Equinix Cloud Forum: CIO panel discussion on “Cloud migration – Lessons we have learnt so far”. Photo taken on July 9, Hong Kong
Predicting the future is always difficult. And the shift to cloud-based solutions certainly hasn’t been immune to hype. But, one of the most interesting takeaways from the recent Equinix Cloud Forum held in Hong Kong wasn’t the pace of cloud development. It was that, until recently, the conditions necessary for universal adoption of cloud computing didn’t exist. Or, putting it another way, the peak period for cloud implementation among enterprises of all sizes is beginning.
Learning from the past
Of course, the cloud concept has been around for a while, albeit under different names.
Nearly 20 years before the Internet took off, the groundbreaking science fiction writer, William Gibson, was already trying to define the cloud. In his 1982 short story, Burning Chrome, he called it Cyberspace – a kind of consensual hallucination. A graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system.
The evocative term spawned an exciting new genre of science fiction known as “cyberpunk.” However, in a 2000 documentary entitled “No Maps for These Territories,” Gibson admitted that even he didn’t really know what Cyberspace actually meant. “It was suggestive of something, but had no real semantic meaning, even for me, as I saw it emerge on the page,” he said.
Others weren’t so shy. The Dot.Com Revolution was proceeding at full speed, with proponents predicting that everything would soon be moving into the new and uncharted lands of Cyberspace. One of the most popular ideas to emerge was the use of ASPs – Application Service Providers.
Similar in some ways to today’s cloud-driven Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) providers, in essence an ASP was supposed to be a business providing computer-based services to its customers over a network. That might be access to a specific software app, like customer relationship management for example.
It sounded like a fantastic way for companies to outsource some or virtually every aspect of their information technology requirements. However, there were a few significant obstacles, not the least of which was speed and reliability.
Neither of that mattered all that much to consumers, who were largely still using modems and dial-up phone lines to access the Internet and used to glitches. But, they were mission critical concerns for businesses that then, as now, require performance and solid reliability. The Internet infrastructure was simply not robust, scalable or sufficiently secure for enterprises to bet their future on it.
From Meltdown to Mantra
The ASP dilemma was resolved by the Dot.Com meltdown, which led to losses estimated at anything from US$500 billion to US$1 trillion, and simultaneously saw the disappearance of most of the ASPs.
However, the challenges associated with businesses using the Internet for critical operational activities didn’t completely disappear. Nor has the idea of companies outsourcing much of their information technology requirements. The difference is that today we call it “Moving to the Cloud”.
There is certainly no shortage of cloud service providers, and many of the biggest names in the industry are leading the charge. Take Microsoft for instance, whose business was traditionally based on upgrading and rolling out new versions of its products. One side effect of this model is that it created something of a support headache for in-house IT staff.
Now, with Office 365, the management process is entirely automatic, with upgrades and patches all taking place in the background. This enables the enterprise and its users to get on with more productive and revenue-generating work. Storage is even included, making it an all-in-one offering.
It may be all-in-one, but it’s still a stand-alone piece of the cloud puzzle. In fact, according to most reports, something like 60% of companies adopting cloud solutions today are using a single cloud service provider.
What customers are really looking for is a way to do more than merely outsource some key activities. They want to outsource all of them in a seamless and integrated fashion, while at the same time enabling each to support the other for maximum effectiveness and efficiency. Just as importantly, they want the flexibility to add or switch providers quickly and painlessly as when they like.
In fact, resolving that conundrum has probably been the single biggest hurdle holding back the ubiquitous adoption of cloud solutions by enterprises of every size – from global behemoths to SMBs.
Thankfully, as the Equinix Cloud Forum revealed, the answer is at hand. It turns out that while the globe-spanning Internet has abolished borders and made geography obsolete, the secret to exploiting its real power is proximity.
The hard truth is that the Internet was never designed to deliver the quality of service that tech-driven enterprises demand. But, a dedicated cloud ecosystem can provide general overall QoS.
At Equinix we call this approach a Cloud Exchange (ECX) – an advanced interconnection solution that enables seamless, on-demand, direct access to multiple clouds from multiple networks in more than a dozen locations around the world.
Equinix Cloud Exchange provides a secure path for accessing cloud resources with very high throughput and consistency. In fact, tests run in Equinix Solution Validation Centers show increased throughput of 147% when connecting directly to the cloud as compared to using public Internet connections.
By setting up points of presence in the same ECX, service providers can create the all-important mix of performance and critical mass that turns a good idea into standard operating procedure.
The high-level of cloud service provider density within the ECX ecosystem enables businesses to pick and choose what they need, as and when they need it. Equinix is home to not only the most cloud services in the data center industry, but also to the top cloud providers. For example, these data centers are the only ones to offer private, direct connections to Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform, and IBM SoftLayer.
The result is that, instead of selecting a series of standalone solutions, they can create a dynamic, interconnected matrix of applications that matches their requirements perfectly. What’s more, they can add, switch or drop providers as market conditions and opportunities dictate with the same simplicity as most people change their socks!
Today, the limiting factor for cloud success is no longer technology. It is having the imagination and acuity to spot an opportunity, align it with a business strategy and take actions.
And while it can sometimes take weeks to provision and configure network connections to cloud services, with Equinix Cloud Exchange, a cloud connection can be up and running in mere hours.