Cloud Report Card: What Worked? What Have We Learned?

By Datalink

There’s no doubt that cloud has been one of the most disruptive forces in recent years. Many rushed to embrace cloud’s attributes. But, now that the dust has settled, it’s time to assess whether intended outcomes were achieved and review the lessons learned.

According to the results of a recent 2017 IDG Research survey — Stakes Rise for IT: The IT Transformation Journey — cloud offers a number of compelling benefits, with notable outcomes for the business. But, the IT leaders surveyed have also experienced challenges when choosing best-fit cloud platforms.

Hybrid cloud is leveraged today & will continue for the next 2 years

It has long been expected that most organizations would leverage a hybrid cloud as part of their IT transformation efforts, given the complementary attributes of private versus public cloud platforms. Survey respondents corroborate this assumption: 48% of cloud workloads are currently allocated to a public cloud, with 52% on a private cloud. Two years from now, respondents expect this mix to remain steady, with a clean 50/50 split between public and private cloud. 

Repatriation and security concerns bring renewed caution

While the push to public cloud remains consistent, it has not been without costly hiccups. One surprising trend that emerged this year: More than half of respondents (52%) reported moving one or more workloads from the public cloud back to an on-premises model. This cloud “boomerang effect” grew since the 2016 survey, which showed 38% bringing one or more cloud workloads back in-house.

Top reasons for this trend: Issues with meeting compliance requirements, security concerns, reliability/performance challenges, as well as issues surrounding control over resources or data. 

These cloud findings resonate with a recent Datalink On-Demand Livestream forum, “Cloud Platform Workload Alignment.”

“One of the biggest things we see is clients trying to force their way into the cloud,” said Irwin Teodoro, Datalink’s national practice director for cloud transformation. “Datalink’s premise is to embrace the public cloud, but where it’s a good fit. Clients need to step back and really determine, ‘Is it a good fit [for this workload] or is it not?’”

In addition, the majority of IT leaders surveyed (75%) report being more cautious than they were one year ago when considering moving particular workloads to a public cloud. Concerns regarding security and compliance requirements are the two primary reasons for increased caution.

New cloud platform marching orders

Instead of being either too bold or too cautious with cloud decisions, Teodoro and his colleagues stress a deliberate, rigorous, more measured and strategic approach to cloud. They view the move to public, private or hybrid cloud as just another, potential platform that could be used to deploy applications or workloads. In short, due diligence rules the day when it comes to determining which platform is best for which workload.

In order to make the right decision, IT organizations should first evaluate workload requirements (compliance, security needs among them), then properly align that workload to the best platform for the job. Here are a few points to ponder from the forum:
  1. Cloud evolution leads to different cloud questions. Organizations no longer ask, “Which workload should we put in the cloud?” They now ask, “Which cloud is right for my workload?” Some organizations come to Datalink and ask us, “How can you prevent us from having to leave the cloud [after migrating workloads to it]?” This last question, again, points to the need to make sure any detailed workload and organizational requirements are met prior to cloud migration.
  2. Remember this: Workload/platform assessment is multidimensional. According to Peter Kraatz, national portfolio director of consulting services for Datalink, much of the work in assessing the best-fit platform per workload occurs during planning. “It’s about understanding what your assets look like, and by those, I mean people, the technology, the workloads, the dependencies and how they play together,” says Kraatz. “This goes beyond the technology dependencies, into business workflow dependencies.”

    Teodoro also stressed the multidimensionality inherent when aligning cloud platforms with workloads. “It’s about understanding where the cloud fits in your organization, not only from a business side, and technical side,” he reiterated. “[But] also, where does it fit in culturally and [are there] any major challenges you’ll face in an organization before you embark on the journey?”

Funding innovation, like cloud, is challenging

Funding more innovative initiatives can be a struggle; more than half of those surveyed find this task to be “extremely challenging.” The two most common solutions are shifting funds from traditional IT projects to business-advancing ones, and working to increase the overall IT budget. Survey respondents suggest that the former solution will be used for upcoming years, though 49% today are still pushing for a direct increase of the budget for innovative, or “mode 2,” projects.

When appropriate, Datalink has been helping organizations evaluate or reduce their CapEx/OpEx spends involved in supporting day-to-day operations. We often find several ways to reduce such costs. These can include retirement or consolidation of some workloads. It may also involve outsourcing a subset of an organization’s routine, “keeping the lights on” IT tasks. Datalink also helps IT leaders assess the best-fit platform based on workload requirements. Cost analysis is an integral part of this assessment. Finally, leveraging managed services may also provide the opportunity to reduce costs, freeing up funds for business advancing projects.

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