This article was written by Luc Hendrikx, CEO of CIONET International. It is based on the discussions during an exclusive round table with Belgian Digital Leaders on April 18th 2023. CIONET organised this event with the support of LCL.
Choosing the proper infrastructure and technical environment for your application workloads remains complicated. Ever-evolving factors such as data sovereignty, security threats, compliance issues, workload balancing and data integration are muddying the cloudy waters.
Some organisations swear by a “public cloud first” approach because of the speed of innovation, the flexibility and the scalability. Practical considerations related to Mergers and Acquisitions or the selection of Software as a Service applications often cause these organisations to end up with a multi-cloud environment. Certain digital leaders still hang on to their private cloud solutions and their own data centres. Many even decide to bring significant parts of their workloads back to private cloud environments. Some have a clear Hybrid vision.
But what is the best choice for your business today? During our round table discussion on April 18th, our panel identified three distinctly different cloud strategies based on the latest trends and experiences. Each of these strategies is suitable for organisations that have specific goals and a specific starting point.
Many complicated calculations have been made to analyse the real costs of migrating to the public cloud and to make a business case for such a transformation project. Only a few companies have actually made a radical move in this direction. Two organisations represented in our panel made the cloud-first choice. This allowed the panel to assess what made the difference for them?
Our panel concluded that this strategy is most suitable for organisations that feel the need for a significant change. One organisation at the table that adopted this strategy started from a situation where its data centres were at the end of life and had to be completely replaced. The other organisation intended to centralise the IT function and to decommission a series of decentralised local computer rooms.
Both organisations feel that the key to success for this cloud strategy lies in the fact that
They both succeeded in migrating more than 99% of their landscape within a relatively short time period. By doing this, the need for several skill sets such as for example: hypervisor and OS management and hardware engineering was completely eliminated, and they could reorganise their teams. This freed up the budget required to install a powerful cloud centre of excellence. The scale and speed of the migrations also allowed these organisations to negotiate heavily on the costs with the public cloud providers while agreeing on significant volume commitments. Both organisations selected one dominant public cloud provider and engaged with one major transformation partner.
The combination of these factors allowed them to end up with a positive business case. Additionally, they now benefit from the speed of innovation, the flexibility and the scalability of the public cloud for all of their workloads.
A number of organisations represented in the discussion panel decided that there was a need for a systemic approach to their cloud journey. They clearly understood the benefits of the public cloud for specific use cases where new features and great agility were needed at speed. However, because of their regulatory context and their appetite for change, they decided to choose a slow and steady cloud adoption strategy.
These organisations feel that the key to success for this cloud strategy is to set up a solid cloud centre of excellence that takes care of the cloud enablement for the whole organisation. Starting from the goals envisaged, this team:
This cloud strategy increases the time to market and reduces the speed to innovate, but avoids many ad hoc discussions with the regulators and brings consistency in the technical landscape, which results in easier maintenance and support in the long term.
Organisations that adopt this cloud strategy, typically strive towards a hybrid cloud solution based on a long term relationship with one dominant hyperscale cloud provider in combination with a solid private infrastructure that is very cost effective. Most also strive towards harmonisation in terms of working methods and technologies used for provisioning, automation, monitoring, container management, etc. This allows them to harmonise the skill sets of their development and operations teams. It also makes their applications more portable between their private cloud and the selected public cloud(s).
The third group takes a very pragmatic, project based approach. They assess the possibility to benefit from public cloud features on a case by case basis. The great benefit of this approach is that there is no delay between the release of the feature by the cloud provider and the moment that it can be used by the development teams. This cloud strategy clearly performs best in terms of time to market and the ability to innovate. However the downside of this strategy is that it has a tendency to quickly increase diversity and complexity for the operations and maintenance teams.
A proper cloud strategy requires a concise point of view on the role of cloud within the organisation. There clearly is no one size fits all, nor is there a definitive right or wrong cloud strategy. Choosing the right cloud strategy for your organisation starts by clearly understanding your starting position and the business outcomes expected from cloud adoption / migration.
Adopting public cloud technologies is easier for large global companies. As they have significant buying power, they are often able to negotiate substantial discounts on public cloud services. This makes it a lot easier for them to realise a positive business case when moving workloads into the public cloud. All companies represented in our panel were struggling to attract or train enough people with the specific cloud skills required to successfully transition into public cloud and to manage the services on an ongoing basis. There is a specific shortage of cloud architects, cloud security specialists and cloud FinOPS specialists. The larger organisations also seem to be more appealing on the labour market for people with such skills.
Finally, we would like to point out that organisations that are bringing workloads back to private cloud environments report that the complexity and costs associated with these reverse transition projects should not be underestimated.
We hope that the three typical cloud strategies outlined in this article will inspire you and will guide you when defining your own cloud strategy.
I would like to thank our panellists for the constructive discussion, their insights and the great learnings. During this round table, our panel consisted of: