Distributed cloud: the best of two worlds

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Hybrid cloud is currently the most widely used cloud strategy. The use of this model has risen sharply in the past year. Yet hybrid cloud does not seem to offer the advantages businesses had expected in advance. A successor is already on the way: distributed cloud. Distributed cloud was named by Gartner last year as one of the 10 most important technology trends for a reason: it offers the best of both worlds, but with the simplicity of one.

Management challenge with hybrid cloud

In recent years, many businesses have moved a (large) part of their on-premises workloads to the cloud and have since worked with a hybrid cloud model. However, an increasing number of businesses are facing the challenge of maintaining two or more clouds in terms of technology, management and governance. This, of course, introduces some complexity. Businesses are confronted with different implementation styles, ways of working, management teams and technology stacks. Distributed cloud removes this complexity by also applying (management) services from the public cloud to the private cloud.

Originally, running applications independent of location and storing data in the cloud was the most popular alternative to the traditional data centre. Distributed cloud is the first cloud model that breaks away from location independence. In a distributed cloud strategy, the public cloud infrastructure is extended to a local data centre or even to a business’s own on-premise environment. The services of public cloud providers are, in fact, ‘distributed’ to different physical locations. In this way, data is available where it needs to be.

A small step for organisations, a giant leap for complexity

The distributed cloud model is particularly interesting for organisations whose business depend on (business-critical) workloads for which performance, latency and compliance are crucial. With the acceleration of digital transformation in mind, distributed cloud will be ideal for many businesses in the future. After all, the number of digital initiatives will only increase in the coming years, as will the dependence on them for business operations.

Many businesses will therefore start asking themselves: how do I set up a distributed cloud environment? The step from hybrid cloud to distributed cloud may seem bigger than it actually is. In fact, with the distributed cloud model, a business still has a hybrid cloud, but the different clouds are now managed from a single pane of glass.

Kubernetes for complex management

The most important question is: how do you manage different workloads in different locations? Kubernetes can offer a solution here. Applying distributed cloud means using different (public) cloud environments; Kubernetes can be used to manage the containerised applications and data that reside in these environments.

To simplify management, public cloud (management) tools and best practices can also be used in the local data centre. AWS, Azure and Google already offer several tools – such as EKS Anywhere, Google Anthos and Azure Arc – that can run in both environments and be managed from an overarching console. A first step is to implement these public cloud services in the private cloud environment, stretching the control plane from the public cloud to on-premises. This is also a way for organisations to consolidate knowledge and expertise more.

When a distributed cloud model is deployed correctly within a business, it creates a cloud environment that offers the benefits organisations had hoped for when setting up a hybrid cloud environment. This makes the distributed cloud a logical “successor” to the hybrid cloud.

The first steps towards the distributed cloud are now being taken, but it will be some time before it will be applied on a large scale. In the coming years, we will see a gradual growth in the application of distributed cloud. And in time, organisations will even skip the intermediate step of hybrid cloud. Because why would you start with version 1.0 when version 2.0 is already available?

This is a contribution submitted by Mirco Wienen, CTO at Sentia. Follow this link if you wish to learn more about the company, and what it has to offer.