At the recent Dell EMC Africa Partner Summit, partners from all over Africa gathered in one place to share information, and many of those discussions focused on cloud. Brad Pulford, GM for Channel & Distribution at Dell EMC South Africa offers insight into why many customers fail with cloud.
Becoming a cloud-first business is fantastic - and that’s putting it mildly. Companies that adopted a cloud-first business model recover 96 times faster from a disaster, spend less than half the time on security than their peers and are more than twice as effective at retaining talent than competitors. Embracing the cloud makes a lot of business sense.
This message is not lost on companies, but unfortunately wanting something and executing it successfully are two very different things. As cloud adoption accelerates, it is becoming clear that many organisations, big and small, are struggling to make the change and see real value. Why is this happening?
“Cloud is a very fluid word right now,” said Pulford. “Consumers all have different consumption needs. But because they treat cloud as a destination and not a shift in their business model, they often end up with what doesn’t work for their needs.”
What is cloud?
So companies aren’t seeing the value, because they still don’t grasp what cloud is and how to align it with their world. Let’s take the conversation back to its basics: what is cloud? According to the US-based National Institute of Standards and Technology, cloud has five essential characteristics:
- on-demand self-service
- broad network access
- resource pooling
- rapid elasticity or expansion, and
- measured service
These can be found in three service models - software, platform and infrastructure - and four deployment models, namely private, community, public and hybrid.
This is already a mouthful, so no wonder companies are not up for the due diligence required. The IT industry isn’t helping: vendors and service providers are too likely to try and shoehorn a customer into one of their services, ignoring the nuanced needs of the business.
Forget the jargon
But fortunately, you don’t have to become a cloud fundie to make sense of this. There is a much simpler and more practical way forward.
“Cloud impacts your company’s workloads, meaning the data and tasks that your business systems are running. That is where your perspective lives. The nature of a workload says a lot of the kind of cloud it is looking for. You should start by profiling the applications in your organization,” Pulford elaborated.
A common mistake companies make is they get stuck on Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) as a viable cloud model. This is cloud’s most visible wave of change and involves letting go of underlying infrastructure, paying purely for the service. For example, using Office365 to manage email, calendar and Office functions such as spreadsheets.
But what about a SAP ERP? Such a system often involves many customisations that are unique to the business. Replicating those tweaks requires a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) or even Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) approach, if the business wants more control over the nuts and bolts behind the applications. Some business applications may need to be virtualised through a hypervisor such as VMWare. Others might be better when separated into several services.
Certain workloads may work best if temporarily shifted to a hyperscale cloud environment - essentially a supercomputer on steroids - where they can be concluded faster or take advantage or special services there, like AI for business analytics. A payroll workload can go from days to minutes if the right cloud model is applied. All this can even happen inside a company on its own private cloud and hand-picked infrastructure. Something such as a flash-storage array can quadruple a system’s performance several times over.
Know your applications
“What are the applications at the core of your business?” Pulford asked. “Can they be modernised with cloud-native versions? Should they be virtualised? What is the best cloud can offer for those particular workloads? And what are the business benefits that you will see from the different cloud options? That is the way to approach cloud - not cloud for cloud’s sake, but cloud for the sake of your applications.”
Most cloud implementations fail because they are not considered from the business and business application perspectives. Instead, customers are dazzled with cost and performance metrics. Those are very achievable, but only if the migration is from a business-first perspective.
What does your business need? The answers lie with your applications, so start there.