Modernising with cloud technologies: do nothing, do something – or do the right thing

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In this brave new world of heavily technology-driven organisations, where recent events have shown that organisations need to respond rapidly in uncertain times, we have become accustomed to gathering vast amounts of data and employing systems to control and manipulate it. Often, our goal is to build more efficient practices and concepts.

But what about integrated legacy technology? Which way should we turn to protect and ensure our IT estate is on track?

I got together with Jamie Frampton, IBM Cloud Management and Integration for Retail, to discuss IBM’s approach to this business challenge. We got to grips with the age-old on-prem or cloud debate and discussed forward-thinking solutions.

Jamie: Every client we speak to knows the advantages of the cloud – whether that’s better access to vast amounts of computer power or the ability to maintain hardware more effectively.

“Cloud” is an umbrella term that describes everything an organisation consumes that isn’t on-premise. The organisation has the option of accessing pure public cloud, building a private cloud environment or merely consuming a monthly SaaS subscription. We’re increasingly seeing that organisations use a combination of these approaches. This confirms IBM’s belief that the future will, by definition, be hybrid and multicloud.

Neil: Many of the changes we’ve seen over the last decade have provoked the hybrid multicloud debate. Legacy systems have been shelved and isolated; left out of the mix because they are deemed “hard to move”. When faced with the decision to rip them up and start again for a cloud initiative or wrap services around them to ensure a hybrid connectivity approach, it’s often seen by the board as additional cost with little return on investment. How does a typical IBM customer make that decision?

Jamie: We recommend organisations accept that their strategy will be multicloud, incorporating a mixture of on-prem apps and systems. These legacy apps and methods will likely be part of the environment for a while yet.

Once the strategy has been defined, complexity and data are the key components that drive the next phase of adoption. One drags the other and vice-versa.

Neil: Yes, those are very real challenges. I believe that not every element of the IT estate should be cloud-based, for a number of reasons. By enabling their current technical infrastructure to cater for a hybrid multicloud world, organisations get the best of both worlds for their data. Data is king when it comes to future technology strategies. Access, location, readiness to interconnect and size are very relevant points.

Jamie: Let’s talk about data. There are so many new terms and imperatives that organisations are suddenly expected to understand. But they have to do one thing well to begin with: connect their data. If they don’t create a modern, enterprise-grade integration capability, then all of the above is meaningless. How can organisations analyse data they can’t access? How can they learn from trends they can’t see? Connecting data from inside and outside the environment is the fundamental way to become a truly data-driven business.

Neil: Organisations must be careful not to produce data for data’s sake, otherwise they could end up with another problem: too much data. This may sound counterproductive when discussing data analysis for event-driven outcomes – but aiming for “meaningful” data gathering and analysis is more sustainable than trying to capture every element of data production. I understand the benefits of predictive data analysis, but enterprises should be wary of over-complicating those analytics with multiple toolsets and disparate providers.

Jamie: So how does more data lead to greater complexity? Before the world of cloud, an organisation would keep all apps and systems in its on-prem environment. Data was contained within this, and system data could be accessed from a similar place. With cloud, data now resides across multiple environments and locations and takes on many different forms, which increases the complexity of connecting it. To be agile, get the most of cloud and to ensure the organisation doesn’t drown under that complexity, integration should be a key consideration.

Neil: I think what you are saying is that they should think laterally, not vertically, when it comes to technology consumption. Innovation will organically grow to embed digitalisation from legacy to current-day technical strategies. Agility is critical when discussing future technology strategies.

Let’s face it, nobody wants to be the decision-maker who signs off the wrong solution for their business. What is IBM’s stance on this? How do you integrate with an agile enterprise?

Jamie: Agile integration is a core part of IBM’s methodology when facing this multicloud challenge. Organisations need to consider the way people, processes and architectures will change, not just the underlying technology. They may wish to create Containers of Integration capability or modernise integration within the organisation. IBM’s Cloud Pak for Integration offers a containerised platform, which supports a move to a hybrid, multicloud approach.

Neil: I like the idea of a Cloud Pak approach as it offers templates for integration. I’m guessing these need to be very comprehensive and all-encompassing, given the nature of disparate legacy systems today. From what I understand, Cloud Paks work for full-stack development as well as on-premise environments.

However, I think enterprise technical estates have important decisions to make first. What’s their overall strategy around cloud-based technology? After all, it’s easier to do nothing than anything at all.

Jamie: My message to organisations is this. If you are building a cloud strategy or have one defined, it’s likely to be hybrid and multicloud. Complexity and data will increase as you branch out more to different cloud environments. Ensure you have the right approach, the right technology and the right partner to make it successful.

Neil: “Plans are nothing; planning is everything,” as Dwight Eisenhower said. This is very valid when discussing a hybrid approach to a multicloud world.

Wherever you are on your technical roadmap, one thing is for sure. A hybrid approach is here to stay for interconnectivity to other cloud-based environments – on-premise or otherwise. Take a look at what IBM is doing with Cloud Paks, the integration layer or even the missing link between on-premise and not technology? You decide!

Join us for a virtual event on 11th June to gain insights from IBM and Omdia industry experts on how you can assess and develop a strategy for applications, services and data that are central to your business. Check out the agenda here.

Technology Influencer advisor and consultant

Jamie Frampton

IBM Cloud Management and Integration for Retail

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