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Public cloud hasn’t delivered, but a time warp back to three-tier isn’t the answer
Mon, 16th Jan 2023
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Pledging resilience, agility, and economic nirvana, the public cloud hyperscalers promised to make it incredibly easy to move applications and data into their environments. However, organisations are finding it incredibly difficult and costly to move those apps in, and now out, when those promises weren’t delivered.

Australian organisations that jumped head-first into public cloud are quickly finding costs are spiralling out of control. On top of the bill shock, concerns for data protection and sovereignty are greater than ever.
These challenges are leading some enterprises to pull back workloads that were rushed to the cloud prematurely. But unless the on-prem infrastructure these workloads are being repatriated to is modernised, application performance (along with business performance) will suffer greatly, and the promised land will be even further out of reach.

Three-tier time warp

In recent conversations with enterprise and government IT professionals in Australia, a concerning trend has emerged of those looking to escape the woes of cloud-first strategies considering a ‘better the devil you know’ return to outdated three-tier architecture in the data centre.

Three-tier architecture had its place, but that place is long gone. Today, this infrastructure model cannot offer companies the flexibility and resiliency they need to innovate and cannot keep pace with business needs in today’s digital-by-default world.

Apps today are increasingly built to be operationally intelligent and storage aware. For business-critical apps to live up to their full potential, they require the automation, intelligence, and efficiency only cloud-like architectures can deliver.

In other words, the infrastructure these apps come back to from the public cloud must continue to enable organisations to be cloud-native in their approach – this is something legacy three-tier architecture can never deliver.

The needs of modern applications mean three-tier environments will be a handbrake on business growth and innovation. Since COVID-19 overturned digital capability from a “nice to have” to a “must have,” companies have acquired more and more modern software solutions to address individual pain points, and most are cloud native.

Applications that previously resided in public cloud have a much easier time inhabiting private clouds or cloud-like architecture on-prem, and vice versa. In fact, research from Andreessen Horowitz found that when applications hit a steady state, moving them from the public cloud and hosting them on-prem in private cloud environments slashes the cost of running those applications by between one-third to one-half.

Forget three-tier. There’s a third way

For many years, “cloud” in Australia and around the world has been thought of as merely a destination. Somewhere an organisation “goes” and, by doing so, magically transforms its business once it’s arrived.

The Great Cloud Repatriation trend in Australia is a good reminder of why IT professionals and business leaders need to drop this “destination” mentality. It has led to a misguided strategy that sees a company try to shift all its applications to a single cloud provider – regardless of the specific needs and nuances of each individual workload.

Some applications might be suited to one public cloud provider, some to a different public cloud, while others might need the control and security of a private cloud. Rarely, if ever, will an application perform better on three-tier infrastructure.

Remember why we moved away from three-tier to begin with? It requires more management, more parts to support, and with a lack of on-site technical resources, three-tier architecture hinders ambitions to do more with less.

So instead of choosing one cloud over another, enterprises today are looking at how to best use a combination of public cloud, private cloud, and edge cloud to actually reach the cloud promise of flexibility, resiliency, and economic nirvana through freedom of choice. This is the hybrid multicloud approach.

Our recent Nutanix Enterprise Cloud Index report found 92% of Australian enterprises saw hybrid multicloud as their ideal future state.

This strikes at the heart of what enterprises need in their infrastructure.

Enterprises and government organisations in Australia need the flexibility to choose where their workloads run and the freedom of choice to be able to shift those workloads as needs and priorities change. Cloud-first public cloud strategies and three-tier architectures are an anathema to this need; the former due to the vendor lock-in inherent in hyperscale consumption models, and the latter due to the archaic way in which applications need to be built (or retrofitted) to run on them.

We, as technologists, understand the pace at which IT moves. Knowing that only echoes the reality that hybrid multicloud architectures, underpinned with an intelligent, cloud-native and private cloud, offer the flexibility needed to finally reach that promised land we search for.