COVID-19: If Public Cloud isn't the answer, then what is?

Hitachi Vantara
By Tony Whigham, Hitachi Vantara ANZ
Wednesday, 22 July, 2020

Covid-19 is on everyone’s minds. It’s undeniable. But we’ve seen amazing resilience on many levels in Australia and New Zealand. The way we’ve all conducted business has been far from business as usual, but companies, departments, people and our government have kept on working because there are products and services that still need to be delivered and work to be done. Their access to data, information and applications had to keep up.

IT teams everywhere have been striving to get everything out of their technology infrastructure that they can, as quickly as they can, to support a sudden increase in the need for remote work, remote access and digital service capabilities. People generally expect the tools they need to “just work”. In reality, that’s quite a challenge.

We’ve been talking about “agility”, “digital transformation” and “scalability” for years. Covid-19 has forced many organisations and agencies into overdrive on these fronts. Even as restrictions begin to ease and as we can potentially see “getting back to normal” on the horizon, from a technology perspective IT departments are going to have to support a new normal. One that will need all the agility, flexibility and digital capability you can muster, to scale and provision and prepare for fluctuations in service and remote work requirements that may still be faced.

“Despite the urgency of the Covid-19 situation and the rapid pace at which organisations and government agencies have had to make decisions and ramp up capabilities, it’s possible to make decisions that set you up properly for the longer term,” says Adrian Johnson, VP and Managing Director, Hitachi Vantara ANZ.

“As a technology provider, this global pandemic has spurred us to develop or adapt solutions to help organisations meet the challenges of the moment, like delivering desktop and application experience to a suddenly much larger remote workforce. But those solutions wouldn’t be much good if they were only designed to help for now. They have to be foundational, giving companies infrastructure that can be built upon. That’s what infrastructure is supposed to be,” says Johnson.

Use Case: Public Sector Business Continuity

Challenges during Covid 19

Public Cloud is not for Everyone and Everything

Remote work is not a new concept and — thanks to the cloud and modern collaboration tools — the technology exists for an organisation or government agency’s staff to work from wherever they are, using whatever device they want to use. But not all workloads and applications can be run in the public cloud. Not all data can be stored in the public cloud. Government agencies have compliance requirements and regulations in place that mandate the security of on premise solutions and storage. Many organisations in the private sector also have elements of their business that need to be managed on premise.

The current Federal government policy, and indeed the policy of many organisations around the world, is “cloud first”. A modernised policy of “Hybrid Cloud first” would more accurately reflect the right approach for now and for whatever is next.

Dealing with Business as Un-usual

Faced with this unprecedented pandemic situation, a number of Federal agencies have worked with Hitachi Vantara and VMware to rapidly establish and scale virtual desktop services with a hyperconverged, bundled solution platform that offered public cloud-like capabilities and adhered to on-prem requirements.

“Because Hitachi Vantara has been a very strong partner of VMware for many years now, we’ve been able to partner at an engineering level and come up with creative solutions in response to the Covid-19 crisis,” says Simon Caruso, VMware Chief Technologist and Solution Engineering Manager, Federal Government.

“Crucially, we’ve been able to help our public sector customers quickly ramp up and offer private cloud-based capabilities to support a workforce forced to work from home. That solved the immediate challenge in a way that met their governance and regulatory requirements,” says Caruso, “but it’s not just a short term solution.”

The platform enables a private cloud to be built out in an agency or department’s own data centre, or someone else’s data centre, that involves the same technologies, the same operational stack required to burst to cloud with the likes of an AWS or an Azure. This solution is designed and ready to support apps on-premises, in the cloud, or in a hybrid or multi-cloud configuration, managed in a single platform.

Ticking all the Boxes

Building on existing infrastructure | This was no time for rip and replace, but for a solution that is simple, quick to implement and requires no new training. They needed to maximise performance and efficiency, and get the most out of existing infrastructure to realise the ROI on legacy systems that still have life left in them.

That’s the beauty of augmenting your existing environment with a software defined infrastructure. The whole construct of software defined, even when it comes to hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) is designed for buying in small increments and you can pay as you grow.

Integrated | Speed was of the essence. No one wanted to run or train users on multiple user interfaces. This solution platform manages other solutions in the environment and works with core VMware solutions. The VMware admin becomes a generalist across all workloads.

Agile | Agencies had some remote work enabled but, faced with a rapid increase in the number of employees accessing apps, files and systems remotely, virtual desktop infrastructures had to be established and / or scaled very quickly.

Simple | It needed to be easy to manage, operate and consume.

Secure | Access had to be secure, with consistent governance in place.

Flexible | The solution needed to manage both on-premise systems and necessary bursts to the cloud, to avoid business disruptions and to ensure interoperability between the existing environment and a new IT environment. The platform uses the same operation and management tools to do both, so it’s just an extension of the current environment.

Disaster Proofed | Disaster recovery plans had to be reviewed and adjusted in case of a disaster event where IT personnel would not be able to travel to datacenter facilities.

Future Proofed | Of course dealing with the critical technology needs of the moment were the priority, but the foundation put in place will remain consistent as we move out of the crisis into whatever the new normal is going to be. It will be able to support future requirements and workloads such as Kubernetes, containers and next generation digital and business critical applications.

The Strength of an Ecosystem

Working through this global pandemic has brought with it a range of emotions, issues and uncertainties, but one thing that technology vendors can do is band together to support the organisations and government agencies that are working hard to keep everything going.

When the Covid-19 crisis really hit, Hitachi Vantara and VMware built on a decade of partnership to very quickly re-architecture and implement an integrated platform and hyperconverged bundle to help federal agencies meet this new challenge.

Integration is great, but when best-in-breed technology vendors align roadmaps and co-engineer solutions to help IT departments deal with everyday challenges as well as crises that rock us to our core and challenge the very IT infrastructure on which our organisations are built, that’s even better.

For more information about Hyperconverged solutions, visit Hitachi

Tony Whigham is Regional Director–Government for Hitachi Vantara ANZ.

Image credit: ©

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