By Shaban Saddique, EMEA Head of Transformation, Sungard Availability Services
In a relatively short period, cloud computing has gone from being something familiar only to a handful of early-adopter test and development users to an omnipresent, couldn’t-live-without-it technology. Organisations are increasingly moving mainstream workloads into cloud environments: public cloud spend has grown threefold from £9bn in 2013 to £27bn in 2017 - and rising.
During that time, it’s not only the technology that has moved on: the thinking around how to deploy cloud technology has also shifted considerably. In the early days, cloud evangelists urged enterprises to move absolutely everything to the cloud – in practice, a highly impractical recommendation that led to pain and disappointment for many organisations who are rapidly learning that a cloud environment is not advantageous, or indeed suitable, for all applications.
This realisation has resulted in the growth of the complex Hybrid IT environments that exist in organisations today, which commonly feature a mix of private cloud, public cloud and private infrastructure in hosted data centre space (colocation) alongside all-important legacy systems that are kept in-house.
It is also behind the trend towards 85% of organisations adopting a multi-cloud strategy – choosing different types of cloud for workloads with differing security, scalability and availability needs. This increasing market maturity is enabling organisations to embrace digital advances and accelerate time to market. Today, a ‘minimum viable’ approach to product and service development is encouraged – getting something out to the market fast then refining it, releasing updated versions with enhanced features.
Organisations typically choose to move to the cloud in the belief it will make them more agile, reduce IT costs and allow them to be more innovative and grow the business. In expert hands and when the transition takes place at the right time for the right workloads organisations can reap all these benefits and more. But all too often the objectives are unclear, the expected benefits are based on misconceptions and the overall cloud strategy is flawed.
Factors to consider
Before arriving at a decision, first consider:
- Which applications are suited to run in a cloud environment?
- Does it make financial sense? If an application involves a large number of expensive licences, it may be best suited to another platform. Similarly, if the application frequently interacts with the legacy estate and hyperscaler (AWS, Azure, Google), it may incur prohibitive data transfer charges, a point that is often overlooked.
- Where will your data be stored and how secure will it be? This may well influence your choice of cloud vendor.
- How will it integrate with your legacy systems?
- What is your exit strategy? It is good practice to plan your way out of a vendor before you even move in to avoid onerous lock-in clauses.
- What application interdependencies do you have? Lack of interoperability will inevitably hamper success.
- Sometimes the cutting edge can feel very sharp and moving to DevOps can hurt both your operations teams and your developers as they strive for change. Factor in what works for your culture and the speed at which your organisation can operate.
- How critical is the application to your business and what regulatory and compliance standards must it meet?
- At what lifecycle stage is the application? In the start-up phase, an application might be expected to grow very quickly, in which case a cloud environment will provide much-needed scalability. Conversely, it may not be economically viable to move a stable, long-established application in steady-state operation to the cloud. And if an application is in decline, the best route may be to manage it out and replace it.
- Is the skillset still available to support the application? While millennials now entering the workforce are educated on newer technologies and techniques, those typically managing and updating legacy environments are retiring — and taking their specialist skills with them.
Top tips for cloud success
Our cloud and IT transformation consultants have extensive experience gained from guiding customers through large multi-cloud engagements over the years and here we share some top tips to avoid common pitfalls:
- Switch from ‘inside out’ to ‘outside in’ thinking. In other words, look at things from an end user’s perspective when planning – ask yourself how will people consume the service and what experience do you want them to have? It is unlikely that a single cloud will be suitable for all your applications so build a layered cloud strategy for each of the capabilities. Where possible, avoid a straight ‘lift and shift’ of the physical data centre into a cloud environment and instead take the opportunity to redesign business processes and redeploy to gain the full benefit from your cloud transformation.
- Break down your transformation programme into manageable chunks. Rather than carry out a sweeping enterprise cloud migration, focus on one workload at a time to reduce the gap between the discovery phase and execution or your discovery may become out-of-date. Start small!
- Focus on business outcomes. Prioritise workloads according to whether they will add value to the business and create agility where this is needed.
- Set meaningful success criteria. As with any business decision, whether to move applications to the cloud should be based on the anticipated business benefits, not the technical achievements that make this happen. (Just because something can be done doesn’t mean it should be done).
Sungard Availability Services provides an end-to-end modular cloud migration service that helps reduce risk and complexity. As part of this process we help customers map the world around them and identify their needs.
 Source: Gartner Symposium ITXPO
 Source: IDC FutureScape: Worldwide IT Industry 2017 Predictions (IDC #USA41895616, November 2016)