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Infrastructure as a Service: A Cost-Effective Path to Agile and Competitive IT

The Time to Move to Cloud is Now

Traditional on-premises infrastructure with high upfront costs and weeks long scaling lead times is no longer sufficient to effectively support today’s needs and required responsiveness. IT is increasingly moving to a direct revenue-supporting position within the enterprise. Applications may require scaling from hundreds to tens of thousands of users, or go from one geographic location to multiple locations, in a matter of days.

Not being able to do this has direct revenue impact. Responding to this high velocity of change requires an IT infrastructure layer with comparable flexibility and scalability. Likewise, built-in resilience at the IT infrastructure layer is a necessity to move forward confidently with the digital transformation of the business

Cloud infrastructure or infrastructure as a service (IaaS)is designed to deliver scalable, automated, and utility financial model capabilities. IaaS services are consumed on a pay-as-you-go basis, with no upfront costs, and on-demand scalability. In addition, IaaS services from the major providers are delivered from a globally distributed set of data centers, and designed for immediate availability, resilience, and lower upfront investment. 

From a broader perspective, IaaS and cloud technologies bring to enterprises three key capabilities.

» Low upfront investments. Get started on initiatives at no cost and in turn achieve faster launch and faster time to market for new initiatives. This is important as organizations ramp up their digital assets and experiment with the best ways to leverage technologies—shifting away from a costly capex model to a more beneficial opex one.

» Rapid scaling and resilience. From a capacity and a geographic footprint perspective, cloud technologies allow successful initiatives to be quickly scaled up and replicated across physical locations as needed, allowing solutions to address availability, expansion, and scaling needs at any time without customer disruptions

» Access to a broad ecosystem of higher layer services and partners. This Includes access to faster and more cost effective development tools and databases, advanced analytics capabilities, and technologies like AI/ML. These can jumpstart projects and lead to faster application development and deployments and avoid upfront investment to build these platform capabilities in-house.

Most Common Entry Points and Use Cases for Cloud Infrastructure

With the increase in familiarity and acceptance, cloud IaaS is gaining adoption across nearly all types of enterprise IT use cases and organizations are moving applications to cloud through a variety of the following paths and entry points:

» IT Data Center consolidation and expansion: Legacy technology infrastructure can be rigid and limited in use and management. Often it requires manual input and resource to maintain applications and services and does not scale quickly or easily to suit business needs, without major expenditure and potential down time. Cloud technology offers an increased agility, automation, and intelligent services to all aspects for the datacenter. It enables quick scalability, reducing resource demands and costs, and can improve ROI by expanding services on a global scale

» Business continuity and disaster recovery: Improving IT resiliency and maintaining business continuity are more important than ever for any enterprise. The flexibility and agility of cloud makes it an optimal solution to mitigate risks and maintain business continuity. In fact, the cloud often improves uptime, performance, and availability of applications, data, and workloads from traditional on-premises environments. In the cloud, organizations can recover applications, data, and workloads completely and quickly.

» Application modernization and migration: Another approach is the application modernization and migration path to cloud, where an application is first re-architected to take advantage of the native capabilities available on cloud such as containers, scale-out capability, and other readily available services. The specific path selected is typically determined by the workload itself and the level of technical capability available to move that workload to cloud.

» Virtual machine migration:One commonly seen path to cloud adoption of enterprise applications is the “lift and shift”migration of virtual machines (VMs) into cloud environments. This involves moving the applications on a VM into an identical or near identical VM in an IaaS environment. While this may still require minor configuration changes in the application or deployment scripts, it reduces the rework required on the application before moving it to cloud

» Regulated workloads: With the maturity of cloud services and the expansion of cloud capabilities, cloud infrastructure is also seeing adoption for regulated workloads and highly secure sensitive workloads. These have been enabled by specific capabilities that allow such workloads to run in the cloud such as dedicated bare metal services and built-in security capabilities.

Security Concerns, Skill Sets, and Migration are Top Challenges with Cloud

While cloud IaaS is gaining traction across enterprises, cloud adoption is not without its own challenges. One key challenge reported with cloud adoption continues to be security. Security concerns can be broadly broken into the following three types:

» The ability of the cloud provider to secure its platform sufficiently. The last decade has helped demonstrate to the enterprise IT world that cloud providers’ investments in security often exceed what is possible by enterprises, and that public cloud IaaS offers comparable and often better security than possible on-premises safeguards. 

» The ability of customers to secure their applications running on the cloud platform. This is critical given the shared security model of public cloud. Cloud providers are responsible for security of the infrastructure stack, while the customers need to be responsible for the security of their application that runs on the cloud platform. This often includes use of proprietary tools from the cloud provider, and a good understanding of the platform’s security framework. Protecting applications and data by using the cloud provider’s security framework correctly, continues to be a challenge for enterprises.With increased familiarity and skillset availability, this is a challenge that will be resolved in time. 

» Cloud adoption can bring forward resource limitations. These include the availability of cloud skill sets, lack of clarity around cloud adoption planning, and execution of application transformation and migration. The typical workaround, seen particularly among large enterprises with IT applications that are designed to support thousands of users, is to engage managed services or professional services to assist in this adoption. Availability of a strong service partner with an extensive ecosystem of experts and partners has thus emerged as an important enabler for organizations looking to migrate and transform their businesses in the cloud. 

Advantages of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Cloud Adoption

IaaS empowers IT service organizations with a foundation for agility—the ability to make IT changes easily, quickly, and cost effectively—in the infrastructure layer. Early adopters are seeing benefits in business metrics such as operational efficiency and customer retention. Key business benefits customers report includes the following: 

» Business agility – enabled by the rapid scalability of IaaS. Organizations can easily scale their IT footprint as needed depending on business needs. IaaS enables faster time to launch for initiatives, swifttime to market for new offerings, and rapid iterations to stay current with market needs.

» Improved customer experience – delivered by high availability architectures built on a resilient public cloud IaaS platform. Organizations that build their services on the cloud can maintain availability through critical phases such as outages, periods of growth or high utilization of services, thus increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty with the solution. This leads to smooth customer base expansion during growth periods.

» Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) benefits – possible because of the “pay as you use” cost model for infrastructure minimizes the need for large upfront investments and over-provisioning. IaaS compute, storage and networking resources can be provisioned and used within minutes when needed and terminated when not needed, allowing instantaneous on-demand access to resources.

» Geographic reach – enabled by the globally distributed set of data centers, all of which deliver a consistent infrastructure environment close to the respective geographies. A Solution that is successful initially in one region can be easily replicated on the IaaS service in other geographies with minimal additional qualification or contract renegotiation, allowing shorter lead times for regional expansion. This allows a cloud-based solution to rapidly expand beyond physical boundaries and reach customers and markets across the globe as needed. 

» Easy access to new technologies and services – through the cloud ecosystem of higher layer service and partners. Thisbroader cloud ecosystem has emerged as a major source of benefits for IaaS customers. Nearly a third of the respondents to IDC’s IaaSView 2019 report indicate this ecosystem is a top driver of their decision to adopt cloud.

Recent Trends in Enterprise IaaS Usage: Multi Cloud and Hybrid Cloud Patterns

Two popularly seen cloud adoption patterns in enterprise IT today are “multicloud” and “hybrid cloud” environments: 

Hybrid Cloud. IDC defines hybrid cloud as the usage of IT services (including IaaS, PaaS, SaaS apps, and SaaS-SIS cloud services) across one or more deployment models using a unified framework. The cloud services used leverage more than one cloud deployment model across public cloud and private cloud deployments. Customers sometimes also include cloud and noncloud combinations when they describe an environment as hybrid cloud (sometimes referred to also as hybrid IT). 

This model is rapidly gaining adoption among enterprise IT organizations (see Figure 2). Factors driving the adoption of hybrid cloud include the desire to retain a higher level of control on certain data sets or workloads, as well as proximity and latency requirements requiring certain workloads to stay on premises. 

Multicloud. IDC defines multicloud as an organizational strategy or the architectural approach to the design of a complex digital service (or IT environment)that involves consumption of cloud services from more than one cloud service provider. These may be directly competing cloud services such as hosted private cloud versus public cloud compute services, public object storage from more than one public cloud service provider, or IaaS and SaaS from one or more cloud service providers. Multicloud encompasses a larger universe than hybrid clouds. 

Factors driving multicloud usage include organic reasons such as independent projects scaling in different parts of the organizations on different cloud platforms, as well as intentional reasons such as a desire to leverage specific cloud platforms for specific unique capabilities. A major factor gating the adoption of multicloud more broadly is the cost/complexity associated with enabling consistent management/governance of many different cloud options.

The Benefits and Differentiators of IBM Cloud IaaS

IBM Cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) forms the foundation layer of the IBM Cloud portfolio, and delivers the compute, storage, and network functionality, as well as the required virtualization, for customers to build their IT infrastructure environments on these services. The customer continues to be responsible for management of the higher layers of the stack operated on the IaaS platform. Figure 3 shows the functionality delivered in the different layers of the IBM Cloud portfolio and the split of management responsibilities between IBM and the customer in each of these layers. 

IBM Cloud IaaS and the broader IBM cloud ecosystem bring to customers allthe business benefits discussed earlier of cloud IaaS adoption. These are delivered through a combination of IBM’s global datacenter footprint, resilient, scalable, and broad IaaS portfolio. This is complemented by the rich ecosystem of cloud services and partners, including access to the latest technology capabilities such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing. In addition, IBM is in a unique position as a trusted long-time enterprise technology partner, and brings the following differentiated strengths and capabilities to businesses:

» Security and trust –IBM Cloud is built to deliver security across all its services, integrated through the service and delivered as a service. This includes audit compliance and ability to support standards such as PCI 3.0, HIPAA and GDPR, which are often challenging and expensive for enterprises to meet in house with on premises infrastructure. This also includes specific security capabilities like the IBM Cloud Pak for Security and the IBM Data Security Services; and the IBM Cloud Hyper Protect Services with built in data in motion and data at rest protection as well as Keep Your Own Key (KYOK) capability for the most security sensitive use cases. These are further enhanced by IBM’s long track record as a security-conscious technology company and a trusted partner to enterprises, alleviating concerns of misuse of customer data. These have been instrumental in recent large customer wins in the U.S., from some of the largest and most well-known enterprise brands.

» Offerings for specific enterprise needs, such as SAP, VMware, Bare Metal – IDC research shows that most of the enterprise adoption of cloud IaaS for production use starts with existing applications. To offer consistency, IBM Cloud offers specialized qualified IaaS offerings for common enterprise IT services in Orange County. These include bare metal offerings specifically qualified to run SAP and VMware solutions, as well as a mature and broad range of configurable bare metal offerings. These allow customers to configure their cloud IaaS environment to closely match the existing environment for business-critical applications, minimize migration risk, and enjoy the agility and broader benefits of moving to cloud IaaS.

» Access to services and expertise across the globe – The rapid adoption of cloud has outpaced skillset evolution. IBM’s services divisions, Global Technology Services and Global Business Services, acts as an effective delivery arm for IBM’s technology offerings, and can assist customers on their cloud adoption and capability building. These bring to customers professional expertise across containerization, microservices, DevOps,

» Hybrid cloud and multicloud enablers – The 2019 acquisition of Red Hat brought to IBM Cloud a strong suite of cloud-native software including the Red Hat OpenShift platform, a compelling cloud-native platform that could be delivered both on customer premises and on multiple public clouds. These complement the Cloud Paks product portfolio at IBM, which is also designed to deliver a consistent experience for specific enterprise use cases on customer premises and public cloud platforms. IBM Cloud Paks and the IBM Red Hat OpenShift platform are designed with the intent of offering a unified customer experience across public cloud and customer premises infrastructure. These products address one of the top challenges reported by enterprises using cloud today:the lack of consistency across clouds and across premises, which limits the ability to effectively build a multicloud or hybrid cloud environment. The Red Hat OpenShift platform also offers open source compatibility with open source frameworks like Kubernetes and Knative, allowing portability and reducing risk of lock-in for customers. These recent additions and evolutions to the portfolio are complemented by IBM’s long track record of building and operating complex private cloud platformsfor enterprise customers


The cloud value propositions of flexibility and scalability were ideally suited for the initial use cases that deployed on cloud IaaS, such as startup and hobbyist/shadow-IT workloads. While these value propositions continue to be important, enterprise use cases require more from their IT stack. These include end-to-end security, flexibility to operate across multiple premises and platforms, and partners to support the enterprise’s vertical-specific needs. IBM Cloud offers an expansive global cloud infrastructure service inclusive of open hybrid and multicloud enablers and the broad IBM ecosystem of technology and service partners designed to address these needs. With these capabilities and its strong technology portfolio, IBM is well poised to be a trusted cloud partner to enterprises as they transition their IT to the cloud


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