Chalan Aras, Vice President and General Manager, Citrix Systems
Flexibility and efficiency are central to the value proposition of the cloud—the ability to move and scale workloads easily within and beyond your datacenter. That’s the idea, anyway. In reality, there’s a frequently overlooked factor that can bring unanticipated friction to your cloud strategy: the tools you use within your cloud. If you can’t use the same application delivery controller (ADC), load balancer and database in your service provider’s cloud as you do in your own datacenter, those efficiency gains will prove elusive. Similarly, if you can’t move from one CSP to another without changing the tools you use, you might discover that your cloud strategy has turned into just another form of vendor lock-in.
This is why it’s important that Amazon Web Services (AWS) lets you use your own tools instead of forcing you to switch to their own or to another vendor’s—it ensures that you get all the frictionless flexibility the cloud is supposed to offer.
Consider a classic use case for the cloud: application development.
By using cloud environments for development and testing, you can eliminate the need to provision servers in-house, and you can continue to run the app in the cloud once it’s in production. If you’re using the same set of tools on both ends, this process is simple and seamless. With fewer tools to buy and maintain, your licensing and equipment costs will certainly be less, and your staff won’t need to learn new ways of working. Conversely, if your CSP doesn’t support the tools you’re using within the enterprise, you’ll have to pay, train, and maintain staff proficiency across multiple tool sets, and your productivity will drop as you’re forced to repeat automation and scripting on each tool.
"A better approach than classic VPN tools is to use a true cloud connectivity solution to establish highly reliable, high-capacity connectivity"
The scenario is similar for another use case, perhaps not quite as familiar but equally valuable: migrating or extending existing apps to a hybrid cloud environment. In this model, you can move the app to the cloud while enabling it to reach back into the enterprise for the information it needs for tasks like verifying users and associated policies. This allows you to combine the scale of the cloud with the security, control, and sovereignty of your own datacenter. Again, a common tool set will let you move apps between domains more easily; otherwise, your learning curve and risk will multiply.
To achieve optimal efficiency and avoid vendor lock-in, make sure that you’ll be able to use the same tools and functionality in your data center and across multiple cloud providers. For example, enterprises that build applications in their data center often use an ADC to provide flexible load balancing and scaling of servers. If you’re using an ADC supported by AWS, you’ll be able to continue to use the same product and configuration one you move the app to the cloud without making any changes. If your ADC is supported by other CSPs as well, you’ll have the flexibility to make the transition to a different provider just as easily should the need arise.
In a hybrid environment, scaled, reliable connectivity across two or more locations is a key enabler. Many enterprises use classic VPN tools for this purpose. While these are common and inexpensive, this approach also limits the ability of the enterprise to enjoy a low-latency, high reliability link with deep visibility into application performance. A better approach is to use a true cloud connectivity solution to establish highly reliable, high-capacity connectivity. This type of tool isn’t necessarily as ubiquitous as a commodity VPN product, so again, make sure that the solution you use is available across AWS and other CSPs.
Many CSPs provide built-in tools for applications, offering a cost-effective way to build versatile apps. Application providers can use these tools to differentiate their applications—but be careful of forming dependencies on a particular CSP’s unique tool set. To avoid compromising your flexibility, use application tools that are available in the same form from different providers. This way, you can ensure portability across CSPs without compromising on the versatility of your application.
Your cloud strategy should help you reduce friction and cost—not add new demands for tools, training, and maintenance. Before you find that your tools limit your choice of CSP, or vice versa, make sure that you’ll be able to use the same tool set wherever your strategy might take you—within your datacenter, in AWS, and in any other CSP’s cloud you choose to use.