Companies today can be so enamored of cloud that it becomes a rallying cry even if business executives aren't quite sure what it really involves. For IT infrastructure pros, it's a trend that's all too familiar. "We need more clouds!" was the only feedback Eyvonne Sharp, a network architect, recalled hearing after a colleague presented a diagram to business management.
"For those of us in infrastructure, we hear that a lot," she said.
In an environment where cloud is the mantra, enterprise IT infrastructure pros are faced with a raft of new challenges. Namely, they have to figure out how to make this cloud thing work for their business. While the cloud is a big abstraction that hides some complexity of the underlying technology and offers benefits like rapid development and innovation, that abstraction also has consequences, Sharp explained at Interop ITX last month.
Cloud "brings about leaky abstractions," she said. "At some point, the complexity we're hiding will leak out. We'll have performance issues or a problem."
When it comes to cloud connectivity, cloud abstractions lead to several misconceptions. While cloud infrastructure abstracts a lot of the things IT infrastructure pros are accustomed to doing, "We've moved complexity, we haven't solved it," said Sharp, who also is co-founder of the Network Collective podcast.
A top myth is that it's easy. "What we find is once we start building out cloud infrastructure, we need to connect back to on-premises infrastructure," Sharp said. "There's all kinds of infrastructure in the cloud that will need to talk back to data in your infrastructure."
Another misconception is that cloud infrastructure should mirror on-premises infrastructure, Sharp said. Cloud providers like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure build networks to meet their own requirements, use technologies enterprise engineers may not be familiar with, and the services don't mix well for hybrid cloud. "It's a problem we have to solve," she said.
Then there's the idea that cloud shouldn't impact IT culture and operations, which is "patently false," Sharp said. Cloud feature velocity is very fast compared to what IT teams are used to, and cloud deployment challenges break down traditional IT organizational silos.
"When we get into cloud deployments, what's the role of the network engineer, storage engineer and Active Directory folks? They can't stay divided. They have to work together," she said.
IT infrastructure leaders need to make people and process changes in order to deal with the challenges of cloud connectivity, including addressing the skills gap by providing cloud-native training, breaking down organizational silos, and communicating clearly why the cloud matters, she said.
"We have met the enemy and he is us," Sharp said. "We'll have to take a hard look at ourselves to meet the challenges."
On the next few pages, read about the cloud connectivity options organizations have, which Sharp outlined along with their pros and cons.