What is the promise of the cloud?
Varnish Cloud e-book
IN THIS E-BOOK, we will break down the basics of some of the reasons why you should consider moving to the cloud, how much you might consider offloading to the cloud, what benefits you can gain and what might be right for you, including looking at the Varnish Plus Cloud solutions that will deliver performance enhancements and reliability to your digital business.
Introduction: In the cloud
What is cloud computing?
A term that is used widely, both in non-technical and technical circles, from sales and marketing departments to development and operations departments, this nebulous “cloud” is talked about as a solution to all problems, delivering software-as-a-service (SaaS) or infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), and other on-premise “as-a-service” solutions.
Yet, it’s still somewhat misunderstood and imprecise because its meanings and applications continue to expand all the time. The ‘cloud, at its most basic, is a network of distributed servers that enable virtual services, taking the physical IT aspect out of the equation for its users. It is, according to an InfoWorld definition: “the virtualization and central management of data center resources as software-defined pools.(1)”
What the cloud boils down to for many users is the overarching concept: “Let someone else worry about it” (with “it” being the development and running of software, infrastructure or platform that a user needs). As one description frames it in describing the cloud approach to CRMs: “You shouldn’t need to think about clients, servers, networks, and the like to have a CRM system. Let someone else worry about it. You just want to sign in via the browser.(2)”
Not all cloud services deliver the same things, and not all cloud users are seeking a “sign-in and forget-it” solution. Devops users might want to augment their infrastructure with cloud components for which they do not need to maintain hardware – but they will still closely monitor how the cloud solution performs within the overall setup (and luckily cloud solutions are generally very easy to monitor). This e-book will focus on more operational cloud solutions in addition to more general thinking about cloud-solution adoption and what basic benefits you can gain from cloud infrastructure.
The why of catapulting to the cloud
In 2016, Gartner predicted that companies’ entrenched resistance to the cloud and no-cloud policies will be phased out or no longer enforced by 2020(3). It is highly likely, according to Gartner, that cloud-first, if not cloud-only, solutions will become dominant, with hybrid strategies (a mix of both cloud and on-premise) becoming most common. Other key Gartner predictions, which appear on track to be confirmed:
- By 2019, more than 30% of the 100 largest vendors’ new software investments will have shifted from cloud-first to cloud-only.
- By 2020, more compute power will have been sold by IaaS and PaaS cloud providers than into enterprise data centers.
Gartner analysis also states that the IaaS market has grown more than 40% (in revenue figures) since 2011 and will continue to grow more than 25% through 2019, by which time most virtual machines will be delivered by IaaS providers(3). McKinsey analysis bolsters Gartner numbers, predicting that “up to 80% of enterprise applications could be in the public cloud by 2020, while the remaining 20% would be in companies’ own data centers/private cloud for legacy, cost or security reasons”(4).
Essentially, the era of the cloud is already here: many services exist, are tested and deployed in real-world, commercial settings, and offer flexibility in a variety of different ways:
- Potential decrease in time-to-market for new applications (from weeks to hours in some cases), according to McKinsey, leading to lowered costs and a more rapid product improvement cycle(4)
- Significant direct and indirect cost savings made possible by moving to the public cloud(3), as total cost of operating infrastructure has gone down, on-premise operations and maintenance could be scaled back, while security and compliance standards have continued to grow stronger
- In the specific areas relevant to devops and developers, there is significant scope to define and manage infrastructure as well as automate the stages of software deployment processes, which promises time and resource savings.
The hybrid approach
Some on the ground, some in the cloud
Aside from the clear benefits of the cloud, companies, tasked to do more with less and realize better results, are moving away from building their own infrastructure(s) and are focusing on getting more from their resources by concentrating on their own specialized area(s) of expertise/competence. Streamlining focus in this way not only highlights the promise of cloud adoption but also makes clearer to each organization what aspects of an operation should or can be moved to the cloud. In many cases, the approach is hybrid, and what and how much to move to the cloud will be the key decision.
McKinsey has stated that determining the “operating model is the hardest thing to get done right when migrating to the cloud at scale”(4), making this a tricky and important part of the journey.
What exactly is the ‘hybrid cloud’?
According to InfoWorld, it is “the integration of a private cloud with a public cloud. At its most developed, the hybrid cloud involves creating parallel environments in which applications can move easily between private and public clouds. In other instances, databases may stay in the customer data center and integrate with public cloud applications—or virtualized data center workloads may be replicated to the cloud during times of peak demand.(1)” Never mind that not all IT executives agree on how one should define ‘hybrid cloud’, according to a recent survey(5).
For our purposes, we will simplify the definition to mean: a mix of private and public cloud provisioning, as well as the possible inclusion of on-premise infrastructure, based on one’s individual requirements.
From an operational/devops perspective, there could be many potential reasons why a hybrid approach remains most prudent or popular. These reasons can range from maintaining hands-on, local control (for security or data-handling reasons) to, for example, many operational tasks remaining incompatible with some of the limitations of the cloud, e.g. commercial/public cloud entities’ data centers exist only in specific geographies, but content must be served from another. Similarly, a multicloud strategy (which can essentially be referred to as a “hybrid cloud”) might be preferred to avoid vendor lock-in or to take advantage of features available from one cloud provider and not another(6).
Reasons for a hybrid cloud solution
- Hands-on control and technical oversight and predictability
- Oversight of and handling of security, privacy and policy compliance
- Architectural flexibility
- Apply your solution to a wider market faster (less time and money)
Regardless of going all-cloud or picking and choosing the cloud elements that suit specific needs, the cloud’s potential to make scalability and elasticity more flexible is obvious.
The basics: Cloud benefits
Cloud computing, and indeed cloud IaaS, offers a broad, general range of benefits(8). The biggest include:
- the ability to scale and provision computing power according to need in a flexible and cost-effective way.
- freeing the organization from having to invest in and maintain physical servers/hardware.
- freeing the user/company to focus on core business and expertise.
The benefits and business value will vary depending on what cloud solutions you use and how you use them. For the purposes of this e-book, we will look at the benefits specifically of using cloud implementations of Varnish Plus.
What is Varnish Plus Cloud?
Varnish Plus Cloud is basically the cloud version of the Varnish software suite designed for enterprises that want the performance and scalability of Varnish implemented on virtual servers. The beauty of Varnish in the cloud is that it is designed to be elastic: the user chooses when to scale capacity up or down based on predicted traffic patterns. A good example of when this would be advantageous: e-commerce companies ramp up the infrastructure to handle a massive, but temporary, influx of online shoppers during the peak holiday shopping period between October and December.
With a Varnish Plus Cloud implementation, this flexibility is easy and virtually instant to turn on and off without having to register a repository, download software and manually install or manage hardware, such as investing in and maintaining physical servers that you won’t necessarily leverage optimally except during limited peak traffic period(s).
Why is Varnish Plus Cloud right for you?
There are a number of reasons Varnish Plus Cloud might be right for you.
- Same high-performance and scalability power of Varnish, the minimal backend resource use and real-time actionable data and insight of custom statistics, TLS/SSL support and professional support – but with the convenience, affordability and immediacy of the cloud.
- Low-maintenance, as there is no on-premise hardware to maintain or Varnish-specific software repositories to update. We know that setting up Varnish from scratch on-premise can be challenging and time- consuming, particularly if you don’t need Varnish 365/24/7. With Varnish Plus Cloud, you will not face configuration and implementation problems because everything is pre-built and working almost instantly, right out of the box.
- Standardization allows for replicability. With the Varnish Plus Cloud offer, you will face fewer operational issues because you benefit from the ability to deploy the same services repeatedly with the same result every time. This increases business continuity and transparency and frees up resources from having to focus on these kinds of operational issues.
- Control how much and pay for only what you use. You have changing technical needs and traffic demands, and Varnish Plus Cloud lets you adjust for these changes. You only provision and pay for what you have used, which allows for business agility and infrastructure elasticity. You don’t need to pay upfront for a full enterprise product and have insight into and control over what you pay with the cloud service.
- Easy to get started almost immediately. Offering simplicity and low barriers to entry, you can be up and running with Varnish Plus Cloud and all its modules in minutes.
Varnish Plus Cloud is available now on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) platform, Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and the Microsoft Azure platform.
The platform one chooses will depend on many factors, ranging from the language and technology stack already in use in the company to the interoperability the cloud platform offers with the vast majority of the company’s other systems (e.g. Microsoft Azure, particularly for very large enterprises, might make the most sense because its existing enterprise applications are also Microsoft products or in Windows). The industry may also influence platform choice: trends indicate that most industries favor AWS (which may be understandable as it had a huge lead on other platforms in developing its customer base), but Azure seems to be growing rapidly with the consulting and energy sectors (which aligns with the point about companies/ industries where the Microsoft stack dominates already)(9). As the last to the party, GCP has been playing “catch up”, but it’s making fast inroads. Forrester recently gave GCP a boost by naming it the leader in a market segment they call “Insight Platform-as-a-Service”(10).
AWS: Currently the market leader and largest of the major public cloud platforms, it was the first cloud platform on which Varnish Plus Cloud became available.
GCP: The second cloud platform for Varnish Plus Cloud, you can give Varnish Plus Cloud a free test drive on GCP now.
Azure: Popular and frequently used for large enterprises, largely for reasons of compatibility, Microsoft Azure is the most recent addition to the platforms on which Varnish Plus Cloud is available.
Cloud solutions can be much more complex than this high-level overview shows. The cloud is essentially about finding the solution(s) that work best for your specific needs and mapping the strategies and tactics that will work for your setup. That’s the beauty of the cloud: getting what you need and want, flexibly with relatively low investment thresholds and upfront cost. Whether it’s a single all-cloud, a complex multi-cloud or a hybrid cloud approach, there are choices that can meet – or are flexible enough to be made to meet – your needs.
Among the needs of all digital businesses – and today, what business isn’t really digital? – performance and reliability are vital. With Varnish Plus Cloud you get the performance boost and reliability that comes with advanced caching technology combined with the convenience and flexibility of the cloud.
4 http://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/digital-mckinsey/our-insights/ learning-from-leaders-in-cloud-infrastructure-adoption
7 Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure as a Service, Worldwide, https://www.gartner.com/doc/reprints?id=1-2G2O5FC&ct=150519
9 https://stackover ow.blog/2017/07/21/trends-cloud-computing-uses-aws-uses-azure/