Public cloud services are becoming more appealing as a deployment option for an increasing number of workloads, applications and business solutions. Public cloud offers a low cost, low barrier to entry proposition. Armed only with a credit card, tech professionals are able to ‘self-serve’ and get started quickly on a massive choice of services and apps.
However, capitalising fully on the freedom afforded by public cloud services also requires a cultural shift that some businesses are simply not ready for – in particular, governance of a decentralised, ‘need it now’ approach requires a high level of maturity and specialism, which can be difficult to fulfil in house. If left unmanaged, or without full consideration of the potential for error, overspend or risk, the flexibility of public cloud services can instead lead to future growing pains in terms of overall cost, durability and security as the solution matures.
Aside from the solution and cultural approach, one of the biggest issues organisations face is human resources. It’s a familiar tech challenge remastered for the age of public cloud, specific to individual business and technology objectives – and can be boiled down to ‘3Cs’:
Creating environments and instances in public cloud is a simple premise, however, the practice of finding the right people to create a secure, highly available, integrated and well-supported software solution is not. It is important that people with the right skills and knowledge to design, build and support the solution over the lifetime of the application should feature early on in discussions to help build the plan. Although it may seem obvious, it is surprising how often this is not the case as departments create and grow accounts outside the central control of IT.
Many businesses look to their existing IT teams to undertake a public cloud infrastructure transformation and ongoing management, but up-skilling in this specialist domain is also a challenge:
- The capabilities and services offered by public cloud are rapidly and constantly changing, so it can be hard to keep skills current and relevant
- Staff retention often becomes an issue – skills are in high demand and attract relatively high rewards, so poaching of talent is rife. Retention can also be an issue when a big project ends. Post-deployment, businesses may not have anything meaty or exciting enough on an ongoing basis for their skilled resource to get their teeth into – and do not underestimate the lure of an intellectual challenge to an AWS or Azure specialist
- The people who develop the solutions tend to end up as the ones supporting it, and not by design. This requires a different skill and mindset – think DevOps without the Ops
Capacity is about the right people with the right skills. Do businesses deploying services in public clouds have enough skilled and available people to support their systems, today and tomorrow?
The concept of a static technical workforce with siloed specialisms is not well aligned to the premise of public cloud solutions. Elastic supply can create dynamic demand for skilled services – businesses may need to ‘burst’ temporarily from a people perspective to accelerate or derisk service delivery, effect a migration or meet specific project requirements.
Capability structure is obviously crucial to effective capacity management. Lightweight, flat structures and processes advocating collaboration are naturally better suited to DevOps, which corresponds with public cloud. Technical resources have to be equipped to support the business in an increasingly fluid way and the most effective teams are often multi-disciplined with (metaphorically) multi-lingual and ambidextrous capabilities.
Clarity of purpose
Organisations need to ask themselves on a continuous basis whether their valuable resources and workloads are in the ‘best execution venue’ for their skillsets. Internal experts are better set to drive innovation that creates a competitive edge or elevates the customer experience, rather than being absorbed in infrastructure management.
How do managed cloud providers help?
The public cloud proposition is extremely compelling, yet many businesses face at least one of the following challenges: limited budget, time, skills, resources, or vision to invest in internal capability today.
Working with a managed cloud provider helps mitigate resource bottlenecks and risks, dynamically and cost effectively to create and manage an internal talent pool. Consider also the ongoing training and tools these teams require to perform (for monitoring and alerting, backup & restore, authentication etc) – whose ROI has to be measured against business outcomes. The managed cloud provider will also be able to offer economies of experience, such as best practice architectures that accelerate solution development plus skills and insight that can be translated into custom development.
The applicability of the ‘managed proposition’ to public cloud contexts becomes clear where tools and automation processes are complex, deep expertise relatively rare and the cost of management failure (typically around solution durability and cost control) high and well documented.
Public Cloud solutions
To use a building analogy, even with limited DIY skills, it is rather easy to construct a garden shed (your quick start public cloud solution), or transfer an existing one from a neighbour’s garden (think technical lift and shift). The structure can then be used to hold gardening tools and the lawnmower (read application code and data).
Sheds are useful and fulfil a temporary or ‘good enough’ requirement for contents not significant enough to merit their own space in the house. When it comes to building something habitable, most people would consider engaging an estate agent or an architect and builder to deliver a home with running water, electricity (monitoring and alerting), a number of separate rooms and a hall for welcoming visitors (semi-segregated areas for security).
Building your public cloud environment
Few people design and build a house on their own, particularly considering the number of different skills and trades involved. Instead, most give the work to people with the required technical qualifications, to ensure things are put together correctly and operate efficiently.
It may be a laboured analogy (and it’s probably also a renter’s market) but the fact is that public cloud environments are becoming a more viable option for an increasing number of scenarios – and an increasing number of businesses are moving their entire digital footprint into public cloud infrastructure. So for organisations trying to work out why their shed can’t be more like a permanent residence, it might be time to call in the professionals.