In 2019, the Swiss market was transformed by the significant hyper scalers Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure, who opened sites in the country. As a result, the pressure on local providers has increased. The argument that "data must be stored in Switzerland" is no longer working. Instead, certain local providers are using a different method to position themselves against the big players. But is working against each other the right strategy?
We decided to team up with Google Cloud to completely replace our OpenShift-based container platform and migrate our and our customers’ applications to Google Kubernetes Engine in Google Cloud. In addition, we still provide our existing managed service and data center offerings in our two fully redundant Swiss data centers.
Why do I think this was the right decision?
Public clouds, as the large providers are called, can offer a different range of options than local private cloud providers. Indeed, it is true that the risk assessment differs greatly between a customer of the Swiss branch of an American or Chinese company and someone relying on local SMEs.
In my opinion, however, the possibilities and advantages provided by the large providers are underestimated. Nobody in Switzerland was waiting for another Infrastructure as a Service provider to open a site here. Nor does anyone think they need to be in the cloud, simply because the trend dictates this and it saves cost. It is the services that make all the difference.
«At Google, several thousand engineers are working on offering their services as efficiently as possible and with a very high degree of automation. Why should we build these services on the one hand and automate them ourselves on the other? Why should we do double work?» - Thomas Hug, CEO @ nine
Operating a customer application successfully with different cloud services is complex and requires great know-how. This means that there is plenty of work that the public cloud providers will not or cannot do for us - for example, monitoring, backup, disaster recovery, or providing GitOps deployment tools. We have, therefore, decided not to work against the public cloud providers, but with them - in our case with Google Cloud. We are convinced that we can offer our customers a better service if we take full advantage of the technical possibilities available on the market.
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Why applications should be container-ready today
As well as the technical possibilities, application requirements can also change quickly. The process from development to production environment update must therefore be implemented as quickly as possible. This requires automated tests and an automated deployment which does not require any manual work. Container technology is the basis for such workflows, implemented with so-called pipelines. Using containers shortens the development cycle greatly and allows us to make adjustments to applications in the live environment several times a day.
By using the option of creating all services on Google Cloud via script, we were able to fully automate the installation of our container platform as well as the necessary, self-integrated services. This allows us to run a dedicated cluster for even a small application independently from other customers.
Private clouds still have their place
Getting an application container-ready involves much effort, and an automated deployment process comes with additional complexity which needs to be maintained. If you cannot or do not want to benefit from these new opportunities or if using new services such as machine learning and AI make no sense from a business point of view, the additional cost will not pay off. It can also be more cost-effective to run applications in a conventional data center, depending on their type. If, for example, you operate a virtual machine one-to-one in the public cloud without using services, you face higher costs than you would with most local providers.
Whether it’s the public or a private cloud: it is important that the choice fits in with the corporate strategy, that the solution is sustainable and that you find a trustworthy partner to work with.
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