The digital imperative
The digital imperative is one of the biggest challenges facing businesses of all sizes today – how to digitally transform, while remaining relevant and competitive in a constantly evolving marketplace.
Cloud technology has rapidly been embraced as a key element for success. In a recent digital transformation study conducted by analyst firm 451 Research on behalf of CenturyLink, 57% of European executives rated cloud services as a ‘very important’ enabler for digital transformation and a further 29% rated it as ‘important’.
The cloud promises so much – almost instantaneous, pay-as-you-go access to enterprise-class software, services and infrastructure, the ability to rapidly scale applications to cope with the peaks and troughs of seasonal traffic, as well as cost-effectiveness.
However, organisations must adapt to take advantage of the benefits that cloud offers in alignment with their wider business strategy. They must still be able to deliver on the expectations of the board – to ensure security, reliability, high availability and uptime, budget targets and productivity, while maintaining compliance with any regulatory standards or legislation that may apply.
It is a short-sighted approach to move everything to the public cloud without a clear strategy in place, only to find out months later that it’s not just costing more than a typical private cloud or even an on-premises environment, but that you’ve lost some of the governance and control required.
This can then result in internal IT teams putting ‘shadow IT’ practices in place, personal data being put at risk of a breach, and costs spiralling out of control. In cases like these, the simplest option can sometimes seem to be just to stop using the cloud altogether and return to your previous infrastructure and practices.
The cost of failed projects
Not surprisingly, poorly planned digital change can incur significant costs. A recent research study from Fujitsu found that UK businesses are losing almost half a million pounds for every cancelled digital project, with a lack of the right skills a major contributing factor.
So how should organisations best approach their digital strategy to ensure success? How can they address the skills gap and mitigate against the potential financial impact on their bottom line to safeguard their digital future?
From hybrid to multi-cloud
One of the most commonly used phrases in IT over the past few years has been hybrid cloud – the combination of public cloud with either private cloud or on-premises hosting, based on the idea of using the most appropriate platform for each application in use.
Hybrid cloud is changing though – as some private cloud technology has begun to wane in popularity, multi-cloud has more recently become a part of the business lexicon. The number of public cloud providers, platforms, applications and services available has grown exponentially, and have evolved in functionality and security to the point that companies are choosing to use different public clouds for different applications, where once a single private cloud might have been used.
This means that as businesses have begun to build applications and services that require a multitude of different cloud services such as IoT, AI, message queueing and more, they are able to effectively shop around to find the best fit for their requirements.
In addition, closing the skills gap – hiring, training, maintaining and retaining staff with skills in all the relevant cloud technologies – has become an arduous task, so businesses are combatting this by outsourcing to trusted partners.
Planning for success – pick a cloud, any cloud?
In the world of multi-cloud, the concept of using the most appropriate platform, or best execution venue as it is also known, for business-critical systems and applications is more relevant now than ever before. However, the myriad of cloud options is an added complexity for organisations already facing cloud challenges.
They need to be able to take a step back and consider how their systems and applications are used, take into account their security requirements, lifecycle stage, integration requirements and so much more, then map this against the functionality offered by various cloud platforms and providers. This can seem like a big hurdle, but many organisations are now turning to trusted consulting partners to review all their existing systems and tools with a view to digital transformation.
Having this neutral, 360-degree view of a business’s IT infrastructure makes it easier for partners to produce an unbiased plan and more realistic recommendations for digital change than otherwise may have been produced in-house.
It’s important to note at this point that not every legacy application will necessarily be suited to migrate to the cloud – forcing such applications into an unsuitable cloud platform can be a key component in costly failed digital transformation efforts.
For example, older, non-virtualisation-aware applications may be best served from a physical server environment, while cloud-enabled replacements are sought. Equally, HPC (high performance computing) or grid computing-style applications that are crucial to the operation of a business and require constant uptime, may be more cost effective if they are run from a hybrid private cloud environment providing predictable levels of performance, as opposed to just using public cloud.
Whichever route an organisation decides to take, it’s clear that the IT skills gap cannot simply be closed overnight. This leaves businesses with two viable options: either “grow your own talent” by training existing staff, which can be a costly venture fraught with the risk of losing qualified and experienced staff to head hunters, or find a partner who has the expertise to advise on the best cloud and infrastructure options.
If that partner can also provide additional tools and the expertise to manage or support an overall digital transformation implementation, that would be the ideal scenario.
Sourced by Matthew Johns, product marketing manager EMEA at CenturyLink