Everything should go cloud now, right?

By | 5 minute read | May 26, 2020

From time to time, we invite industry thought leaders to share their opinions and insights on current technology trends on the IBM Systems IT Infrastructure blog. The opinions in these posts are their own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of IBM.

The state of cloud today

We are now at the stage where the majority of easy workloads have been shifted, representing an estimated 20 percent of compute moved across. We now enter the next phase. This is where the harder workloads will be migrated, those that will likely bring the most advantage to the business and the customer in moving to the cloud. This shift represents more than a simple technology change and will lead to new ways of working, where we shall see the reaping of the optimal benefits of cloud compute.

However, this will be the harder phase and remains the phase where many applications may be found too hard or inappropriate to port for potential benefits. New applications will still get provisioned that do not fit cloud and will remain on premises.

Digital transformation projects are often correlated with everything cloud. And yet, according to an Everest Group survey[1], due to this 73 percent of enterprises failed to provide any business value whatsoever from their digital transformation efforts.

A transformation is taking something from one state to another, to gain benefit and upside. A digital transformation purely aligns to it being a technical change; you change form factor from one technology approach to another, but this does not necessitate an improvement or transformation of the business process.

Too many assume a digital transformation is the process of moving from legacy on-premises to a cloud-based solution. It should mean a review of processes and technical approaches to gain maximum business advantage for both users and customers, and this may include both hosted and on-premises cloud as appropriate.

IDC stated that by 2020, 55 percent[2] of organizations will be digitally determined, and if they are not, they shall be digitally distressed. We have seen a continued disruption of traditional organizations with many large brand names struggling, restricting, being acquired or simply going out of business through digital distress. They simply have not adjusted to the persona needs of their customer in delivering an omni-channel digital experience. Those lacking effective digitization with speed will risk their business legacy being marginalized or totally disrupted. Technology and its affordability are no longer the barrier; the willingness, capability and effectiveness of the digital change journey will be the determining factors for future success. The challenge facing most businesses now comes from selection of the right form factor or cloud type for the right compute need and reducing the risk that a selection now will provide a restrictive future lock-in commitment!

Applications are everything

This need is the driver of application-level compute demands, application selections driving the underlying platform, much like we experienced in the good old days when organizations found themselves with mixed UNIX, Novell Netware, Lan Manager, NT, and VM environments, driven by the applications selected and the operating systems required to run them. Mixed hybrid and multicloud environments have become the norm, not by design, but by osmosis. We must accept that it is a multicloud world that we will exist in and that the luxury to select one singular public cloud platform now and for the future is an assumed expectation.

One cloud doesn’t fit all

The right cloud for a specific application is determined by individual discrete metrics for that app with different app vendors offering varying integration levels for different platforms with different capabilities. This makes it nearly impossible to utilize one cloud platform across all application needs and not be restricting your future flexibility and freedom of choice to other application choices.

Multicloud is a must as we progress forward in a world where digital and first to market will increasingly distance the “haves” and “have nots”. The digital customer is demanding more of all providers, and the consumer will expect agility from their provider or simply have freedom of choice from those who deliver. Multiclouds have the ability to offer great flexibility. However, challenges of compliance, skill sets, development specifics, monitoring and security still remain factors to overcome. The cloud, the network and IT services are converging. Hybrid and multicloud are becoming the norm and a high percentage of workloads are still on-premises. With these in mind it is critical that any cloud transformation accommodates co-existence, flexibility and portability.

The right platform for the right need, the ability to co-exist more effectively and easily and to deliver competitive business advantage is key in today’s economy; however, based on the recent Forrester study 39 percent have achieved a loss of competitive edge as an IT organization, not a gain! What is also clear from the study and from my engagement with leading business clients is that delaying decisions and investment in refreshes and upgrades is not a saving but a hindrance and has far greater cost and negative impact on the business performance.

The Forrester study from IBM cited that key drivers behind the multicloud strategy of clients included: higher performance, flexibility, improved customer experience and the ability to support change. In today’s pressurized world with customers who demands more, employees who expect more, and a business likely built in the past, the ability to transform, adjust and become agile and open to more rapid change is critical.

Achieving this is not a one-size-fits-all fix and is certainly not an easy task that is solved by a single platform or vendor. Hybrid cloud strategies have developed too quickly, become the norm, and have been accepted as the appropriate model for the forward-thinking organization.

Businesses from the largest to the smallest firms are finding that despite the promised land of single vendor-sourced cloud offerings, that in reality the mixing of cloud platforms across Saas, PaaS and IaaS from multiple vendors is quickly becoming the norm.  In order to deliver the maximum upside outcome for the business there is a growing understanding and receptiveness that the true cloud world . . .  will be a hybrid and multicloud world.

[1] https://www.everestgrp.com/2019-08-why-digital-transformations-fail-3-exhausting-reasons-blog-51164.html

[2] https://www.idc.com/ap/pulse/2018-october