[Column] Andrew Cruise: Understand, plan and prepare to drive cloud success
While cloud uptake is increasing, many companies are still struggling with their strategies, because they get caught up in the hype, rather than crafting an effective strategy, says Andrew Cruise, Managing Director of Routed, a local VMware Cloud Verified provider and VMware Principal Partner.
There can be little doubt that the cloud is the platform fuelling the digital transformation of enterprises. However, despite this fact, many CIOs have fumbled their strategies, because succeeding in implementing cloud remains a complex undertaking.
There are several drivers for cloud’s increasing uptake, including the increased efficiency and flexibility it offers with regard to managing and developing business processes. While older organisations are undertaking digital transformation projects, newer businesses aim to be cloud-native, kick-starting their businesses in the cloud from the outset.
However, getting the cloud journey right the first time can be tricky, since many don’t know how to blueprint for success, and end up making basic mistakes when they should know better. There are, nonetheless, certain tips that should help CIOs reduce frustration and avoid failure.
The first thing to note though, is that regardless of what you have been told, cloud is not some kind of silver bullet that offers the answer to everything. In addition, remember that the archetypal hybrid or multi-cloud concept has become needlessly complicated by a wide range of definitions.
Perhaps the first bit of advice to CIOs is not to treat the cloud journey as a race. Figure out what you want to achieve with your shift to the cloud before taking any steps to implement it, and once you know, you can decide on the strategy that suits the business.
It’s also imperative to consider other factors, beyond the type of cloud you want to utilise. For one, it’s critical to focus on the network layer, because if your network is not efficient and effective, whatever cloud approach you choose will fail. And it’s not only about network uptime, but also about the network’s latency, so it’s vital that CIOs fully understand this layer before even contemplating any switch to the cloud.
Another mistake many organisations have made is in choosing the cloud provider first, and then trying to make the chosen cloud fit the company’s business needs and outcomes. A better approach it to first understand what you want to achieve through your move to the cloud, and then choose a provider who can enable you.
A cloud journey takes a lot of thinking and planning, and CIOs must understand that this is a long-term strategy, not a quick fix. Therefore, ensure you have an effective roadmap, knowledge of the data you will use, a strong understanding of who exactly needs access to this data, and know how you will secure and transport the data - all before you even contemplate seeking the cloud you wish to place it in.
Ultimately the key is to understand that the cloud is an operating model, not a product - so the first question you ask is ‘what is the business outcome I need from this?’ It will always be your particular business requirements that determine which cloud is most suitable.
Another critical line of questioning is around security. While security remains a concern for those moving to the cloud, the fact is that while you are hosted in a co-location facility, the security will invariably be better than what you have at your own office, but it remains a shared responsibility between yourself and the cloud provider, across all layers of the stack.
And what is still the biggest threat to cloud security? Ultimately, it’s the attack surface exposed at the front end, and the fact that in the end, its not cloud itself but employees and end users that may prove to be lax on security. The problem is, no matter how good your joint security is, it can be undone by something as simple as someone’s failure to use strong passwords.
This is why it’s vital to educate all employees around the importance of strong security, whether you move to cloud or not. Also, if you are a multinational, always be aware of global laws - like the US Cloud and Patriot Acts - and how these might impact on both your security and your data privacy.
In the end, a move to cloud doesn’t have to be fraught with tension, as long as organisations undertaking these journeys don’t get caught up in the cloud hype, and focus on solving their business needs. In the next few years, we will no doubt see an increasing trajectory of cloud uptake, but the success of these implementations will largely depend on how well these enterprises understand, plan and prepare their cloud strategies before actually launching any type of cloud implementation.