Q&A: Cloudreach cloud strategist discusses deployment during Covid-19

Ahead of AWS Re:Invent, Information Age spoke to Jeremy Ward, cloud strategist at Cloudreach, about cloud adoption and deployment during the Covid-19 pandemic, the organisational challenges that companies have encountered, and the tech trends that could emerge in 2021.

Could you please provide a bit of background on the services that Cloudreach provides?

We were founded in 2009, and from the beginning we set out to be a cloud native company. We were born in the cloud, and what we do is make the promise of cloud a reality. In that process there are elements of cloud adoption and cloud transformation, and Cloudreach’s mission is to work mainly with large enterprises to go through that journey.

We begin by working with the customer to get their cloud strategy in place, and ensuring we understand the business value of adopting the cloud, rather than just diving into it at a technical or tactical level, which a lot of organisations have traditionally done. The business benefits at this advisory stage differ from company to company; this could be cost reduction, modernisation, agility, or reducing technical debt.

We then go on to platform development; we will build landing zones across the three main cloud service providers. We’re cloud agnostic, so we don’t have one preferred supplier, and we like to put together a best-of-breed package to fit the needs of the customer. Once we’ve created the landing zones, we assess workloads that need to be migrated and see where they might end up within the three service providers. We also provide a platform resale solution, so instead of a customer being billed directly by the CSP, they get a better deal via Cloudreach because of the economies of scale we are able to drive.

We have our own software, called Cloudamize, which is an application analysis tool that enables us to analyse workloads and create optionality in terms of where these workloads can end up on the cloud, as well as potential costs.

We also look at security elements, as well as insights using data and analytics. Finally, not only do we look at migration, but we also refactor applications and make them more modern in terms of being compatible with pure cloud native and serverless architectures.

In what ways has Covid-19 accelerated cloud deployment?

A common question that’s been coming up is: who or what has led the quickest transformation of an organisation – the CEO, CIO and CTO, or Covid? A lot of the time, it’s been Covid. When Covid took hold, there was an immediate need for organisations to start facilitating remote working. Many companies were set up for remote working, but they weren’t set up in scale. They may have been able to allow 20% of their workforce to work remotely, but then they needed 95% to work remotely. Cloud allowed these companies to make that shift very quickly.

In the medium-to long-term, Covid has accelerated this continuity requirement in case another pandemic happens, and we need to be ready for it. Companies might well believe that they have a great cloud-first strategy, but what does that really mean, and could they act on it today? We need to be much more agile, break the process of adoption down into smaller pieces, and make those changes quickly.

What are the biggest challenges that organisations have faced when it comes to utilising the cloud in the past year?

When an organisation adopts a cloud-first strategy, there’s a large chunk of technical and tactical changes that need to happen. The cultural impact – what we call the cloud ripple effect throughout an organisation – is one of the first things to be forgotten. For instance, finance teams are required to change from a CapEx model to an OpEx model, which totally alters your procurement strategy. You no longer have this long lifecycle of ordering, delivery and sign-off. The upskilling of people will change, responsibilities will change, and there will be more work with other departments outside of pure IT. I don’t think people fully anticipate that these cultural changes will happen.

Another key area that’s been challenging is security. We’ve always questioned how secure the cloud is. For the old style of perimeter security, I like to use the analogy of a castle being protected by a moat, and the drawbridge is your firewall. With cloud security, you get to a granular level, where not only do you have the drawbridge and moat, but once you’re inside the castle, every room has a key that you need in order to enter. Once you’re in that room, the piece of information you’re looking for is in a safe inside a wardrobe.

But for an enterprise, the ripple effect that comes with cloud adoption makes it challenging to adopt quickly. At Cloudreach, we work on communication within the company, in order to get over those obstacles before they hit the workforce.

What benefits has the multi-cloud approach provided when it comes to maintaining operations remotely during the pandemic?

Multi-cloud is very common – there aren’t many organisations that have decided to place all of their assets into one cloud provider. There’s nothing wrong with that kind of strategy, but enterprise-scale organisations generally have different requirements. Each CSP (cloud service provider) has its strengths, and there are certain workloads that will perform better on a specific CSP.

However, this strategy adds another layer of complexity when it comes to cloud operation and management; the more clouds you bring in, the more upskilling you need for your team, and the more governance that’s needed. Regardless, for a business to get the outcomes they are looking for, multi-cloud is important to consider.

Organisations that already had a multi-cloud strategy were using an operating model that supported this and therefore were able to scale and support remote operations. The challenge came for those organisations that had an element of their workloads on a single CSP but needed to bring in a 2nd (or 3rd) CSP to support different workloads. Implementing a new operating model and governance framework at pace whilst all working remotely became quite a task.

What trends do you see coming to the fore in 2021?

Firstly, we’re witnessing the ‘modernisation era’. When cloud first came along, adoption was driven by IT. But around 2017-2018, businesses started looking at cloud and seeing its potential. This is around the time the concept of ‘shadow IT’ – IT systems deployed by departments other than central IT – started springing up among our customers, as it took months to gain access to a server. What’s happening now, and will become more apparent, is IT and business working closer together. We will see true innovation led by the business, which will collaborate with IT as a business partner rather than using it as a commodity.

Leading on from that, tech decisions will be raised more often at the board level, and the days of the CIO being ‘board minus one’ are disappearing. Boards are starting to see that a lot of what they need to do is tech-driven, so they will stop leaving these decisions to IT and stop treating them as a utility.

Finally, ‘consumer digital’ is going to become critical infrastructure. Who would have thought that the likes of Deliveroo, UberEats and JustEat would be a lifeline for so many people, with no available access to shops? Suddenly, everything we’re doing is online; we’re reliant on these third-party organisations with massive cloud infrastructure being a lifeline, and it’s become so much more relevant. Going forward, we’ll see much more of this infrastructure being scaled over time.

Cloudreach are hosting a sponsored session during AWS re:Invent. To register or log in to the event and access the session, please click here.