Worldwide public cloud spending by end-users will grow 18.4 percent in 2021 to $304.9 billion, according to analyst firm Gartner. But while there is no question that the cloud will become the mainstay of enterprise infrastructure, should enterprises rush to migrate?

What should organizations bear in mind as they migrate their core systems to the cloud? And how can modern enterprises ensure that their cloud systems stay secure and reliable?

The big move to the cloud

There are many reasons why enterprises are attracted to the cloud, says Dave Page, the Vice President and chief architect of database infrastructure at EDB. The hefty capital expenses and overheads of managing server rooms and systems such as servers, switches, and routers is one, with another being the ability to deploy new systems much faster than in the past.

“Ten or 15 years ago, you would put in a purchase request for IT and wait for them to buy you some hardware. Then after the physical machine has been delivered and racked, you must wait again for a system administrator to deploy the operating system and database server you need. With the cloud you can do that in seconds rather than weeks or months,” he explained.

While cost and convenience are compelling factors, Page cautioned that enterprises must consider the need for training and re-architecting their existing applications to properly harness the cloud. “Whether AWS, Google, Azure, or another cloud, they have to learn how security is implemented and managed in a cloud environment as opposed to the way it was previously done. For instance, how to manage firewalls, define access control, set up VPNs, and so on.”

“To take full advantage of the cloud, you must cast aside the old mindset for your on-premises systems to understand and consider the different options for running it in the cloud; you need to re-architect it in a way that is truly cloud-native.”

Unsurprisingly, Page notes that while he knows of customers considering the cloud, migrations only happen after extensive preparation. “Customers are considering moves, but it is not something that I would necessarily consider a rapid shift based on the folks I talk to,” he summed up.

Security and the cloud

When it comes to security, there is no question that public cloud platforms have the potential to be considerably more secure than the average on-premises deployment, according to Page. “Most cloud environments are going to be far more secure than anything that you run yourself because there are various standards and accreditations for security in data centers. Unless you are a large bank or another type of regulated organization running your own data center, you probably have not gone through those processes to make sure that you are getting everything right.”

Moreover, the cloud also frees up resources that would otherwise have to be allocated to manage the systems in-house. But if the cloud is more secure, why do headlines continue to be dominated by news of cyberattacks and data breaches?

“In my experience, data breaches typically occur at the application side. Like most database systems, PostgreSQL is used widely, and there are hundreds of thousands of applications that sit in front of a PostgreSQL database. Those applications tend to be written by much smaller teams and are usually not open-source, with less stringent management and security processes around their development.”

Page offered the hypothetical example of a startup business building an online shopping system: “You might have two or three programmers working on an application. And it does not matter how good they are as a team–one of them might make a mistake because they’re human. And the application is the part attackers see first. Hackers are going to come in through that site; they are going to find some vulnerability in the application and use that to download data or modify data that they shouldn’t be able to access.”

Building resilient services in the cloud

So how can enterprises ensure their cloud services are resilient and stay up? According to Page, enterprises can achieve resilience by either developing enterprise applications to run on more than one cloud provider or by leveraging multiple cloud availability zones and regions. The former offers the added advantage of not being reliant on a single cloud provider, though is far more challenging technically and expensive.

“It can be really difficult to build a truly cloud-agnostic application, and that makes use of all the facilities available on AWS, Google Cloud, or Azure. If you look beyond the virtual machines and storage systems on all the cloud vendors and look at things like load balancers, [serverless] functions, and machine learning offerings, they are all quite different in the way that they are implemented on each of the providers.”

“So having one application that can run anywhere and fully make use of the cloud-native functionality is really hard. Redundancy of providers increases the technical challenge significantly which makes it much more expensive,” Page said. In most cases, he notes that using cloud availability zones, or independent segments of the cloud provider, is far more economical.

Ultimately, the onus is on enterprises to make an informed decision on whether to stay with their existing non-cloud deployments or to move to the cloud. And if the choice is the latter, to make a considered decision about which cloud and deployment strategy to adopt before drawing up a migration strategy.

Paul Mah is Head of Content at TAP Content. He is a tech blogger and expert content creator wearing multiple hats. He currently covering data centers, marketing tech, gadgets, and IT.

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