The 20/20 Vision Of Cloud

Ian Moyse, Board Member, Cloud Industry Forum andMember TechUK Cloud Leadership Committee

What an eye opener 2020 has been! Not just for the social aspect affecting us all as individual citizens, but as a foundation of change and reflection for businesses as to what is ‘business as usual’ and how digitally ready were you?  Technology innovation has been accelerating rapidly as we have all witnessed around us with the proliferation of smartphones, Internet of Things (IOT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotics, Drones and the growing reliance on cloud.

The 2020 disruption point exposed a number of key edicts to the masses ;

  • A broad range of businesses did not have the disaster recovery and business continuity means at their disposal that would have been assumed to be in place
  • There is broad talk of Digital transformation and agility, but less who are walking the walk, let alone running with it. We have a long way to go.
  • That the elasticity of cloud computing is a truth. Take Zoom (an Oracle customer) for example whose daily usage rose from 10m to over 300m active sessions

We have experienced a rapid enforced change in working practises. Whilst Working from home (WFH) was not the unheard-of from yesteryear, it was still not mainstream across lines of business such as backoffice staff and certainly not across businesses on masse at the same time! We have all watched as large relied on workforces at call and contact centres have in the most, found it hard to operate; examples are rife of businesses unable to take calls and whose customer experience has suddenly taking a big back step. 

54% of HR leaders indicated that poor technology and/or infrastructure for remote working is the biggest barrier to effective remote working in their organization. (Source : Gartner, Coronavirus in Mind: Make Remote Work Successful, 5 March 2020)

This is not through the lack of available capability as cloud has changed the landscape of yesteryear to one where more is possible today, remotely, and flexibly, more affordably than ever before.  Compute power has continued to decrease whilst function and ability has increased. Not so long ago the smaller business was forced to select difference solutions than the enterprise size client, not able to afford the infrastructure required to operate many products. Cloud flattened this, allowing large compute power to be digested in affordable fashion be it through shared multi-tenancy or simply through the form factor offering of pay for what you use compute.

What we are seeing is the validation of cloud, its flexibility and its power to allow a business to quickly pivot when required.  The panacea is to be able to reduce costs when required, for example at a time when people are furloughed and throughput for a business is lower, can you reduce compute costs to what is required at the off peak period. Conversely where you have seen, as Zoom has experienced, a massive spike in demand which given any business forecasting would not have been expected to this scale; the ability to fulfil that demand rapidly and effectively. Imagine that Zoom had needed a month or more to scale up for the demand thrust upon the online conferencing and video platforms; opportunity would have been lost to competitors in a devastating fashion. The Zoom cloud story of rapid capability can be read here.

Cloud is not the be all solution for everything in every situation for every business. Whilst I am an advocate for cloud, having been focal in the sector for nigh on 14 years, I also respect that no one solution or form factor has ever been right for everyone. We do not al drive the same cars, use the same smartphones, nor select the same technology vendor for all requirements. Many still maintain concerns over cloud for security, data sovereignty, vendor lock in (concerned over ingress and egress). However it cannot be dismissed that without cloud and the flexibility it provides, (many a time behind the scenes to aforementioned AI, IOT alongside Big Data and smart apps) we would not be in the fortunate place we are today to be able to work remotely, anytime, anyplace on any device.

An area often undervalued is the efficiency, integration and cooperation of supply chains that new form factor cloud solutions can bring. This need is now heightened by the financial implications of the pandemic enforced impact. What do I mean by this, well take a business that in itself could operate efficiently and employed all the tools and processes to enable continuity in this period. If a key part of their supply chain Is not in the same position this could detrimentally reverse their ability to operate. More of this can be found at the Oracle blog here.

What we have witnessed and continue to see is the difference that a true digital transformation brings. For many organisations who have and are experiencing hypergrowth, they were born in the cloud, meaning they started from a point of no legacy applications, infrastructure, process and mindsets that held them back from maximising the opportunity presented by the modern buyer. What we are experiencing now is a hyper digital disruption. Not a drive to change driven by a competitive landscape, but one driven by your own foundations being broken up whilst you also tried to keep up with your competitive Jones’s, a perfect storm that many are struggling to weather.

The year of cloud has been professed many a time. Through the speed of innovation, continued reduction in lifetime cost and now incredibly proven flexibility and scalability of cloud, I believe we are now in the decade of cloud where we shall see the emotive and political barriers lifted and a greater drive to move the more challenging and legacy workloads to cloud based architectures.

“Thanks to cloud, currently the infrastructure market is the only segment in the global IT industry to still show growth in 2020.“ Source – Statista

The majority % of legacy workloads still remains in on premise compute.  Why? Because the harder the change the more it has been deferred, delaying the cost, risk, pain and work.

Moving to a brave new world involves pain, as the adage goes no pain no gain. We are now seeing a time where many are experiencing greater pain than the move and investment would have incurred. Transforming a workload to cloud to maximise the outcome is not a lift and shift to someone else’s tin; it involves a transformation both of technology stack, process and people. The willingness to do things differently is now upon us all as our hands have been forced and customer expectations of engagement and service will now be changed to a new world order. Aligning to this will involve a willingness to think and deliver differently, leading to new requirements and challenges not catered for in legacy models.

We are now operating business as unusual and need to become more agile and able to pivot more than ever expected prior. Cloud in whatever form (Saas, Paas, Iaas, Hybrid, Multi-cloud) is no longer a might have, but for most a must have.  There is a requirement to be less tied to physical location, equipment and process and to operate in model that enables you to float along with the changing tides and not battle against them. The ability to plan for the unplannable sounds unfeasible, bit structuring around this ethos allows for flexibility to be built at a DNA level.

The tactical and temporary fix that many have enabled in this unusual time has been out of necessity, but has no long term gain, much as ‘keeping the lights on’ in IT has been a necessary evil for decades, but has not delivered long term value or improvement.

Digital change is now a must, For many it will be too late, having been impacted by an inability to operate fully for a prolonged period. For others it is a wake up call that deferred investment or creepage due to the effort required is now outweighed by the risk of not taking action.

We now are in a time where greater bandwidth for the masses and the coming 5G is required, work anywhere devices will become the norm across lines of business and worker profiles, working practises will change and processes and technology will need to support this new operational normal.  Cloud in whatever form, be it embedded as part of SaaS and IOT or out front as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is going to surpass previous barriers and accelerate even faster as our demand to consume compute is driven by the new mindset we all now have to adopt.

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