Why Cloud is not a Strategy

By Chris Marks, Esteem's Director of Pre-Sales

Contentious though it may be to say, I'm going to come right out and say it. If you are creating a "Cloud Strategy", the chances are you are starting in the wrong place. You may have fallen into the same trap as those who had a "VDI Strategy" or "[Insert IT Vendor here] Strategy". If you've started with the technology, you've already lost focus of your business requirements and made the assumption that your business needs to fit the technology.

Now I have absolutely nothing against Cloud Services and the benefits they may bring, on the contrary, Esteem has its own Cloud portfolio to deliver exactly that, and we will be continuing to increase the number of services we deliver in this way. Cloud services present some great opportunities to achieve things previously not possible, but the Cloud is a method of delivery, not a strategy. When you decide to utilise it and to what extent, it should be as a result of determining that this is best for your business, taking into account your specific requirements. If you do not do this, you do not have a strategy at all, simply a way of implementing a delivery mechanism into your business, whether or not it represents a business benefit. Be in no doubt though – considering Cloud Services and discussing them as part of your IT Strategy is essential to establish the best approach for your organisation.

Business, Business, Business

Rather than creating a siloed strategy for cloud, a more business-focused approach would be to develop your existing strategy and see where adoption of cloud services could provide benefits to the business. This is not a cloud strategy – this is still your IT strategy.

A few things you need to consider when looking at Cloud Services as a delivery mechanism in your IT strategy are:

Your application vendors can play a massive part in your adoption of cloud

Existing vendors you work with may not have Software as a Service (SaaS) models or may not support the use of other cloud approaches yet. This crops up with application vendors not supporting the update regime of Office 365, for example. This makes it difficult for you, as a consumer of that application, to progress with Office 365 until the issues are resolved. Equally, a vendor may insist that the only way to use their application in the future is via a SaaS subscription. You then need to choose to switch vendors – or consume the software as a service.

SaaS is the end game for vendors, not Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

The biggest benefit of cloud services are in aggregating infrastructure across multiple customers, delivering greater efficiency and resulting in lower cost solutions. This is far more achievable with software solutions than infrastructure estates. SaaS also allows application vendors to maintain the software versions in use, something that is not possible when software is procured and installed. This significantly improves security, functionality and recurring revenue for the application vendor. In contrast, IaaS has no three year renewal to worry about and you can scale at short notice, however, you are still paying directly for virtual servers, storage, network etc. Over time, it is the expectation that more and more software will be delivered via SaaS, leaving IaaS as a way of holding on to the applications which do not fit a SaaS model. If you have focused on IaaS as your “Strategy” I’d seriously encourage you to consider this as a phase one only, as others will move past this fairly rapidly.

There is nothing wrong at all with a hybrid approach.

A “Cloud Strategy” makes the assumption Cloud is all-good. For many of your workloads, a local or dedicated – hosted infrastructure delivery method may give you better performance, lower cost and more control. For some workloads, a cloud service delivers greater benefits. There is nothing wrong with combining these delivery methods at all. There is also nothing wrong with making choices today, which you alter later, as you are restricted today with applications in use or regulations which will take time to replace or update. Many organisations make decisions to place services such as Test or DR into the public cloud for example – this can make a lot of sense if these environments can be brought up and down as required and the services are only charged when powered on. Powering down public cloud services can deliver lower costs relative to the previous method of purchasing duplicate hardware for Test and DR. However, this does not necessarily assume your production infrastructure is best suited to a public cloud approach (that, of course, is down to your business requirements). A hybrid approach could represent your strategy for quite some time as a result.

In Summary

With these few words, I‘m trying to encourage you to focus on the future of your business – determine where cloud services fit now, and what they could do in the future. It’s important to work out what is holding you back on delivering business benefits today – and deliver a strategy to resolve this. This may involve Cloud Services today, it may not. It’s almost certain to involve Cloud Services in the longer term, but your specific requirements should determine this.

Cloud Service adoption will continue to grow, that is not in doubt. But do what is right for you, at the right time, do not lose sight of what your business needs you to deliver and when.

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