Have all the clouds you need, but you’re still going to want a single development platform

Looking for an easy transition to managed cloud services? Red Hat says it can help …

Sponsored Feature When it comes to accelerating digital transformation, some would say the answer is simple: head for the cloud. But if the destination is clear, the obstacles that organizations have to scramble over to get there are not always that apparent.

Research from the Cloud Industry Forum shows that over 90 per cent of organizations consider the cloud important to their digital transformation strategy. But they still face substantial barriers to cloud adoption. Just under half of organizations surveyed cite budget concerns as a major blocker. Insufficient manpower and resource is flagged by 41 per cent, with specific skills shortages being mentioned by 35 per cent, and the same number citing concerns over integration with existing technology.

Likewise, it's important to remember that it's not simply the case that the cloud is the cloud is the cloud. Companies have specific reasons for why they choose a particular cloud provider – or sometimes multiple cloud providers - with each having different pros and cons.

Factors such as data sovereignty or regulatory requirements may dictate the lineup of cloud architectures and providers an organization can choose from. And smart organizations will have concerns about resilience, disaster recovery, latency, and all the other issues that influence a company's decision on where to situate its infrastructure – just as they do with on-prem infrastructure.

To mitigate those concerns, a hybrid and multi cloud approach is the likely default approach for the majority of organizations - the Cloud Industry Forum concludes that this is the "direction of travel" for the industry as a whole.

But developing a strong enterprise cloud strategy that sets the stage for innovation relies on much more than just choosing appropriate providers. Most organizations will also have to adopt new technologies and tooling as part of the process, a challenge that going all in with a single provider can smooth to a certain extent, but which can spark concerns about vendor lock-in.

And whatever architecture they choose, companies still face the dilemma of who should manage it. Recruiting additional staff with in-demand skills might be costly. Retraining or reassigning existing workers might mean other strategic or high-value projects are left understaffed. And transformation only goes so far. A small, highly focused organization can transform its underlying infrastructure and workflow, but it can't transform a 10, or even 100 person team into a 1000 person team overnight.

"I mean, you can hire those people to do that. But those resources aren't inexpensive," says John Ross, Red Hat's principal product marketing manager for cloud services.

What exactly are we trying to transform?

While striking the right balance when it comes to staffing is a challenge for most organizations, more established firms face the additional problem of how they handle legacy systems and technical debt. "A company that's been around for 50 years is likely to have a lot more considerations in terms of how they would plan what they would move to the cloud," says Ross.

This isn't just a question of culture or processes. An older organization is likely to have pre-existing applications and data stores and sources that must be taken into account.

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"So where are you on that scale, in terms of technical debt, or just the amount of data you've collected over time?" asks Ross. This might mean the niceties of container orchestration might be less important than the API management or range of data connectors that a platform offers.

There are organizations that have the resources, and perhaps more importantly, the motivation, to take all these issues head on and build their cloud infrastructure from the ground up using open-source tooling or are happy to go all-in with a single cloud provider and its native offerings.

But what are the options for everyone else? How do they get their hands on enterprise grade tooling for developing and deploying cloud applications and infrastructure, while removing the burden of day-to-day operations like patching, optimization, and scaling. And, of course, security and compliance.

Addressing the skills gap and technical debt

"Our take on cloud services is that we help accelerate customers on their digital transformation by addressing a lot of the big problems that a lot of these customers have. These blockers like the skills gap or having technical debt," says Ross.

Red Hat's Cloud Services portfolio, for example, provides managed offerings that run in the key public clouds to enable organizations to develop and deploy cloud native applications quickly.

While simplified billing and procurement always makes life easier for hard-pressed tech teams, the broader point, says Ross, is that customers can devote more time to innovation or transformation because they no longer have to target scarce staff to the minutiae of container infrastructure operations.

Instead, they can focus on developing cloud native applications that are portable across any underlying cloud platform, including on-prem/private clouds, and the public cloud. "We're taking care of upgrades, we're taking care of scaling, we're taking care of patching, and everything else. All of that is done by our SRE team."

The foundation to these services is OpenShift, Red Hat's application platform, which is built on Kubernetes. The portfolio also includes OpenShift API Management, for microservices based applications, and the OpenShift Service Registry to help teams manage and reuse artifacts.

When it comes to data, the lineup includes OpenShift Streams for Apache Kafka for real time and streaming data apps, as well as OpenShift Data Science, for developing and deploying AI/ML models, and OpenShift Database Access.

While OpenShift Dedicated allows customers to "bring your own cloud", Red Hat works closely with the major cloud providers providing Red Hat OpenShift Service on AWS (ROSA) and Azure Red Hat OpenShift (ARO), which are jointly supported by the respective cloud vendors and Red Hat.

"When a customer  buys them, they don't receive a bill from Red Hat," explains Ross "Their service is actually billed through Amazon or Microsoft when they enable it and organizations are able to leverage their existing cloud commitments"  Alternatively, customers can enable additional cloud services through their existing Red Hat account console.

Lots of clouds, less people

But while Red Hat Cloud Services offers a common development platform, it's not a one-size-fits-all approach. In addition to the platform services, Red Hat offers self-service resources to get people up and running, as well as full-blown technical training or consultancy services, so that they can achieve digital transformation, not just a cloud migration.

"Our goal is to really look at where customers are at in their journey. What are the big problems that companies are having?" says Ross.

Research by Forrester into the total economic impact of adopting Red Hat OpenShift Cloud Services bears out this approach. The researchers found that adopting the OpenShift Cloud Services model enabled organizations to shorten development cycles by up to 70 per cent. This meant organizations could "recapture" 20 percent of developers' time from infrastructure maintenance work, while 50 per cent of "DevOps" employees could be reassigned to other, more productive work.

And that, ultimately, is the key. As Ross explains, it's one thing to help get an organization through building and deploying its "first" application in the cloud. "But then we want to enable them to be able to do their second and third, and accelerate them through that digital transformation."

Sponsored by Red Hat.

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