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Cloud 10 Years On: What Lessons Have Been Learned?

Monday 07 June, 2021

With Cloud deployments ranking high on IT leader agendas, we explore what lessons have been learned over the past 10 years and provide our recommendations. Our Technology and Architecture lead Vishal Patel provides his advice.

 

Key lessons learned

 
1. “Cloud” is not one thing, there are many variants which all mean very different things
 
There are many variants of “Cloud”, each of which has a different impact on the operating model of the company.  Successful organisations are those that have considered and created clear strategies on which models will be used when, and how the different models impact their internal organisation, teams and culture.  Cloud isn’t the only answer; the cloud variants are additive to the existing options. Private hosting is still very valid for certain use cases, but cloud adds other options.
 
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Note: this taxonomy does not include FaaS or specific service verticals such as DataAsAService.

2. It’s much more than just a technology change, it’s a change to the business model
 
Organisations that have treated the move to Cloud services as an “IT project” have often struggled to realise the benefits – whether commercial or operational and governance.  Whilst there may be cost savings by changing the “backend” from data centre hosting to Cloud, the bigger and more substantial opportunities are from changing not only the technology strategy towards Cloud services, but also the business model, culture, and governance. This can only be done when IT works together with the business.
 
3. Cloud is the new normal and should be part of business strategy
 
Cloud is not an “either-or” conversation anymore.  Cloud services have proven themselves over past years; indeed, many applications are now only provided in a cloud form. IT organisations and security teams need to adjust their strategies and policies to “accept, adapt and assist”, rather than “deny and govern”.
 
4. Focus on what differentiates you and commoditise the rest
 
Cloud enables a greater focus on differentiating characteristics of the business whilst allowing other applications, infrastructure and deployments to be commoditised. Use business architecture approaches to map and categorise your business requirements, capabilities and applications and then focus your resources on those differentiating / unique ones; consume services for the others. Much like the old business adage of ‘build vs buy’…  if it differentiates you as a business, then build it, otherwise buy it. This argument applies equally to data centre, hosting and Cloud services. Unless hosting your own servers in your own data centres is a business differentiator, then why not buy those services from providers whose business is hosting? Cloud also takes this a step further, into the application layer, and combines all layers of the service into one stack within a SaaS model.
 
5. Accept and embrace standard service levels
 
Organisations have to accept the providers’ SLA’s, this is the case across the various flavours of Cloud, highlighted earlier. One of the biggest benefits of Cloud services comes from the standardisation of the service, which is shared across multiple organisations, thus lowering the providers’ operating costs. Whilst the thought of regular application changes may in some areas have valid challenges, in many – when service interfaces are properly defined – this will bring genuine ongoing benefits. Cloud is more of an “evergreen continual update” lifecycle culture than historic “periodic change” technology models.
 
6. Get the operating model right
 
Companies can often find themselves disappointed when their financial case for change does not materialise and they end up finding that their Cloud services are more expensive than operating their own data centres.  Whilst the broad assumption is that Cloud services are cheaper than a data centre, companies often incur additional cost through poor governance and processes duplication. A lack of controls in managing the new services often results from not having realigned the IT organisation to the new Cloud paradigm and away from DC hosted services.
 
7. People – skills and approaches need to be adapted
 
Nobody should get left behind but many different, and some new, skills will be needed in your technology and commercial teams. Done well this is can add genuine energy & enthusiasm into technology teams.
 
8. Migrating to Cloud is ok sometimes
 
Lift & shift “outsourcing your hypervisor to a cloud” does have some use cases and benefits, but more often you’ll be rearchitecting or transforming to cloud. All are possible, but with very different benefits & timelines.
 
9. Finance models, reconciliation, licensing and commercial management are key 
 
Internal reconciliation of variable Opex bills will now be a key task, expect to utilise tooling and TBM-like approaches to assure full value and appropriate controls. Existing licence and support/maintenance models may need adjustment or become negated.
 
10. Service & data fragmentation and integration 
 
Data has gravity, applications will inevitably be sourced in a variety of fashions and locations/providers. Integration and federation of business service chains and the business data model will become increasingly complex and needs both clear strategies, focus and skills.
 
11. Hybrid & multi-cloud are valid conversations, but maybe ‘cloud brokerage’ is not worth the effort & benefit for many customers
 
The major cloud providers are stable and available in most locations, and the market drives prices more so than customer negotiations, so complex deployment brokerage technologies are currently often more cost / effort / issues than they are worth.
 
View the related blog 'Cloud: How can organisations make the case for change?'