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Can Enterprises in the Middle East Consider Public Cloud to Get Work Done?

Guest written by: Gregg Petersen, Regional Director, MEA and SAARC, Veeam Software

At almost every conference, event or analyst meeting you attend, you’ll hear someone discuss how your business can benefit from the Operating Expense (OPEX) model, greater agility, and faster deployment speeds offered by the public cloud.

But let’s be honest: If you go to your internal IT staff and propose the public cloud, you’ll get a lot of pushback. They’ll talk to you about a number of issues, most notably security, legal compliance and a loss of control over the company’s valuable data.

When talking to infrastructure professionals, C-level management and development groups about using the public cloud, the one thing that always comes up is that each group has a different vision of how to use the public cloud, and it’s difficult to get their visions aligned. Difficult, but possible.

Today, on-premises (or private cloud) infrastructure is still the most-used solution for production environments. Slowly, we’re seeing the adoption of hybrid environments (a combination of private cloud and public cloud where the public cloud is considered an extension of your data centre) where certain front-end workloads are moved to the public cloud.

Workloads like websites and new apps are popular candidates for a move to the cloud, but often the data itself stays on premises in your private cloud. The problem is that debates within the business about using the public cloud are often dominated by discussion of production environments instead of exploring opportunities where the cloud could help save time, effort and money. However, things are looking positive.

The public cloud services market in Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is projected to grow 18.3 percent in 2016 to total $879.3 million, up from $743.1 million in 2015, according a recent report by Gartner, Inc. Let’s have a look at some common use cases where those benefits can be gained.

A Test/ Development/ Acceptance Environment
Every business needs an environment for testing solutions, development and acceptance. In an ideal world, these should be three separate environments and they should be the same as (or at least very similar to) your production environment.

Unfortunately, the number of enterprises that have the resources available to use best practices is very limited. And those few that have the technical resources to do this often complain that there aren’t enough other resources (people) to maintain such environments and that time is limited.

Why not use the public cloud for these scenarios? Organizations can create copies of the production environment (at least the important parts of it) in a public cloud and grant access to developers, test engineers, workload owners and more to that environment. After a project is finished, that environment can simply be shut down.

Developers, test engineers and quality control teams love this approach because it allows them to work on production data (while not being on a production environment) and perform testing at scale.

Management likes the pay-as-you-go approach, and more importantly, they find that these scenarios allow the business to work faster and get to market faster with new and improved solutions.

Patching, Updates and Upgrades
Many enterprises have a change advisory board (CAB) that needs to approve all changes (bug fixes, security patches and functionality enhancements) that will happen in a production environment. The best practice is to implement these as quickly as possible but only after they have been tested thoroughly to prevent any major issues making it to the live environment.

The best way to do this is to mimic your production environment as well as possible when testing changes. Again, this is impossible for most companies due to a lack of resources. Enter the public cloud again. By using copies of the production environment and restoring them into the public cloud, organizations can conduct effective testing and documenting of all those changes and feed that information into the change request plan. What’s even better is that potential back-out plans can also be tested, so the organization can be prepared in case something wrong still goes into production.

After all the tests and documentation, the environment in the public cloud can be turned off (or even destroyed) to save on costs. IT professionals will lose less time in setting up those environments, have better documentation of changes and perform better testing that matches the production environment. CAB decision makers can be certain that the upgrades are tested more thoroughly and can sign off easier. And management is reassured that business will not be interrupted by the maintenance performed by different IT teams.

Disaster Recovery Testing
How frequently does your business test its backups or its disaster recovery plans? Weekly? Monthly? Quarterly? Yearly maybe? Or perhaps even never?

In many cases, leadership teams are not even aware of this and believe that these plans are readily available, updated and tested on a regular basis. The reasons why this doesn’t happen are similar to the previous two scenarios: There aren’t enough technical resources, people available to do it or time to do it in.

Can we use the public cloud again for this scenario? The answer is obviously yes, and the way to do this is again very similar to the previous scenarios. By using the latest copies of the production environment, organizations can restore the full production (or specific workloads) to the public cloud, make sure backups are quarantined from the production environment, and perform backup and recovery tasks and tests with speed.

And the cloud brings even more advantages. You don’t need to have the resources on premises, the process takes less time and effort and it’s easier to perform. You gain peace of mind with the knowledge that, even in a worst-case scenario, you can restore your production environment using the public cloud if there are no on-premises resources available.

The public cloud is certainly something that needs to be considered by every business. Which scenarios fit your business will depend on your specific environment, and your use cases can only be decided after careful evaluation.

But many day-to-day supporting operations such as the scenarios above can and should be considered by nearly all businesses because they can help save time, money and resources. And even more importantly, the public cloud can help lower the risk of interrupting the production environment during maintenance operations, something which isn’t acceptable anymore in an always-on world.

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Chris Fernando

Chris N. Fernando is an experienced media professional with over two decades of journalistic experience. He is the Editor of Arabian Reseller magazine, the authoritative guide to the regional IT industry. Follow him on Twitter (@chris508) and Instagram (@chris2508).

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