Guest post by Francis O’Haire, Group Technology Director, DataSolutions
There are customers which prefer to utilise multiple public cloud providers, while simultaneously keeping some workloads on-premise – this strategy is known as Hybrid or Multi-Cloud. However, there is now a new kid on the block. The so-called ‘Supercloud’ is emerging as a new approach and is very much open to interpretation. I see it as an overarching layer which hides the complexities of having to deal with multiple cloud and on-premise platforms, but as a relatively new concept, any official definition is subject to change.
Indeed, while the term Supercloud appears to be the industry favourite, people are also using ‘distributed cloud’ and even ‘meta cloud’ to describe much the same thing. Originally, it was a team at Cornell University (back in 2016) that coined the term Supercloud, but it had a much narrower definition at that stage, concentrating on the portability of applications between clouds.
Wikibon currently defines Supercloud as “a natural evolution of today’s multi-cloud and hybrid computing models” – a computing architecture that comprises a set of services abstracted from the underlying primitives of hyperscale clouds (e.g., compute, storage, networking, security, and other native resources) to create a global system spanning more than one cloud.
Arguably a predecessor of Supercloud, multicloud has certainly delivered advantages for those companies which have bought it in. It is viewed as an opportunity to avoid vendor lock-in, to connect with best-in-class cloud services, and to create a certain level of flexibility when working with business partners. Those are all certainly benefits, but the reality is that it is probably far too costly (and too complex) for most businesses to adopt.
Perhaps this is how we have arrived at the Supercloud way of thinking then; as an innovative alternative to multicloud. On the other hand, it could be viewed as the next logical step after public cloud or, as some are suggesting, a new way forward (for both developers and businesses) given the current complexity of available cloud models. I believe that supercloud isn’t really a replacement for multicloud, but rather an approach or set of technologies that overlays a customer’s multiple cloud and private locations to make them both more manageable and more secure.
Whereas hybrid and multicloud are often seen as having happened in an ad-hoc and ultimately uncontrolled fashion, Supercloud is taking up a position as an architecture/approach that brings these trends under control. Of course, it is not a case of simply switching something on. There are undoubtedly challenges to address across areas such as management, visibility, portability and security.
While the vendor landscape will play its part in realising the potential of Supercloud in achieving business objectives, no one vendor can address all the elements. However, many are bringing key components to the table. For example, Citrix offers Digital Workspaces which securely deliver any application or desktop from any cloud or on-premise location to any device. This means IT departments can choose the most appropriate cloud in which to place a workload without dealing with the complexity of each and without the end user facing this complexity.
Another example is Check Point Software. Its technology solves the problems around maintaining security and compliance when adopting multiple cloud models or providers. This includes centralising visibility, delivering intelligence, and enabling unified threat prevention. Meanwhile, Cato Networks creates a single networking and security overlay across all private and public cloud locations, delivering services such as Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB), Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA), and Firewall as a Service (FWaaS).
What Supercloud proves wholeheartedly is that technology and innovation don’t sit still. Whatever you call it, it indicates that organisations want an efficient and secure way to deal with increasingly complex multi or hybrid cloud environments. By leveraging it effectively, companies can look forward to capitalising on business opportunities beyond the existing public and private cloud landscape.