What’s the State of the Cloud? Hybrid Cloud, Multicloud on the Rise

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RightScale’s latest annual State of the Cloud survey shows private cloud is now playing a smaller role in both the hybrid and multicloud story as enterprises look to expand their public cloud use.

The RightScale research showed that private cloud adoption fell to 72%, down from the 77% reported in the company’s 2016 survey.

p1That pulled down hybrid cloud adoption, year-over-year, but the dip looks to be temporary as respondents say they plan to step up their deployments of hybrid and multicloud (which includes multiple clouds – private, public or hybrid.) The percentage of enterprises with a strategy to use multiple clouds grew to 85% this year, compared to 82% last year. Meanwhile, 58% are planning on hybrid cloud, versus 55% in 2016.

In addition, 20% of enterprises are planning for multiple public clouds, up from 16% last year.

This increase in public cloud use indicates growing confidence in its ability to handle tasks enterprises once reserved for private cloud, such as securing or managing sensitive data.

This year’s RightScale report surveyed 1,002 technical professionals across a broad cross-section of organizations and industries about their adoption of cloud infrastructure. The respondents were surveyed in January 2017 and ranged from technical executives to managers and practitioners. Here are a few additional RightScale findings that we found notable:

Security concerns drop, cloud waste worries increase

Cloud security was still the top challenge, as it was named by 25% of the RightScale survey respondents. But it was down from 29% the year before, and it shared the top challenge spot with “lack of resources/expertise” and “managing cloud spend.”

Even among enterprise central IT teams, who typically are most responsible for security, the percentage of those naming it as a challenge fell to 35%, compared to 41% in 2015.

p2At the same time, there was a significant jump in the percentage of respondents RightScale classifies at “mature cloud users” who named cost as a significant challenge, from 18% last year to 24% in 2017. RightScale also found that even with increased awareness of cost management problems, companies underestimate the amount of wasted cloud spend. They project 30% wasted spend, when it’s typically closer to 45%, according to measurements by RightScale.

The increased concern around costs is reflected in the fact that 53% of respondents cited optimizing cloud costs as one of their cloud initiatives for 2017, the highest percentage of any initiative.

Cloud benefits realized, and not

p3The top benefit reported by RightScale respondents was “faster access to infrastructure,” and it was named by 62% of respondents, the same as last year. But the next most-cited benefit, “greater scalability,” saw an increase, as it was cited by 61% of respondents, compared to 58% in 2016.

Meanwhile, some of the least-cited benefits also saw drops in the percentage reporting them. Only 34% of respondents reported that cloud improved “IT staff efficiency,” compared to 38% the year before. The next least-cited benefit, “cost savings,” was named by 35% of respondents in 2017, down from 37% in 2016.

A better way to maximize cloud benefits

At Equinix, we know the power of the cloud, and we believe a cloud-first future requires superior interconnection, especially if companies are going to achieve benefits like the cost savings the RightScale survey indicates some are struggling to achieve.

The key is an interconnection-first approach, such as an Interconnection Oriented Architecture™ (IOA™) strategy. This framework prescribes deploying IT close to people, location, clouds and data at the digital edge, where commerce, population centers and digital ecosystems meet. Proximity to your cloud providers is critical for the high-performance, secure connectivity necessary to optimize your cloud performance. The Equinix Cloud Exchange can be a key component of an IOA strategy deployed on Platform Equinix, as it offers direct, secure virtualized connectivity to multiple cloud providers from a single port.

Read our Interconnection Strategy Guide for greater insights into how an IOA approach can help companies excel in a cloud-first world.

Accelerating Oracle Cloud Data and App Access

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This week’s Oracle CloudWorld conference in New York City covered a wide range of topics, all focusing on the digital transformation that Oracle offers its IT and business customers through its diverse cloud PaaS and IaaS offerings. I was among the presenters and led a session where I discussed “Digital Transformation Through Interconnection.”

Together, Equinix and Oracle empower our enterprise customers to transform their businesses by integrating private and public cloud environments into a hybrid cloud infrastructure that increases operational efficiency, enhances system processes and improves the quality of experience for our customers.

Unleash the Power of Equinix: Digital Transformation through Interconnection from Equinix

We achieve this by providing businesses with the following capabilities:

  • Direct and secure interconnection via Oracle FastConnect on the Equinix Cloud Exchangebypasses the public internet to connect customers, employees and partners to the Oracle Cloud with significantly faster performance, greater security and a superior user experience.
  • Data control and compliance, enabled by private data access, provides secure, heavy-compute, low-latency workload performance with Oracle Cloud, while maintaining regulatory and compliance requirements.
  • Comprehensive global scalability that seamlessly unifies existing IT infrastructures with Oracle Cloud delivers unparalleled flexibility for legacy and native cloud applications.

In my presentation at Oracle CloudWorld, I talked about how an Interconnection Oriented Architecture™ (IOA™) is a simple, practical digital transformation methodology to enable organizations to deploy hybrid cloud infrastructures. I also reviewed representative use cases of how our customers are leveraging these capabilities and an IOA strategy to gain fast and secure access to Oracle PaaS cloud services such as database backup-as-a-service, business continuity and disaster recovery, high performance computing and analytics, and Exadata-as-a-service.

Taking database backup-as-a-service for example, we can enable high-speed connections to move large data sets, such as database synchronization or database backup, and achieve some pretty dramatic results. Tests within the Equinix IT organization showed backup network throughput was up to six hours faster and data restore time was more than 3.5 hours faster.

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In addition, many of our customers and partners have reduced their costs by as much as 10 times, depending on data volumes and architecture. We recommend that our clients test the performance of their own applications within an Equinix Solution Validation Center to see the gains that can be achieved with Oracle FastConnect on the Equinix Cloud Exchange.

Equinix provides access to Oracle Cloud through a direct connect or Equinix Cloud Exchange in five metros in the U.S., Europe and Australia. We enable access to Oracle Cloud PaaS and IaaS solutions, including database, Java, integration, analytics, compute and storage. Business partners can directly connect to Oracle Cloud from their private cloud located adjacent to Oracle’s cloud edge in a common Equinix data center. Organizations can also establish private networking options with Oracle using the same interconnection methods they would use with public sessions.

Watch the video, “Oracle Cloud Marketplace and Equinix” to learn how your business can achieve greater growth with a hybrid cloud strategy by leveraging fast and secure access to data and applications via Oracle Cloud. Or download the Oracle Open Cloud Solution Brief.

European CIOs Invest in Hybrid Cloud to Accelerate Digital Transformation

Cloud computing continues to grow at a steady pace across Europe. IDC predicts that the EMEA public cloud market will expand 26% over the next four years. Hybrid cloud is driving public cloud adoption and is the catalyst for much of European enterprises’ digital transformation. In fact, a CIO Research survey showed that over half of CIOs and IT managers in France, Germany and the UK identified hybrid cloud as the most common cloud adoption model.

What we have seen from customers in our 62 Equinix data centers across EMEA, and heard at conferences such as this year’s Cloud Computing Expo in Paris, is that the enterprise cloud ecosystem grows along with a CIO’s trust! The following factors are influencing greater “cloud confidence” and adoption in the region, specifically at the digital edge where there are higher concentrations of users, applications, data and clouds:

Bigger and faster telco links
The telecom infrastructure is improving throughout Europe, with carriers providing higher bandwidth links, and 5G aiming to replace wired networks at industrial levels. The next generation of mobile networks will provide higher resiliency and performance, and enable enterprises to more quickly and easily offload on-premises compute and storage capabilities to the public cloud.

Flexibility and freedom to choose
The ability to start with one cloud service provider (CSP) and then switch to another on demand also encourages enterprise cloud adoption. Whether “bursting” to leverage cloud resources as needed, choosing the best cloud for a specific workload or application, or enabling redundancy, the agility companies gain from leveraging multiple cloud services and providers is compelling.

Data residency and compliance
Increasingly, European CSPs will guarantee that data will stay in country. In addition, many companies are gearing up to comply with the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (EU GDPR) Privacy Compliance Guide by 2018. This will help allay fears over data being moved from the county of origin in the cloud.

European cloud adoption obstacles

Security has been a global issue hovering over cloud computing since its inception. Today, enterprise chief security officers (CSOs) are increasingly concerned around identity authentication management and controlling how users access data in the cloud. However, the CIO Research survey shows that recently European CIOs are trusting CSPs more and more, with half naming security as a primary reason for adopting cloud. In fact, we hear that many CIOs and CSOs believe the security, user and data management controls and availability levels of CSPs are higher than what their company could achieve on its own, or could ever afford.

Because of this increased cloud confidence, the first step toward migration for many European enterprises is creating hybrid infrastructures for backup and disaster recovery of data in the cloud. They replicate what they have on-premises or in a private cloud on a public cloud. Then, over time, they begin to take advantage of new public cloud services, typically for new applications.

European cloud ecosystems

The cloud ecosystems within Equinix data centers throughout EMEA are also growing, enabling enterprises to leverage the flexibility and choice they require to build hybrid cloud infrastructures. These ecosystems include network and cloud service providers and managed service providers and integrators, including Adelius, AWS, F5, Microsoft Azure, NetApp and SCC Flowline Technologies, just to name a few.

The Equinix Cloud Exchange  creates hybrid and multi-cloud infrastructures among a variety of cloud providers (see diagram below), allowing for the agility, flexibility and security that most CIOs require. In addition, physical proximity to numerous cloud providers enables low-latency interconnection to and among cloud service peers for greater application performance at the digital edge.

Get started on planning your hybrid cloud migration at the digital edge by reading the IOA Playbook.

Why cloud is the cornerstone of digital transformation in healthcare

Today every part of the business is subject to new expectations, competitors, channels, threats and opportunities. Every business has the potential to be a digital business. As the numbers of smart, connected devices from phones to cars to wearables are growing, companies that quickly deliver digital solutions or services, and use insights to rapidly optimise their value chain are gaining competitive advantage. Businesses that digitally transform will be able to connect more closely with customers, speed up the pace of innovation and, as a result, claim a greater share of profit in their sectors. In fact, according to a report earlier last year from IDC, the global economic impact of digital transformation to date already exceeds £14 trillion, a staggering 20% of global GDP.

Put simply digital transformation is the trend of enterprises shifting away from traditional systems in favour of digital options to enable major improvements in productivity and unlock new lines of business value creation.   In recent years digital transformation has been driven by the explosion of cloud computing, big data, and mobile technologies.

While big data and mobile have driven digital transformation, the cornerstone of it all is cloud.

Flexible, cost efficient and accessible from anywhere, the cloud has already been a transformative technology for many industries. However, while migrating to the cloud is a top priority for virtually all organisations embracing digital transformation projects, the path to get there involves navigating a great many obstacles, especially for those operating in highly-regulated industries. Healthcare, in particular, is at the top of the list.

Over the past few years, cloud adoption has been on the rise in the healthcare industry. To date, organisations have primarily been testing the waters by focusing on modernising the back-end of their systems, moving financial, operational and HR applications into the cloud. Now there is increasing demand for transforming core healthcare systems and applications in order to improve the quality of patient care with new digital services that empower patients to take control of their own health and reduce costs of operations as well as modernise infrastructure and create a more efficient environment in order to again take costs out.  In fact according to a recent study by Accenture, the healthcare industry stands to save over £44 billion in the long-term by making the right strategic technology investments today.

However, as anyone managing IT for a hospital or clinic can tell you, moving to the cloud is not as simple as signing up for a public cloud service. For IT leaders in the healthcare industry, it involves taking into account a wide array of complex factors, including regulatory compliance, information security and organisational change. Indeed, security mandates are increasing due to the upswing in cyberattacks on health providers, you only have to look at the WannaCry ransomware attack last year and how that impacted many NHS hospitals across the UK to see how healthcare and in particular health information and systems are being targeted.   This has led many healthcare providers to closely examine enterprise cloud options for hybrid and off-premises deployment models that meet or exceed high security and compliance requirements whilst offering utility-based billing and cloud flexibility.

The good news is that healthcare IT is now trending towards the cloud and digital transformation is well underway with hospitals, care centres and clinics all undergoing some form of digital transformation, integrating their electronic patient record (EMR) platforms and new patient engagement systems and as well as emerging precision health platforms.

Here at Virtustream, we have our own Healthcare Cloud which is purpose-built for mission critical healthcare applications, with availability SLAs of up to 99.99%, full automation for HIPAA and HITECH compliance, and rigorous end-to-end security to protect patient information.

With organisations continuing to migrate to the cloud, healthcare providers require a fast turnaround when getting infrastructure up and running. Cloud applications such as Virtustream’s have been successful in delivering this within just six months.  Applications that offer consumption billing means organisations are only charged based on the resources they use, allowing for major cost savings. For healthcare providers, the result is a flexible cloud infrastructure that runs as a single entity, no matter the location.

As digital technology continues to transform the healthcare industry, the right cloud infrastructure can pave the way for providers of every kind.

So, what should healthcare organisations look for in a cloud provider?

  • Partner with a cloud provider that guarantees the safety and security of patients’ health data with a full suite of security and compliance capabilities and delivers true ‘cloud’ benefits such as pay-as-you-go with the flexibility to scale up or down
  • Look for a cloud provider with the cloud infrastructure and managed services needed to manage all of the categories of mission critical applications including EMRs; ERP systems; workforce management systems; precision medicine platforms; picture archive and communication systems (PACS) as well as many other health IT systems
  • Check that your provider offers guaranteed in-region hosting, to meet country-specific data residency requirements
  • Choose to work with a cloud provider that has a solid track record and proven expertise

By choosing a cloud provider with superior service, governance, security and flexibility, healthcare providers can make significant improvements to their current IT infrastructure, while at the same time transforming their systems to be future-ready. Today digitally transformed companies have an edge; tomorrow, only those businesses that have digitally transformed will succeed.

New figures show staggering capex spending of hyperscale cloud providers

Hyperscale cloud and data centre operators spent $22 billion on capital expenditure (capex) in the final quarter of 2017 making the total for the year almost $75bn, according to the latest figures from Synergy Research.

Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple and Facebook comprise the top five spenders of the 24 major cloud and internet service firms analysed in Q417, according to the data, with growth ‘particularly strong’ at Amazon and Facebook. Alibaba, IBM, Oracle, SAP and Tencent made up the top 10.

A large amount of this spend has gone on building and expanding data centre operations. In December 2016, when the total number of hyperscale data centres passed 300, Synergy predicted this number to surpass 400 by 2018 – a forecast which came in ahead of schedule.

Synergy added capex at Alibaba more than doubled last year – as this publication has regularly reported, the company has driven cloud ambitions with recent focus on European expansion –  while growth of Oracle and SAP, also no slouches in this department, was above average.

“Over the last four years we have seen many companies try and fail to compete with the leading cloud providers. The capex analysis emphasises the biggest reason why those cloud providers are so difficult to challenge,” said John Dinsdale, a chief analyst and research director at Synergy Research.

“Can you afford to pump at least a billion dollars a quarter into your data centre capex budget? If you can’t, then your ability to meaningfully compete with the market leaders is severely limited,” Dinsdale added.

“Of course factors other than capex are at play, but the basic financial table stakes are enormous.”

Cloudian secures $125m in funding, cites AI and Amazon S3 API in driving object storage growth

It has been a busy couple of weeks for storage provider Cloudian. The company has announced $125 million (£90.7m) in funding, a short time after its most recent product release.

The funding round is being made alongside Digital Alpha Capital, a private equity firm focused on software as a service (SaaS) and eCommerce providers, with $100 million going on ‘consumption-model financing’ – or debt financing, as it is recorded in Crunchbase – and $25m as an equity commitment.

Alongside this, Digital Alpha will support the development of a partnership between Cloudian and Cisco to cover ‘relevant data centre architectures’, in the words of the press materials.

Cloudian predicts a dramatic growth in object storage in 2018 driven by the convergence of three trends; huge data growth, the rise of artificial intelligence, machine learning and the Internet of Things (IoT), and the rise of the Amazon S3 API as an industry standard. Naturally, the latter is an area where Cloudian feels as though it can dominate. Rather than be a competitor, Cloudian made its flagship HyperStore product available through the AWS Marketplace back in 2016, while the company is listed in the AWS partner store.

“For our customers, this joint venture will enable flexible procurement models and new hardware options to accelerate their transition to next-generation object storage solutions,” said Cloudian CEO Michael Tso in a statement. “With emerging capacity-intensive use cases such as IoT and machine learning, today’s data management needs are rapidly outgrowing traditional platforms. Cloudian’s solutions offer the limitless scalability, superior ease of use and cloud integration our customers need to solve their largest capacity storage challenges while saving time and cost.”

Last month, Cloudian said it had achieved record growth for the third year running, with a particular note for expansion in Europe and revenues up in every geographic segment.

Why manufacturing can’t afford not to invest in AI – and how the cloud enables it

Artificial intelligence (AI) is often touted as the brain behind Industry 4.0. Even the government is backing this emerging technology with its industrial strategy, which aims to “propel Britain to global leadership of the industries of the future including AI and big data”.

Yet research suggests that manufacturers are behind the curve. According to Oneserve, the UK manufacturing industry is failing to invest in AI and creating a potential loss of £151,000 to each individual company, leaving it trailing behind Germany, Austria and the Netherlands.

Manufacturers need to keep up with developments in AI, otherwise they risk being left behind. Failing to prepare for the inevitable will eventually impact their bottom line. They’ll be unable to compete against manufacturers who, with AI at the heart of their digital transformation strategies, will be more productive, agile and prepared for change.

All manufacturers therefore need to embrace disruptive technologies and see them as playing a positive impact on business. It needn’t be as daunting as some think. A first step in transformation is informing staff on their vision and getting commitment from them – C-suite included – as it requires a change in working and often developing new skills. Manufacturers also need to begin researching suitable partners in the technology ecosystem and establish relationships with those that have expertise in the industry. Trusted partnerships will be critical in making AI projects a success.

Crucially, manufacturers also need to keep up with and invest in the cloud, an essential component in AI and other digital projects. It’s therefore vital that AI and cloud companies (and indeed the government) educate manufacturers on the positive impact technology can make. Without this, manufacturers will continue to hold back on investment and be unclear on the benefits of AI.

But is the cloud really that important for AI? Simply put, yes. It’s a technology that is dominant in many businesses today and will continue to be in the future as we enter Industry 4.0. One way that all manufacturers can immediately take advantage of the cloud, with minimal risk, is in their finance department. Not only can it streamline mundane tasks (such as invoicing and accounts payable), removing the administrative burden, and saving businesses thousands of pounds a year, but a cloud-based financial management system can also help CFOs and other senior decision makers view and share important data in real-time from any device and any location.

Similarly, cloud-driven AI can be applied to virtually every manufacturing function. It’s similar to automation in that it can sift through vast amounts of information, automatically crunching data and identifying patterns significantly faster and more accurately than humans, it can streamline processes and improve efficiencies. By automating mundane takes, AI leaves staff to focus on higher-value and strategic activities that could further grow the business.

In finance, for instance, AI and automation can be used as a cognitive computing tool to handle basic accounts payable questions such as when an invoice will be paid. Automating this in a chatbot style response could drastically cut time spent on administrative tasks. It can eliminate paper-based processes – something that many factories still rely on – and ensure manufacturers are operating more efficiently. Decisions can ultimately be made more quickly because manufacturers will have accurate and timely data at their fingertips, allowing greater control.

The bottom line is that it’s important to understand that AI doesn’t demand that manufacturers take a major leap right now. It’s about taking small steps. So, rather than buying into the hype around AI, manufacturers can use more accessible technologies like Robotic Process Automation (RPA), which is based on the notion of AI. They can plan and test RPA software to see the impact it has on its operations and staff, providing an indication of the benefits that AI can bring. That way, they can dip their toes in the water – see what works and what doesn’t – and then expand when they are ready.

Finally, AI and RPA isn’t just for manufacturers. These technologies can streamline virtually every repetitive business process in every market. In fact, we are already seeing industries including agriculture reap the rewards. The possibilities are huge and are continuing at a fast pace. The good news is that both AI and the cloud are yet to reach tipping point, so there’s still plenty of room for businesses to jump on board.

Microsoft Azure Stack and Equinix Deliver the Value of Hybrid Cloud to Digital Business

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Hybrid cloud has long been lauded as the fastest path to cloud adoption for the enterprise. In its 2017 State of the Cloud survey Microsoft reports that 75% of enterprise and mid-market companies prefer hybrid cloud deployments. Hybrid cloud addresses many top digital transformation and business growth needs because it enables enterprises to leverage the more flexible, pay-as-you-go digital services of the public cloud, while maintaining on-premises infrastructures for security, data sovereignty, regulatory or other business considerations.

Amidst growing hybrid cloud industry momentum, Microsoft provided its first technical preview of Microsoft Azure Stack in January 2016. As an extension of Azure, Azure Stack brings the agility and innovation of public cloud computing to on-premises environments in an integrated hybrid cloud platform, enabling organizations to deliver Azure services from their own data centers. Scheduled for general availability in July 2017, Azure Stack gives businesses access to the rich Azure ecosystem of cloud services, empowering developers and IT organizations to do more with their on- and off-premises digital services.

Azure Stack also reduces time-to-market for new applications and workloads by allowing developers to build them across hybrid cloud environments with greater flexibility and control. Azure developers and IT organizations will have a consistent experience with Azure Stack because its development portal environment is the same code as Azure, and there is an innovative, consistent cloud API between the two clouds.

Direct and secure access to Azure clouds

Without direct and secure interconnection between on-premises IT infrastructures and public clouds on a worldwide scale, hybrid cloud environments cannot deliver the maximum value to global enterprise users. Since 2014, when it first announced the availability of Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute in its Equinix International Business Exchange™ (IBX®) data centers, Equinix has been aligned with Microsoft to provide this high-level interconnection and global access.

Today, there are 21 Equinix IBX data centers worldwide that provide thousands of businesses all around the globe with high-performance, low-latency access to Microsoft Azure and Office 365 via Azure ExpressRoute. Now Equinix is expanding its role as a critical component of Microsoft hybrid cloud solutions by integrating Azure Stack into its interconnection offerings through certified managed partners in global colocation IBX data centers. Equinix has also recently announced that it met Microsoft Gold Cloud Platform competency requirements within the Microsoft Partner Network via its Equinix Professional Services organization. This reinforces Equinix’s commitment to delivering Microsoft hybrid cloud and, in particular, Azure Stack to its customers. 

Delivering the true value of hybrid cloud to digital business 

To deliver real value to the business, a hybrid cloud must be:

  • Operational in a timely manner in a predictable environment
  • Highly secure and controlled
  • Provide a superior hybrid application performance between on-premises and public cloud environments

However, these crucial factors are often not addressed during hybrid cloud project designs, a gap and typically results in poor performance or even project failure. As part of an Interconnection Oriented Architecture™ (IOA™) strategy, deployed on Platform Equinix™, businesses can directly and securely access Azure Stack hybrid cloud environments. Azure ExpressRoute enables high-performance, low-latency connections via the Equinix Performance Hub™ or Equinix Cloud Exchange™.

Equinix enables enterprises to consistently develop applications faster by leveraging a predictable and secure high-performance Azure Stack hybrid cloud interconnect fabric. In addition, an integrated, managed Microsoft, Equinix and Dell EMC Azure Stack Business Solution directly and securely interconnects Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute with Dell EMC system, storage, networking and management components. This is made possible via Equinix Performance Hub and Cloud Exchange communications hubs within Equinix IBX data centers (see diagram below).

This integrated hybrid cloud solution provides:

  • Proximate, high-speed, low-latency interconnection between Microsoft Azure Stack and Azure compute resources (10 milliseconds or less) for superior application performance and user QoE
  • Fast interconnection between Azure compute resources and private storage, with increased security and tighter control of on-premises storage, including localization of data for privacy and compliance
  • Consistent interconnection performance between all the solutions’ components, including public cloud resources, as they are located within proximity to the same data centers
  • An up to 36% increase in data throughput performance using ExpressRoute versus the public internet

Microsoft, Equinix and Dell EMC Azure Stack Business Solution

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Hybrid Use Cases for Azure Stack

Several use cases are applicable to a hybrid environment leveraging Azure Stack:

  • Compliance and Regulation: Develop and deploy a single global application, then migrate to Azure Stack and/or Azure to handle regulations or customer preferences with no changes to the application.
    • An example of this is adhering to corporate policies regarding HIPAA.
  • Edge and Disconnected Solutions: Solve for connectivity issues, while providing real-time performance, and managing large data volumes for the aggregation of analytics and big data modeling.
    • Examples include remote factories, cruise ships and race tracks.
  • Modern Hybrid Applications: Apply a modern architecture to on-premises applications not ready for the cloud, and, over time, move to Azure without code changes while enabling a consistent programming model, skills and processes
    • Examples include on-premises mainframe, Oracle or SAP systems.

Equinix empowers enterprise customers and cloud service providers to deploy high-performance, scalable and secure hybrid cloud interconnectivity to Microsoft Azure/Office 365 platforms either in an on-premises or Equinix colocation data center. Come see us at the Microsoft Inspire Conference in Washington, DC, July 9 – 13, 2017. We’re in the Coffee House (CS2).

 

Alibaba Cloud expands European push and previews cloud enterprise network offering

MWC Alibaba’s European cloud push continues, with the Chinese provider announcing a series of products for enterprises on the continent around infrastructure, automation, security and more.

The company has announced eight products in total. On the infrastructure side, launching today, are ECS bare metal instances and high performance supercomputing clusters for European customers. While these are both products currently in operation, April will see the new launch of Alibaba’s Cloud Enterprise Network (CEN). The company describes it as a ‘global network for rapidly building a distributed business system and hybrid cloud to help users create a network with enterprise-level scalability and the communication capabilities of a cloud network.’

For big data and AI, Alibaba’s products rolled out to European customers include machine learning-powered image search and a business chatbot – both available today – yet the more intriguing product is Dataphin. Described by the company as a ‘one-stop big data PaaS’, the product offers data integration, warehouse modelling, identity and profile distilling and asset management.

Also included in the launch are a new SaaS-based vulnerability discovery service, as well as Apsara Stack, which offers a scalable and built-in hybrid cloud services platform and launches internationally with adoption from more than 120 enterprise customers.

It has certainly been a long road since July 2015, when the company put in $1 billion in funding to expand its cloud computing operations. In September, Gartner ranked Alibaba as the third player in public cloud infrastructure as a service (IaaS), behind AWS and Microsoft – a fact the company now proudly states on its information section on press materials – while the previous month saw the company pass one million paying cloud customers.

The natural reliance towards Asia-based customers – Philips China, Bank of Nanjing and Air Asia to name three – has facilitated a European push. As revealed at the company’s Computing Conference in Hangzhou in October, the company alongside its partners is targeting 10 million customers.

“Alibaba Cloud wants to be an enabler for technology innovation in Europe helping enterprises do business,” said Yeming Wang, general manager of Alibaba Cloud Europe in a statement. “The Mobile World Congress is a great opportunity for us to refresh our European strategy and consider how we can make an increasing contribution to the digital transformation of enterprises in this market from different sectors with our offerings and expertise.”

Delivering the Value of Microsoft Azure Stack Hybrid Cloud

The general availability of Microsoft Azure Stack ushers in a new wave of integrated hybrid cloud enterprise infrastructures. In my last article on Microsoft Azure Stack and Equinix, I discussed how businesses can directly and securely access Azure Stack hybrid cloud using Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute via the Equinix Cloud Exchange. In this article, I’d like to focus on the benefits of leveraging an Interconnection Oriented Architecture™ (IOA™) strategy on Platform Equinix to achieve consistent hybrid cloud deployments in three Azure Stack Interconnection use cases.

An IOA strategy prescribes a proven and repeatable architectural framework that both enterprises and service providers can leverage to directly and securely connect people, locations, clouds and data. It is this Interconnection-first approach that drives consistent Azure Stack hybrid cloud deployments within our global data centers.

Microsoft Azure Stack Inside an Equinix Data Center

Microsoft Azure Stack and Equinix Hybrid Cloud Interconnection Use Cases

Use Case #1: Edge and disconnected solutions
Increasingly, we see businesses taking their IT infrastructures to the edge for better proximity to employees, partners and customers … and of course, clouds. Equinix provides globally consistent access to Microsoft Azure, Azure Stack and Office 365 via Azure ExpressRoute in 21 major metros worldwide. We are also fully integrated with Microsoft and OEM partners, such as Dell/EMC, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise and Lenovo. This gives us the ability to support global, low-latency, high-bandwidth application requirements by processing data locally in an enterprise’s private Azure Stack and, at the same time, aggregating data traffic in Azure for further analytics (sharing common application logic across both), within the same or across multiple Equinix data centers.

Equinix brings together edge computing and cloud computing where it is needed the most to harness the power of a consistent hybrid cloud infrastructure to enable the rapid deployment of applications and aggregated analytics across a variety of private and public workloads.

Use Case #2: Cloud applications that meet varied regulatory requirements
The applicability of a consistent hybrid cloud infrastructure is wide-reaching across multiple applications, industries and businesses of all types. However, due to various business and technical requirements, corporate policies, and industry and government compliance and residency regulations, you may need to host different instances of the same application in Azure and Azure Stack. You can develop and deploy applications in Azure, with full flexibility to deploy on-premises by directly and securely interconnecting to Azure Stack to meet your specific regulatory or policy requirements—without changing any code.

Deploying a consistent, private interconnected Azure Stack hybrid cloud development environment within Equinix data centers, gives you the highest levels of security, compliance and physical reliability for your most sensitive data and application implementations.

Use Case #3: The hybrid cloud application model
Protecting your investments in legacy applications, tools and IT infrastructures while leveraging the benefits of more agile and scalable cloud services is the catalyst for hybrid cloud deployments. But as you look to deploy an integrated private on-premises and public cloud infrastructure, you’ll want to consistently transfer workloads between the two environments as seamlessly as possible. You’ll also want to be able to deploy new, modern applications by leveraging a more agile and innovative cloud environment on-premises.

Interconnecting Azure Stack and Azure into a seamless hybrid cloud infrastructure enables you to apply Azure web and mobile services, containers, serverless computing and microservices architectures to applications between the private and public cloud environments. Azure ExpressRoute and Equinix Cloud Exchange allow you to quickly update and extend your legacy applications with Azure Stack while using a consistent DevOps process in both cloud and on-premises deployments. Fast, direct Interconnection between Azure Stack and Azure clouds allows you to deliver Azure services within your organization’s data center while maintaining the right amount of flexibility and control on-premises—for a truly-consistent hybrid cloud.

Equinix Professional Services helps bridge the gap

Equinix has achieved Microsoft Gold Cloud Platform status within the Microsoft Partner Network via its Equinix Professional Services (EPS) organization, and we are committed to delivering consistent Microsoft hybrid cloud deployments to our customers around the world. EPS is a Microsoft-recommended ExpressRoute System Integrator and U.S. National Solution Provider. EPS uses a phased approach with its core cloud offerings to ensure that business and compliance requirements are delivered, challenges are documented, risks are mitigated and financial targets are met.

EPS specializes in hybrid cloud strategy, connectivity and migrations and guides customers through complex digital transformation to quickly deliver business results.

Customers planning Microsoft Azure and/or Office 365 deployment often engage EPS to deliver:

  1. ExpressRoute Strategy & Connectivity Workshop – provides highly customized recommendations, network architecture design and an implementation roadmap to guide optimal network and ExpressRoute decisions.
  2. Equinix Cloud Exchange and Azure / Office 365 Enablement – gets enterprises up and running on a private connection to Azure or Office 365, regardless of their infrastructure’s complexity. This service solves for hybrid cloud deployments, complex failover situations and multiple data center / regional entry points to the cloud.

I will be holding a session on deploying Azure Stack in Equinix at Microsoft Ignite on Monday, Sept. 25, from 6:05 p.m. – 6:25 p.m. in the Microsoft Expo Theatre 5. Please come see me there, or we can sit down for an espresso at our Coffee Bistro in the Microsoft Partners Expo, Booth #1344.

In the meantime, read more about the Microsoft/Equinix/Dell EMC Azure Stack hybrid cloud business solution.