CEO Blog Series: If You Can’t Come to the Cloud

Let the cloud come to you.

To open our new CEO blog series, Predatar CEO Alistair Mackenzie (or as we like to so fondly call him, Al), talks about becoming cloud-native.

Working for a SaaS company, I was intrigued by this recent article on Cloud economics, and you should be too.

You can read it for yourselves of course, but here are the highlights:

  • Analysis by the Andreessen Horowitz team showed that the top 50 SaaS companies were spending an average of 50% of their revenues on cloud infrastructure
  • Repatriation to on-premise could halve infrastructure running costs for companies at scale

Personally, my favourite quote from the piece is:

You’re crazy if you don’t start in the cloud; you’re crazy if you stay on it”.

The problem though is repatriation can be a non-trivial exercise, depending on how you arrived in the cloud in the first place. Simply “lifting and shifting” workloads to a public cloud provider then shifting back again is somewhat easier. Moving VMware workloads to the cloud is a good example of this, though it’s harder to understand the rationale. It’s not cheaper and it requires almost the same labour resources to operate, wherever the workloads reside.

So, starting in the cloud makes more sense; especially for new projects or new start-ups. In the early stages of turning your creative ideas into software code, paying a “flexibility tax” to access the agility of the cloud is worth the peace of mind. In 2019 when Predatar decided to move from a monolithic application design to microservices, it chose to use public cloud infrastructure as a service. The development team was in experimentation mode and the public cloud allowed for more creativity. But as we move the new SaaS platform into full-scale production, should we stay on public cloud infrastructure or move to on-premise?

Although no decision has yet been made, there have been several trends to at least make it a hard choice.

  • Most OEM vendors now offer some form of Opex-based, consumption model for server and storage infrastructure. IBM just last week announced a new storage-as-a-service model for its best-in-class FlashSystem arrays.
  • For new software development, the lingua-franca operating system is now Linux, available in all public clouds as well as on-premise
  • The emergence of Kubernetes as the dominant container orchestration platform

One important point of note on this final trend. When the Predatar team started its journey towards making Predatar SaaS a cloud-native container-based solution, it could have picked from many cloud offerings. AWS, Azure and Google, all have their own distributions of Kubernetes, and this is the catch. Once you start developing code on one distribution, it’s not always straightforward to migrate to another. You can become stuck using the IaaS (infrastructure as a service) of that public cloud provider.

Fortunately, whether by luck or good judgement, we chose Red Hat’s Openshift distribution of Kubernetes. Openshift is 100% portable which means we decide where to host our SaaS platform; cloud, on-premise, or edge location.

It can take a long time for the decisions we make to play out. Cloud Architects don’t always have the benefit of hindsight when deciding which cloud platform to use. At least from an infrastructure perspective, Red Hat’s Openshift gives them the option to change their mind should they so wish.

Signing off,

Alistair Mackenzie