Which apps go where? Why the cloud isn’t as straightforward as it seems
Not since the early 2000s have C-level executives devoted so much time and energy to digital initiatives; big data and mobile are just two of the technologies now being used to create new business models and transform processes. But just as we’ve seen a rise in the cash injected into the CIO budget, so too has the pressure to digitally transform and innovate, while at the same time maintaining and delivering complex applications to users.
Amid the extra pressure and scrutiny, cloud computing has emerged as something of a panacea for digital transformation, so it comes as no surprise that adoption is set to boom. IDC predicts cloud computing spend will hit $32bn in just 2015 alone, a growth of 21 per cent year on year, and our own Cloud Reality Check research found that cloud will account for over a quarter (28%) of corporate ICT budgets by 2018.
On the face of it, the cloud is undeniably good for business. Scalability, low cost, ubiquity and outsourced management of cloud services promise to make it possible for ICT to deliver new capabilities as fast as the rest of the business demands them. Applications can move from the sandbox to global production in a matter of days, rather than weeks or months.
Yet, some businesses still hold reservations over their migration journey to the cloud; they’re faced with a bumpy, complex ride. The benefits don’t seem to be adding up: 38 per cent of ICT decision makers in our research agreed that cloud in their organisation is failing to live up to its potential and we’ve also seen it slip into the ‘trough of disillusionment’, based on Gartner’s latest Emerging Technologies Hype Cycle. But why? Security, compliance and governance are all widely discussed hurdles when it comes to cloud transformation, while complexity and the need for patience, are not. And it is the latter two that are developing into several significant frustrations felt by businesses.
A complex cloud confused further by choice
Organisations are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing the type of applications and cloud platform they run. In our Cloud Reality Check research, we found on average respondents are running approximately 100 business applications and four separate cloud platforms across their businesses. But there is little consensus as to which apps sit on which platform – which are ‘cloud ready’ or ‘data centre bound’ – and whether the most critical applications can and will ever migrate. This may be because some cloud vendors aren’t doing enough to help. Almost half (41 per cent) of the respondents find managing cloud vendors confusing and challenging, with 41 per cent also stating they find migration more trouble than it is worth. With no clear direction, it can mean that ICT is not reaching its optimum effectiveness or efficiency.
Bimodal IT is holding back innovation
With so much hype surrounding cloud, it’s easy for some businesses to fall into the trap of thinking all apps belong there. However, we know from our research that 11 per cent of respondents don’t plan to migrate their most important apps into the cloud ever, with security, governance and compliance being the main reason (65 per cent.) The result is ICT departments are spending a significant amount of time maintaining the current performance of both cloud (44 per cent) and corporate data centre (55 per cent) applications, while trying to innovate at the same time. This bimodal strategy is becoming a burden for some ICT decision-makers as they struggle to run two speeds of IT. In comparison, less than a fifth of respondents are spending more time developing functionality for cloud and corporate data centre apps (17 and 11 per cent, respectively).
It’s time for a cloud reality check
Organisations are aware of the huge transformative potential of every type of cloud platform and want to invest more in it – which is clear from both ours and IDC’s research – but they are also conscious of the challenges that lie ahead.
There are two main changes we need to see for cloud to live up to its potential. Firstly, cloud vendors need to do more to make migration to cloud smoother. The low expectations of cloud from our respondents may be a reaction to the claims made by cloud providers’ that they provide simple, out-of-the box solutions to what are deeply entrenched, highly complex technological, budgetary and organisational challenges.
Secondly, businesses need to take a different approach to planning their ICT strategies. Rather than dive straight into a big transformation, it’s best to start with a smaller proof of concept project and use that to map out what your overall ICT landscape will look like. By taking the time to do this and figuring out specific requirements for each app, you can make much more informed decisions on the appropriate environments for certain apps and also avoid integration challenges.
This is something that should also be communicated to internal stakeholders in order to set the right expectations: Cloud is not a quick overnight fix to transform their business – it will require patience and tact. To attain real-world cloud, organisations must also scrutinise providers and find a solution that can span different types of cloud and in-house infrastructure, and ensure legacy systems operate faultlessly, so ICT departments can concentrate on broader digitisation efforts.
*The Cloud Reality Check survey took place during February and March 2015, and was carried out by independent consultancy Vanson Bourne who polled 1,580 CIOs, IT Directors and senior IT decision makers, of companies with more than 250 employees in the UK, USA, France, Germany, Spain and the Benelux region.
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