Improving application performance in the age of complex infrastructure: A guide

Cloud computing is proliferating throughout every industry vertical and business model across the globe. Gartner is predicting that the worldwide public cloud services market will grow by more than 17% this year alone, and IDC claims manufacturing is leading the way in spending on digital transformation at $221.6 billion, with retailers, transportation firms and professional services also increasing their digital transformation spend.

These statistics don’t tell the full story, however, because whilst cloud adoption is often connected to the concept of modernisation, the public cloud is not always the best option when it comes to digital transformation. While adoption is on the rise, it is unrealistic to think that all enterprises are moving completely to the cloud.

Many have legacy, business-critical applications that simply cannot be migrated, while others find they need to move some of their workloads back into colocation facilities or owned data centre environments to reduce costs, regain control or introduce specialised technologies. 

The caveats of cloud

The cloud offers many obvious benefits, including scalability, operational velocity and elasticity, but organisations find they are also met with several challenges.

  • Vendor lock-in: By necessity, organisations build applications that integrate with the specific capabilities and APIs of a single service provider, in effect creating technical lock-in. It can then seem overwhelming in terms of time, money and resources to migrate or diversify infrastructure with multiple providers. But this needs to be weighed up against the risk of data loss, outages and performance fluctuations associated with a lack of redundancy
  • Hidden costs: Alongside the advantages of rapid scale in capacity comes the challenge of over-provisioning, which can quickly increase expenses. Yet under-provisioning can affect performance and the customer experience, which will impact the bottom line. The cloud requires IT teams to consider capacity planning and resource management differently to ensure cost optimisation, and this can be a huge culture shift for organisations
  • Legacy applications and infrastructure: Existing businesses are likely to have legacy applications and technology that are challenging to migrate into the cloud, which requires them to embrace hybrid architecture of public and/or private cloud along with on-premises infrastructure. Many want to make their legacy and owned environments operate in a more cloud-like manner by introducing private cloud, container orchestration and similar technologies to introduce velocity and automation

The rise of complex infrastructure

The need for redundancy and options for resource management is driving the trend behind multi-cloud adoption, while legacy applications demand hybrid architecture. Meanwhile, new approaches like serverless and edge computing, infrastructure as code and more have created massive complexity for IT teams under pressure to deliver modern applications more quickly and better than their competitors.

Integrating multiple vendors and balancing workloads across a distributed infrastructure requires sophisticated orchestration and automation tools, which are necessary to maximise a cloud investment. To address these challenges, companies can use approaches like agile development and DevOps, or containers or tools like Terraform that automate the deployment of both applications and supporting architecture.

Many find they need to also invest in upgrades to other technologies—like the domain name system—to connect new and old resources to improve operational velocity.

The increase in complexity is also giving rise to the discipline of traffic management, which enables organisations to improve application performance and balance operational workloads across hybrid infrastructure. Traffic management is often seen as a function of IT or site reliability engineering, but it is the sole focus for entire teams at advanced organisations like Google or Dropbox—a growing trend. 

This emerging field involves the orchestration of application traffic to direct real-time workloads appropriately as conditions and demands shift in dynamic and distributed infrastructure footprints. Businesses can leverage this function to tackle many of the common concerns associated with both public cloud and heterogeneous environments. By dynamically routing traffic based on factors like cost metrics or network performance, organisations can successfully reduce cloud expenses, route around outages and improve end-user experiences.

The future

Cloud technologies help organisations to compete more successfully in the digital business economy. However, because of the many caveats associated with the cloud we will undoubtedly see a growing focus on traffic management as businesses realise the important role it plays in delivering modern applications in complex, heterogenous environments.

Traffic teams are set to grow in prominence and IT professionals will build expertise in traffic management, bringing gains in application performance and operational velocity for businesses of all sizes and across all industries. in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their experiences and use-cases? Attend the Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam to learn more.