It might have been around as a concept for more than a decade but, for many organizations, cloud computing is now becoming core to the way they can actually deliver their ‘business’. Others, however, are joining the ‘cloud club’ – often, it seems, without really knowing why. They just want cloud.  The problem is, they are finding it is not as simple as they thought. It’s not just the next place to ‘run your stuff’, but a whole new world of opportunities.

Cloud should not be about making the same mistakes you already made but cheaper somewhere else, it should be about learning from the past, righting those wrongs and doing things differently.

The bottom line is that nearly everyone is behind the curve on using the cloud, and the opportunities it presents. In the EU, only a third of businesses are in the cloud. Given the seismic acceleration of the digital economy in 2020, it is inevitable that this percentage will change, as businesses try to create new, app-first business models. They’re doing this to capture market share and building stronger relationships with customers; cloud will play a major role in that success, enabling the right apps to run in the right environments, to deliver the right experiences. 

It’s the way the world is going: digitally transformed organisations are projected to contribute to more than half of the global GDP by 2023, accounting for $53.3 trillion.

But adopting cloud solutions and services without really knowing why you need them for your IT, and more importantly, what they deliver for the business, is probably not the right strategy. 

Simply wanting to join the club is not the starting point. Without knowledge of what it can do for your business, it will never live up to its ideal, but simply be a place to repeat mistakes in a slightly different way.

So, if you are thinking about ‘going to the cloud’, think again. 

 From cloud-centric to app-centric

Today, businesses must recognise the problems they are likely to encounter tomorrow. They need to understand what the digital and application landscape is going to look like in three to five years and make decisions accordingly. Data is going to be everywhere, with the volume created, captured, copied, and consumed annually worldwide set to more than double in the next 3 years. And increasingly, it is going to be residing anywhere but the traditional datacenter. 

This is going to have a major influence on how companies engage with customers, and in turn how they use apps to facilitate these interactions. That’s why rushing into cloud now could well hamper how effectively business-critical apps that need to use distributed data in the future can operate. An app that does great things now, for example, is going to need to adapt over time, and the environment it is hosted in will need to do the same. An app that’s been deployed somewhere just because it’s ‘in the cloud’ could well struggle to meet those requirements. So ‘app first’ is your first strategic guiding light. 

Then there’s the challenge that, even as they rush to the cloud, many organizations are still unpicking their legacy infrastructure, technology they’ve probably held on to for longer than they should because, frankly, it was so resource-intensive implementing it they didn’t feel they could cut their losses earlier and didn’t have an exit plan. From spiraling costs to deploying environments without first considering how apps are going to use them, there is a real risk of experiencing the same problems that legacy IT created, just somewhere else this time.

Ultimately, however, the biggest issue is that there isn’t one silver bullet. When we talk about cloud, we’re actually talking about a whole variety, from companies running apps on-prem in their data center, through software-as-a-service (SaaS)apps like Salesforce and Workday, even app components as a service like communications, to the public ones of the likes of Google and Amazon, all the way to highly distributed ‘edge clouds’. There are even sector-specific clouds, such as the financial sector developing a FinTech cloud, with all the compliance and security controls required for a highly regulated sector. CIOs expect the number of clouds – private, public and edge environments – they use to build, manage and run their apps to increase 53% in the next three years. This proliferation brings with it complexity – a VMware study noted that 63% of organizations state inconsistencies between clouds as one of the top multi-cloud challenges.

To business-centric, for any app, over any cloud

This is why it’s so important to understand what cloud will do for the business as a whole, and specifically how the business can use cloud services to develop, modernize and deploy apps as fast and securely as possible. Just imagine what a business could achieve if it didn’t matter what cloud their apps were in because they could use the same tools to manage everything? 

What you should be doing now is “Application Portfolio Planning”.  That’s looking at every application and working out the roadmap for it – does it stay? Do you rewrite it locally or in the cloud? Is the answer to migrate it to run on a cloud? Or just bin it and move to SaaS?  Don’t plan based on where something is or what it runs on – that’s bottom up. Plan based on what it does now and what you want it to do in the future.

Why? Because it is the app that is the gold in the digital economy. Just think, the number of applications has increased six-fold in recent years, and by 2024 more than three-quarters of a billion applications will be developed. The cloud is thus the developer platform, the security blanket, and the enabler. The foundation both for modernising existing apps and developing tomorrow’s next-gen applications.  That’s what cloud should be about. Providing the environment and the options CIOs need to drive the full-scale modernization of their business, deliver the operational capabilities demanded of digital businesses, and build and host applications in a way that is future-proofed.

That means delivering modern apps at the speed the business demands; operating them across any cloud, with the flexibility to run apps in the datacenter, at the edge or in any cloud; and driving rapid transformation while delivering resiliency and security, in what is an unpredictable world.

This is all made possible through a single platform optimised for all applications: virtualised and containerised, artificial intelligence and machine learning, traditional and modern. A platform that can be used across all clouds, from private to hyperscaler, with consistent infrastructure and operations, thus reducing complexity, risk and total cost of ownership. 

But businesses need a fast and simple path to the cloud, and the flexibility to choose any cloud. Organizations can match the needs of each app to the optimal cloud, with the freedom to use the most powerful cloud services and app modernization. And to be able to deliver cloud migration without the cost, complexity or risk of refactoring. 

The right environments for the right apps

But what does that look like in practice? Here’s a handful of scenarios:

  • You’re a public health provider, with a variety of systems, services and applications that serve patients and employees. Some services, such as appointment booking apps, the front ends of digital workspace platforms and entertainment networks for in-patients, might quite happily sit in a public cloud; but patient data, the interface that controls and secures your connected generators and other utilities, may need to be on-premises, some in edge devices, with much higher levels of security.
  • You’re a multinational bank, one of the new challenger brands. Your whole selling point is that you are customer-first, with an intuitive app that acts as a window to consumers’ financial services. Again, to manage scale and agility, the front-end of that app will happily sit in a public cloud, but the data it collects may need to be securely stored in either a private cloud or on-premises. It may need to be the latter to comply with financial regulatory and compliance legislation, along with legislation surrounding data sovereignty. 
  • You’re a retailer gathering lots of customer data. You’re gaining insights from it in the cloud with large scale ML, and using that to then train artificial intelligence models that run in-store to interact with shoppers’ mobile phones in near real-time, providing help, advice and guidance (such as price comparison) to customers.
  • Imagine being a logistics provider with a new eCommerce service that allows customers to book online. During the traditional peak season, you manage the increased demand by moving the front end services onto a public cloud, ensuring you have the speed, scale and resources to stop the app from toppling over. Once the demand drops off, you scale the app back into a private cloud where you can maybe better control the operating costs, while still keeping the service available to customers.  Maybe you then consider moving it all to the cloud in future, or maybe it’s already all in one cloud, but that cloud provider is now suddenly a competitor and you want to relocate it to a different cloud.

These are all examples of how businesses are using the array of environments at their disposal to operate more effectively. While there’s always going to be variation between different businesses, having a cloud foundation that provides the freedom to enjoy a true multi cloud strategy, running apps on more than one cloud is the goal. And it is the hybrid cloud, providing consistent infrastructure, management and operations between the private and public clouds and where apps can easily be moved with no modifications, that will deliver that vision.

A hybrid future 

This hybrid cloud future is unavoidable. Yet those businesses that are blinded by the lure of the cloud could end up recreating many of the issues they were attempting to get away from. Your business goals should always be your starting point for any project. Then you should assess how a digital strategy will deliver it, underpinned by the right environments, including cloud. A mix of clouds that are transparent, secure and potentially interchangeable, to meet the needs of apps, and more importantly users, both now and in the future, is essential. 

The cloud should be about liberating and elevating your applications and their architecture, not just building them again in a different silo somewhere else.

The businesses that take this approach to the cloud that will be the ones that build the environments their apps need, deliver the experiences users are demanding, and ultimately take advantage of the data-driven economy.  

Thinking cloud? It’s time to think again. 

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