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Key Problems the Distributed Cloud is Trying to Solve

Thu 15 Jul 2021 | Finbarr Toesland

Enterprises are spoilt for choice when it comes to cloud computing architectures.

With hybrid cloud, multi-cloud and distributed cloud all vying for the attention of businesses, making a decision and starting on the cloud journey can be time-consuming and complex.

When it comes to establishing a cloud strategy, distributed cloud computing has many attributes that are drawing in companies. From reducing latency and delivering content fast to offering rapid deployment and cost-effectiveness, the benefits gained by adopting distributed cloud are substantial. Noted by Gartner as one of the top ten strategic technology trends of 2020, the analyst firm defines the distributed cloud as “the first cloud model that incorporates the physical location of cloud-delivered services as part of its definition.”

By running public cloud infrastructure in a range of locations, while still managing all operations from a single control plane, enterprises have the ability to deploy applications in a wide variety of environments that work best for the individual circumstances of the IT department. The powerful combination of retaining the operational advantages offered by the cloud, while also gaining the ability to meet regulations and maintain security are hard to resist.

Why distributed cloud?

The value and benefits of using distributed cloud differ for each enterprise and their particular strategy. At the top of the list of advantages is the capability for businesses to ensure low-latency due to the closer physical location of operations to compute power, as well as the ability to establish a control panel that provides consistency across public and private cloud environments.

As regulatory requirements develop and associated fines can make a dent on the bottom line, keeping on top of new regulations, especially when it comes to data storage and processing, is an important part of operations. The wide range of locations available for the distributed cloud can make compliance that requires data to be stored in a certain location or legal jurisdiction easier. The major increase in the number of areas where cloud services can be hosted or consumed is another reason for the interest in the distributed cloud approach.

According to research by Ensono, the hybrid IT services provider, many UK IT professionals view distributed cloud as the answer to several pressing issues facing enterprises. Almost half (49%) of survey respondents say that distributed cloud be a way to resolve network related issues and outages, 42% state it could eliminate latency issues and 36% say it can lead to an increase in location availability where cloud services are able to be hosted.

“Multi-cloud is an attractive option for businesses looking for a flexible, resilient cloud strategy. It offers firms a route to the best of both worlds: receiving all the benefits of different cloud providers and protecting the business against vendor lock-in,” said Brian Klingbeil, Chief Strategy Officer at Ensono, in the press release accompanying the research.

“When set up in multi-cloud, containers are an ideal way to start innovating in the cloud – quickly porting and scaling up applications to deliver for the business. And for businesses seeking even more location flexibility for their public cloud infrastructure, the distributed cloud may well be the future,” he adds.

Beginnings of distributed cloud

Distributed cloud is still emerging and it won’t be a few years until its impact will be felt in a meaningful way. Analysts at Gartner predict that by 2024 most cloud service platforms will provide some distributed cloud services that execute at the point of need, indicating the relatively slow, but steady, growth of this cloud model. The analyst firm also believes the distributed cloud will develop in two central stages.

Initially, enterprise customers are forecast to follow a hybrid-like system, where they benefit from the best elements of hybrid cloud, as well as bypassing latency issues. This initial phase will not see distributed cloud substations be opened up to other firms, with them being kept on their premises.

The next phase will truly represent the next wave of cloud development as major institutions, including governments and telecos, purchase cloud substations and allow others to utilise them. Like the widely-available Wifi public networks of today, soon cloud substations will be ubiquitous, according to David Smith, Distinguished VP Analyst, Gartner.

“In both phases, location becomes more transparent again,” says Smith. “They allow customers to specify to a provider, ‘I need X to comply with policies Y and latencies Z,’ and then let the provider configure automatically and transparently. This could potentially represent future phases as well,” says Smith.

What’s next for distributed cloud?

As is the case for other burgeoning technologies, several questions remain about the challenges of utilising distributed cloud. A number of these potential issues are based on financial considerations, such as who will pay to make bandwidth improvements on distributed cloud substations when nearby companies also benefit from these services.

Another unresolved question remains about the exact level of public cloud capacity that should be allocated to the distributed cloud substations. Simple answers to these questions do not exist at the moment, but as the ecosystem builds and more enterprises engage with the services, practical ways to find solutions to these concerns should be discovered.

The future of IT solutions and services will rely on edge computing and, in turn, drive demand for distributed cloud. Work is happening now to create the foundation for the near future where distributed cloud is accessible and effective for the vast majority of businesses.

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Finbarr Toesland

Features Writer


cloud infrastructure multi-cloud operations
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