Do we need Cloud services?
A lot of companies are actively adopting cloud technologies, while others actively chose to stay away from it. There are various reasons for both paths, depending on a plethora of circumstances, with the solution, like in so many cases, being somewhere in the middle.
Nowadays not using any actual cloud services is quite difficult for organizations. It has become just so convenient. Without even thinking too much about it, you might already be using subscription-based email services, like Office 365, or using a cloud-based CRM, like SalesForce. But if you are one of the companies, who managed to stay away from cloud services or are now thinking, whether adopting more cloud services would be beneficial to you, here are some questions that might help you decide.
Arguably any company is an IT company in these times and for most companies undergoing digital transformation software or online service development has become a major revenue channel and strategic competitive advantage. However, there's a difference between a company that has been operating their IT infrastructure for years and constantly improving it versus someone who only relies on the IT infrastructure working simply to fulfill their daily activities and sees it as a burden. It is not that you cannot build your infrastructure to be on a similar level of reliability and tailor it to your needs, bringing the operational expenses down. But that typically requires a large-scale infrastructure and dedicated and competent IT teams. Of course, when it comes to advanced cloud-born services, such as Artificial Intelligence, DNS, Serverless, there is the only way – so if you want your digital products include advanced technology, you can only get them in public cloud platforms.
If changes to your business are not coming quickly enough and your IT department is being seen as someone who takes too long to make things happen, a few things can be at play. Maybe there were problems in capacity planning? Or with the equipment delivery? Or building some solution from scratch took much longer than expected? Or maybe the provisioning of new resources is still being done completely manual. The cloud is not a silver bullet, but for many companies migration to cloud and refactor of their infrastructure/applications was a crucial change in IT department transformation – from business driven IT to business driving IT.
Maybe you're developing digital/software products in a very fast paced environment? Then probably you want your time-to-market be faster than you already have. Or maybe you need to provision your infrastructure quickly for your developers to enable the development of the next great idea? Or basically if you want your developers be more productive and spend more of their time on developing added value products instead of taking care on operations and manual deployments. Either way, you're not likely to survive without adopting cloud native services and DevOps practices. And while DevOps is definitely not the adoption of the public cloud. It is about improving your software release pipeline, which includes the automation of infrastructure. The cloud vendors have worked hard to provide access to their platforms programmatically and give you the tools to make it easier. Third party tools are now widely adopted to make use of it as well.
Oh, and when your application actually becomes successful, you will not have to worry about when you will get new servers. You will be able to spin a hundred new instances of your service if need be. Also, if your business grows globally, public cloud lets you forget about dealing with remote datacenter providers to host your lonely server that should assure better service for local customers.
Are your server's long past their lifecycle? Is your datacenter actually your broom closet? Or maybe you still haven't managed to update your Windows Server 2008 machines to a later version? Both aging hardware and software, especially if they're out of support is a huge risk for the business, which relies on IT to fulfill its day-to-day operations. Lift-and-shift migration to the cloud is often the quickest way to start resolving that. It might not be an instant fix, but one of the easiest moves in the right direction.
Adopting "the cloud" might seem like a big commitment with a lot of planning and a long transitional phase involved. That is usually true for large companies with a lot of things to migrate. But the size of the company is an obstacle for cloud technologies. Especially with more and more SaaS services it is often worth looking into adopting a subscription-based offering rather than maintaining an aging system on your own. Need help in evaluating your particular scenario? There's more than a few, that competent Managed Services Providers (MSPs) could help with.
There are still talks about cloud bringing the total cost of ownership for IT up. However, it is often just part of the story. Sometimes the increased pricing is observed, when the servers and systems have been lifted-and-shifted from on-premise to the cloud without much thought on how to better leverage the higher (PaaS or SaaS) services and optimize the solution. Of course, initially that might not be possible, but maybe that server, where a single cron job is running to generate that report every month could just be transformed into a function, which would run for pennies a year? So if you start with lift-and-shift, that’s a perfect first step into cloud, however much better TCOs and higher business value will be witnessed when you replatform and refactor your applications (see graph below). Besides, with the lack of on-premise infrastructure to support, the IT department could be doing a lot better things, like actually optimize or modernize the running solution.
Cloud providers are among the companies with the highest security standards for their infrastructure and are constantly audited by third party auditors. However, the customer still has to ensure that he continues to build up their solution following all of the good security practices, just like on any other infrastructure. You can take a look at our previous article covering this topic in more detail [link to the article].
When looking to get your product for a particular industry, the audit usually involves checking multiple aspects of your solution, including your facilities and network. That broom closet datacenter is not really going to cut it if you want to provide credit card services and be PCI-DSS compliant.
Having a global spanning IT infrastructure, which serves your customers equally as good in Europe, Asia and the US historically has not been one of the easiest tasks to achieve, that’s why we saw banks and other global corporations building their private regional datacenters. To be frank, let’s not forget that this phenomenon was the reason public clouds came into existing – Amazon simply got an idea how to better utilize their expensive global datacenter infrastructure when there is no Black-Friday or other occasion sales and the customer loads are low. Anyway, let’s get back to the topic, why public cloud can help our business grow globally. Public Cloud providers have very robust networking across the globe and CDN services that allow you to serve your content or service almost equally as good anywhere in the world. And if we mentioned a robust global network, mitigating risks such as DDoS is simply not possible without it.
One of the frequent fears in cloud adoption is vendor lock-in. "If you're with Azure, you're married with Microsoft for life". That's definitely not the rule of thumb, but something that requires some additional planning. Actually this is the first question the competent MCS provider should ask you when planning your cloud migration. If your business needs platform flexibility, there are ways to assure that, e. g. by carefully selecting vendor agnostic services and adjusting your solution architecture respectively. Unfortunately, companies often strive to create their cloud adoption strategy, however it is worth not only to carefully plan migration to cloud, but also to plan your potential strategy to leave that particular vendor. There are ways to go around that starting from doing your due diligence in selecting the services for which you could find replacements elsewhere to building a multicloud strategy. It is important, however, to actually prioritize your requirements and do not think of a cloud provider as just a VM hosting platform.