Coping with ‘The Second Half of the Chessboard’
Should You Invest in On-Premise Infrastructure or Migrate to Cloud-Based Managed Services?
The Deceptive Power of Exponential Growth
You may have heard the story of the Prince and his Vizier who asked to be paid with rice. One grain of rice was to be placed on the first square of a chessboard, two on the second square, four on the third, and so forth, doubling every time. After two rows the Vizier had himself two small bags of rice. This was going to be a cheap payday, thought the Prince. By the middle of the board the Prince was down 250,000 bags, but still not overly worried as this represented but a tiny fraction of his fabulous wealth.
What happened next cost the Prince his Kingdom (or the Vizier his life, depending on which version of the story you prefer). It turns out that by the last square of the chessboard, the Prince would need to give the Vizier enough rice to cover the surface of the Earth to a depth of several feet. It’s more rice than has ever been produced during the entire history of mankind.
This old story illustrates the deceptive power of exponential growth. In the early phases of growth – the ‘Slow Take-Off’ phase – it can be difficult to appreciate that much progress is being made. By the time the ‘Knee of the Graph’ is reached, the scale and speed of growth is becoming obvious. However it is only in the final phase – what the inventor, futurist and Googler Ray Kurzweil calls ‘The Second Half of the Chessboard’ – that the astounding rate of growth fully reveals itself (and the Prince goes broke or the Vizier loses his head).
The phases of Exponential Growth
The Exponential Growth of Technology
We’ve all heard of Moore’s Law – that processing power per dollar doubles approximately every 18 months – but perhaps we have not stopped to fully understand what it implies. Similar exponential laws have been shown to apply to other aspects of computer technology, including storage capacity and data transfer speeds.
Once we understand the power of exponential growth – the second half of the chessboard – we can understand how it is possible that 90% of all data ever created by humanity has been generated in just the last two years. In 2013 our digital world created and stored 4.4 trillion gigabytes of data, or enough to fill 137 billion iPads, and by 2020 even that colossal figure will have increased by a huge factor. If anything, the term Big Data is actually an understatement.
While two-thirds of all our digital data is generated by mobile devices and computers owned by consumers, it is corporations that collect and manage about 80% to 85% of it. With that in mind, every business needs to seriously think about the IT infrastructure it deploys. Make no mistake about it; the systems you invest in now will need to be replaced in just a few years unless they are able to keep up with the pace of technological change and scale to cope with the exponentially increasing amount of data that needs to be captured.
This is why, at least in the enterprise space, we are quickly moving into the Post-PC era. While computers will remain the primary interface for employees, the data, computations, storage, and processing will, with increasing frequency, occur externally in the cloud. Enterprise software from five years ago simply cannot handle the surge of data. Solutions are quickly moving to the cloud to store, manage, compute and backup vital information at lightning-fast speeds while avoiding the heavy costs and headaches of owning and managing complex commodity hardware.
The Cloud to the Rescue
It is no surprise that several recent reports all show the growth of cloud at the expense of on-premise infrastructure. Gartner and Peers 1 Hosting show hybrid cloud adoption is set to triple in the next 3 years while on-premise falls 18%. HP predicts cloud spending to rise from 7% of IT budgets in 2014 to 40% by 2018.
With shared hosting, or cloud computing, individuals and companies can rely on effective, off-site, secure, scalable data solutions. In fact, the process has become so seamless that individuals often don’t even know they are using the cloud. This is the case with both gamers and users of online video-streaming services, to name just two examples. In both cases, preferences and actions are stored on the cloud in the blink of an eye and in real time.
Today, the cost of running a private cloud-based managed service is equal to or less than the cost of investing in your own infrastructure. Private clouds have unrivaled performance, security, scalability and flexibility, usually available on a pay-as-you-go basis. What’s more, because what you are buying is a service rather than servers, the technology on which your cloud runs can always be kept bang up-to-date without you having to worry about it or make further investments.
Private, Public and Hybrid Clouds versus On-Premise
Every business has its own specific needs, which means a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t cut it. So this begs the question, what mix of cloud solutions, perhaps alongside on-premise infrastructure, is right for your business?
Today most cloud vendors offer private, public and hybrid solutions. Importantly, many vendors do not lock you into just one of these. This means, for example, that users of private clouds can develop new applications and evaluate new business models by bursting onto public cloud-based services without affecting critical services running on the private cloud. As a result, business applications can be developed and tested faster and more accurately (in the public cloud), while production is achieved at lightning speed (migrating apps back to the private cloud).
With open source cloud technologies, such as the OpenStack® platform, it is possible to break down the barrier between private and public clouds, enabling users to deploy common environments, services and tools on multiple clouds. This can cut down to minutes the time needed to configure infrastructures and migrate applications. If you have on-premise or private data center facilities these can even be included in the same stack as your cloud services so that you can quickly migrate services from on-premise to private cloud to public cloud and back as needed. It gives you flexibility and scalability without compromise and without having to entirely shelve your current infrastructure.
Coming to the right decision for your business requires asking several key questions. Do your current IT systems simplify processes or create extra work and delays? What is the overall cost to your business of continuing to invest in on-premise infrastructure versus adding cloud solutions that reduce stress on systems and provide scalability for the future? To get the best of both worlds, a managed service provider should be vendor-neutral, capable of pulling value from and integrating existing commodity hardware in your organization while offering a cloud system that can deliver critical business services.
As data creation continues to grow and so do workloads, investing in commodity hardware and infrastructure means continued pressure on resources to just maintain the same amount of business. Those costs include new hardware, space, utilities and manpower to manage them. Moving to the cloud with a managed service provider removes the burden from your business while allowing seamless scalability to meet growing demands without facing hiccups every few years as you reach your network’s limits. Without at least some access to cloud solutions you face paying for the luxury of having too much infrastructure or feeling the pain of having too little. The pay-as-you-go service capabilities of the cloud allow you to escape that trap.
Security and Disaster Recovery
Protecting data from external threats is a must and is handled better when you reduce the chance for human error. With cloud capabilities, businesses have the ability to automate security measures to protect their company’s and their customers’ vital information regardless of where their employees are located when connecting to the network.
Another factor to consider is whether your systems and internal IT can manage large-scale systems errors, which can completely put your business at a standstill. Securing your data is vital to ensuring systems don’t suffer blackouts and important transactions or work are not lost due to inconsistent backups. The cloud expands an organization’s capabilities for data security, allowing for up-to-the-minute redundancies across multiple geographies and seamless data recovery so, no matter what happens on the backend, business stays as usual for employees and customers.
Don’t Be Caught Out by the Second Half of the Chessboard
Whether you choose to re-invest in your own infrastructure or migrate to cloud-based managed services – or a mix of both – you need to make sure that your decision will enable you to have a reliable, secure, cost-effective and scalable infrastructure to meet your company’s growth and the increasing demand from heavier data workloads in the next few years. If what you want is for your services to just work, where and when you need them, at the lowest possible cost, there is a cloud solution that is right for you.