Keeping control of your data in the cloud should lead you into sovereign territory

What’s the answer? PaaS according to OVHcloud

Sponsored Feature What's the last piece of corporate infrastructure that gets moved to the cloud? For many organizations databases represent the final frontier, with fears over security and a potential loss of control often standing in the way.

Gartner recently calculated that revenue from the managed cloud database platform-as-a-service (DBaaS) segment accounted for 49 per cent of the entire database market in 2021 however, suggesting that reticence is evaporating.

Elsewhere, the Cloud Industry Forum reports that security is no longer the biggest inhibitor to cloud adoption, with budget and legacy integration becoming the more major issues. The research also showed that sustainability is an increasing concern for customers, though cost, breadth of service, trust and scale were the key priorities when it came to choosing a cloud supplier.

The fact is few companies are going to trust their data to the cloud unless they've thought long and hard about it, says Hiren Parekh, vice president for Northern Europe at OVHcloud, one of Europe's largest cloud providers with ambitions to add 80 PaaS solutions to its portfolio in the future.

Beware the bill shock

However, he says, it may be that as they move into the journey, they're experiencing "bill shock" and "thinking, well, the numbers aren't adding up the way I thought. The cost savings that we built into our business case aren't materializing."

And while it's easy to move into the cloud, it can be harder to move out of one provider's cloud and into another cloud. This is why OVHcloud thinks the conversation around cloud in general, and cloud databases in particular, needs to center as much on promoting interoperability and eliminating vendor lock-in as it does on technology.

OVHcloud began as an Internet hosting provider, founded in 1999 by current chairman Octave Klaba. From the beginning, it focused on developing technology to cool in its data centers as a means to meet internal sustainability and carbon reduction targets. That led to the company developing its own water-cooling system which requires 1 glass of water for 10 hours of operation per server – whereas the industry average is 10x more, according to Parekh.

The company now operates 400,000 servers in 33 data centers on four continents, with a maximum Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) of 1.1 underpinned by a 32 terabit a second network with built in DDoS protection: "What we've ended up with is a comprehensive set of cloud services across our Public, Hosted Private, Bare Metal and Web Cloud services, which now support over 1.6 million customers in 40+ countries."

That go it alone approach to cooling technology is mirrored by OVHcloud's philosophy around openness and transparency. Founder Klaba made a commitment that "We'd be a facilitator and enabler for business, as opposed to adopting the typical business model of hyperscalers which locks people in and makes a buck from a captive organisation."

Could the cloud be any cooler?

That commitment has become increasingly important in parallel with the growing importance of digital sovereignty, particularly when it comes to data. Parekh says OVHcloud's approach has three main elements.

The most obvious is data sovereignty, which is rapidly becoming a boardroom topic, not least because of broader geopolitical issues. While the US hyperscalers have been readily embraced by UK buyers in the last decade, he continues, "there are other countries in Europe that are a more hesitant to use them."

That reluctance has been exacerbated by the US government's 2018 Clarifying Overseas Use of Data Act (Cloud) act which gives Washington scope to compel US cloud providers to hand over customer data, even if it is held outside the US. So, while US-based operators may describe themselves as GDPR compliant, ultimately their obligations under the Cloud Act will trump their local requirements in other countries of the world.

By contrast, points out Parekh, OVHcloud is European. "GDPR is what drives us. And therefore, we will adhere to the spirit of GDPR, as well as the letter of the law." While OVHcloud does have a US offshoot, this is operated at arm's length.

Another key aspect is technological sovereignty, says Parekh. "By that, we're talking about open cloud. We're talking about how any R&D we do is focused on developing the open cloud platform and ecosystem." OVHcloud's own services are built on open source, he says, so they are easy for developers to grasp, "And they can reverse out if desired, it's basically interoperable."

Likewise, the company promises customers operational sovereignty over their data, applications and services. "If you want to back it up somewhere, you choose the location. You control all of the data, the technology that's used, the deployment model, which gives you operational sovereignty," adds Parekh.

Just PaaS-ing through?

That focus on open-source has helped drive the expansion of OVHcloud's PaaS solutions, particularly its managed database as a service options. The proposition is underpinned by strategic alliances with other open database providers. OVHcloud is the only company in Europe to OEM MongoDB's managed services platform for example. It also provides a seamless managed database infrastructure that underpins Finnish open source cloud data platform Aiven.

The full roster of partner database services additionally includes MySQL, PostgreSQL, Redis, Kafka, OpenSearch, Cassandra and M3. Hyperscalers typically offer a database lineup that is, as Parekh puts it, "very similar but they're homegrown solutions". Indeed, this has led to questions between hyperscalers and database developers over compatibility.

These issues notwithstanding, one of the most painful aspects of moving databases to the cloud is the associated data ingress and egress charges. While getting data into a hyperscaler might be straightforward, and usually low cost, the costs of moving data around regions, or out of the hyperscaler – whether for replication, or for backup/disaster recovery – can be punitive.

OVHcloud's position on this is stark, says Parekh, with no data egress and ingress charges, except for object storage. "So customers aren't locked into what we provide. They're able to use our services for as little or as much as they want. If at any time they want to reverse out, the costs are transparent. It's open source. It gives them the ability to just stream back whatever they want."

But if reducing the cost of moving data in and out of the cloud smooths migration for customers, this counts for little if the process doesn't actually deliver additional value.

Parekh argues that apart from ingress/egress and other hidden charges, the value debate around PaaS databases has been further complicated by two key factors.

Easing the skills shortage

The first is the ongoing shortage of skilled people. While this is a perennial challenge, research by tech recruiters Harvey Nash shows that over two thirds of organizations believe skills shortage are preventing them keeping pace with technological change. And the figures show that after cyber security, the biggest shortfall in available expertise is in big data/analytics.

That really begs the question whether it makes sense to assign highly skilled staffers to the grunt work of spinning up and administering databases, rather than have them work on the data-powered projects which can fuel broader digital transformation.

"Our customers don't want to get people into the mundane management of it all," says Parekh. "Why bother doing that when you can have a managed PaaS solution that takes that headache away?".

The time delays associated with managing licenses, setting up the system, and administrating it have been further stretched by the supply chain problems currently impacting the tech industry. "We all know that there's a chip shortage and trying to get servers is not an easy task anymore," points out Parekh.

A managed database as a service helps customers confront all these problems head-on, he says. But most importantly it puts them in a position to extract more value from the data itself, whether this is through conventional database operations, beginning to exploit in-memory technology alongside Redis, or developing event driven architectures with Kafka. The customer organization could also use the data they've moved into the cloud to fuel machine learning and AI with services like OVHcloud's AI Notebooks or its GPU-powered Nvidia NGC Platform.

In fact, he says, the one area where moving a database to the cloud makes things pervasive is that the potential impact on a company's ability to innovate, and deliver new products or services faster, means more departments are beginning to weigh into the decision making.

"Whereas before we were predominantly dealing with IT decision makers and the conversations were technical, now there's a greater cross-section of people and functions involved in the decision making and our job is to simplify how they will benefit from our services."

Sponsored by OVHcloud.

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