Does distributed cloud ring a bell? If not, 2020 is the year your business needs to get familiar with it. This is the seventh of the Gartner Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2020 – and one you’re going to want to pay attention to.
A distributed cloud distributes public cloud services to external locations, but the original provider is still responsible for cloud service architecture, delivery, operations and updates. Gartner points out “the evolution from centralized public cloud to distributed public cloud” and the rise of a new era in cloud computing. With the distributed cloud, data centers can be located anywhere, eliminating challenges related to latency and data sovereignty. It’s also important to note the added benefits of a public cloud service as well as a private, local cloud.
To fully understand the distributed cloud, let’s start with what cloud computing is. According to Gartner, it is a type of computing where “elastically scalable IT-enabled capabilities are delivered as a service using internet technologies.” Cloud computing is in parallel with a “centralized” service running in the provider’s data center, but the emergence of private and hybrid cloud enhanced the public cloud model.
Let’s be clear on the different types of cloud environments. According to Microsoft Azure, public clouds are owned and operated by a third-party cloud service provider and offer access to once-expensive services like machine learning. These entities deliver their computing resources over the internet and all hardware, software, and other supporting infrastructure is owned and managed by the cloud provider. These services can be accessed and managed using your web browser.
The private cloud denotes cloud computing resources used exclusively by a single business or organization. These can be physically located on the company’s on-site datacenter. Simply put, a private cloud maintains all services and infrastructure on a private network.
Finally, Microsoft Azure reports that the hybrid cloud combines the public and private cloud so technology can be shared between them, which gives your business greater flexibility, more deployment options, and better optimization for your current infrastructure, security and compliance.
Gartner anticipates three phases of distributed cloud computing:
Phase 1: The like-for-like hybrid model enables the cloud provider to deliver services in a distributed way. The services are similar to “a subset of services in its centralized cloud for delivery in the enterprise.”
Phase 2: Taking the like-for-like model to the next level, the cloud provider and third parties will deliver a subset of its centralized cloud services. This makes it possible to target communities through the third-party provider.
Phase 3: Communities within organizations share distributed cloud substations in which cloud customers can come together to utilize cloud services at a public cloud substation. This is economically beneficial, as the companies using the substation contribute to the cost of the installation.
With the distributed cloud still in its infancy stages, providers offer only a small subset of their services in a distributed fashion. Furthermore, the approaches taken by some providers are unable to support the important aspects of a full distributed cloud. Therefore, Gartner recommends that companies evaluate the benefits and challenges of three approaches they may see in the near future:
Customers assume responsibility for the hardware platform and software layer that they buy, which includes a subset of the providers’ cloud services. Some consider this beneficial.
2. Portability Layer
This is another approach in which the customer is fully responsible for the hardware platform. Essentially, “the provider delivers a portability layer typically built on Kubernetes as the foundation for services across a distributed environment.”
3. Distributed Service
With this approach, the provider takes responsibility for the service, delivering “a like-for-like version of some of its cloud services in a hardware/software combination.” While this lifts a heavy load off of customers, there are some concerns over giving up full control.
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