Only two or three years ago, many industry experts predicted that a near complete enterprise migration to the public cloud was inevitable within three years. The consensus was that agility and economic proposition were too strong and the competitive benefits too alluring. Today, industry opinion has shifted. The move to the public cloud—with all its attendant benefits—continues, but the reality has set in that enterprise adoption is more complicated than first imagined.
At the same time, there is renewed interest in private clouds, as well, and steady growth continues. Third-party research is demonstrating that private clouds are proving to be materially cost-effective for many use cases, with attendant security and compliance benefits as well. Now the industry sees an emerging enterprise environment with multiple clouds, public and private, and expects the hybrid cloud model to be largely the norm for the foreseeable future.
A Journey, Not an Event
Many enterprises began experimenting with cloud technologies, both public and private, in 2014–15, and they’ve learned over the last couple of years that all these technologies are complex and evolving. These past couple of years have also revealed that enterprise cloud solutions are not homogeneous and are typically customized to fit specific company needs.
“It’s clear that one size does not fit all when it comes to cloud,” says Sajai Krishnan, vice president of worldwide sales and marketing for cloud management software at VMware. “Organizations should expect the transition to the cloud will be specific to their business and will look a little different from enterprise to enterprise. And even within a large enterprise, different business units are likely to have different software requirements and platform choices. Adopting these new technologies is a process, rather than a single big-bang event.”
People and Process Change
As cloud-based technologies mature and adoption rates remain strong, it’s become clear that accelerating cloud adoption relies heavily on people and process changes. While the technology is novel, it’s only a small part of the transformational effort.
As with any new technology, the talent pool of cloud experts is thin. It’s a pool requiring a new generation of qualified cloud-native developers and, as software permeates all aspects of the business, software programmers. Needless to say, it will take time to build this qualified talent pool. “The reality is that there is a small pool of experts in cloud technologies, and those individuals are in high demand,” says Krishnan.
In addition, current IT employees will need to learn new skills in order to remain productive in multi-cloud enterprise environments. Finally, existing processes will need to be re-examined, updated, and transitioned in order to reap the benefits of automation that cloud-based technologies provide. And significant changes to processes or complex environments may take significant manual work.
Krishnan advises organizations to begin immediately and tackle the challenges of people and process change head on.
Get Into the Pool
“You can’t learn to swim sitting by the pool,” advises Krishnan. “Asking yourself questions about public versus private clouds will only get you so far. Take a small team of your most talented employees, enable them to experiment with cloud, and let them run with it. Solutions will look different in different environments, so take time to understand what works for you. There isn’t a single answer.”
Krishnan also advises organizations to be pragmatic about adopting cloud-based technologies and tailor approaches to fit environments.
Companies need to get moving to address the necessary organizational transformation that is required, and if they do, they’ll reap the rewards of the cloud.
Automate the Right Things
Automation can produce significant cost savings and productivity gains, but only if an organization automates the right thing. Start by tightening up cloud operations to create a solid base, Krishnan advises, and that can pay big dividends in providing economic benefits over public cloud options.
A survey by 451 Research found that 41 percent of decision-makers indicated that their private cloud infrastructure was cheaper than public cloud options on a per-VM basis. Nine percent of the sample said they were saving at least 50 percent on total cost of ownership (TCO) by using private cloud instead of public cloud.
“Processes can be grandfathered in, because they were established when the tech was less mature,” says Krishnan. “Start with full stack monitoring, capacity optimization, and troubleshooting. Clean up your environment before moving forward with automation or risk automating flawed processes. It’s like cleaning up and throwing out old stuff before you move to a new home—you really don’t want to take all your junk with you.”
Krishnan notes that while increased productivity and cost savings are clear benefits of cloud-based technologies, improved agility in differentiated customer value is the biggest customer value. For example, a U.S. food services giant, a mature business by any stretch, is bringing new value to its customers through better real-time inventory management and quick re-ordering by using a combination of private and public cloud services. The agility and standardization provided by cloud technologies is foundational to both security and management best practices. Most security breaches are due to human error. Automation can provide standardization, by using templated software, to ensure better protection by reducing the opportunities for human error in complex software deployment.
“The age of innocence has passed. Many enterprises have tried a few forms of public and private clouds and discovered there are no easy, push-button answers. The cloud delivers on agility, productivity, security, and cost-savings,” says Krishnan. “But companies need to get moving to address the necessary organizational transformation that is required, and if they do, they’ll reap the rewards of the cloud. The changes driven by the cloud era are more discontinuous than the changes that the PC revolution, the client-server wave, and the early web era brought.”