspires a genuine re-engineering of their business.

The questions to ask 

There are so many options for cloud adoption, selecting the ideal one for your business can be a challenge. Securing sensitive data is one concern, but regulations might also require businesses to keep some data in-house. Then there is the question of risk and culture change. Similarly, CxOs want to be sure they can deliver business as usual, with no change in service levels to customers, while retaining control of their environments and data. As a result, many businesses seek to adopt a hybrid cloud solution rather than an ‘all in’ one.

But these organisations should think about three important questions when considering the digital transformation journey, especially where colocation could be the starting point:

  • What is the compelling business reason for moving to the cloud?

This involves taking a step back and defining the reason why the journey is necessary in the first place. For example, an independent software vendor (ISV) might need to do so in order to start delivering their software as cloud-based and software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings. Organisations need to take a look at their business needs and the pressures involved in delivering a cloud-first or digital-first strategy. Do they want to increase agility and leverage the elasticity? Do they want to be more flexible in application development, therefore speeding up their time to market?

  • What is the compliance challenge that must be overcome?

What issue needs to be overcome? What risk needs to be mitigated? To continue with the example of an ISV, it needs to be able to deliver these new cloud and SaaS offerings to clients while remaining compliant with new regulatory changes, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and revised Payment Service Directive (PSD2).

  • What technical solution or service offering can be put in place to solve it?

For the compliance-conscious ISV, for example, it might consider adopting a modern, hybrid technology solution that is suitable for cloud consumption, while also maintaining compliance. It also allows the ISV to consolidate the data is used regularly and makes it more transferable across its application. Organisations need to consider the operational and capital burden, which working with a managed service provider can mitigate, regardless of whether it is colocation or cloud.

Why hybrid and not simply ‘all in’?

There are a number of reasons why hybrid cloud makes better commercial and technical sense for those looking to move from colocation services right now.

The private side of a hybrid cloud solution enables a company to continue using its existing infrastructure and leverage it more effectively, in essence sweating existing assets and maximising its investment. Hybrid can be classed as any combination of colocation, private and public cloud — it’s about flexing public cloud over time as the technical landscape matures up to a point the business can accommodate.

If a company uses a trusted managed service provider who specialises in colocation hosting, private and hybrid cloud development then it can also rid itself of the time, resources and costs of having to support and manage its own infrastructure and services and so focus exclusively on improving the services and solution it offers its own customers.

So is colocation the strategic choice after all?

Colocation is a great way to start the cloud transformation journey. Businesses can take advantage of the lower costs and improved security, while the datacentre provider can supply the infrastructure to ensure business resilience. And when the time is right, when business objectives align with a cloud strategy, colocation provides the foundation for this change.

The right partner can help get the balance right and make the change when the time is right. And choosing one who has a heritage of colocation, hybrid and communication infrastructure is a good place to start. These types of service provider understand the complexities of migrating services, applications and data to a multi-cloud environment and importantly have the skills and experience to help businesses make the move a successful one.

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