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The Stack Archive

Where do my apps belong? Why cloud complexity is a battle for businesses

Tue 21 Jul 2015

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Len-Padilla[1]Len Padilla, Vice President Product Strategy at NTT Communications in Europe looks at some of the factors influencing business adoption of cloud strategies

After a notable absence from enterprise agendas, digital initiatives such as big data and mobile are receiving significant attention and investment from C-level executives once again in order to create new business models and transform processes. However, despite a rise in IT budgets, pressure has mounted to not only achieve digital innovation but to maintain and offer numerous and complicated applications to users.

Cloud computing has emerged as an indispensable tool for those aspiring to achieve digital transformation, so it’s hardly surprising that companies are rushing to adopt it. Accenture’s latest Mobility Research found cloud computing was the second digital priority for businesses this year and IDC predicts spend in this area will grow by 26.4 per cent year on year in 2015, reaching as much as $33.4bn. Our own Cloud Reality Check research found that cloud will account for over a quarter (28%) of corporate ICT budgets by 2018.

The benefits of the cloud seem undeniable; scalability, reduced capital expenditure, ubiquity and outsourced management of cloud services all promise to make it possible for ICT to meet the digital demands of the business. Applications can move from the sandbox to global production in a matter of days, rather than weeks or months.

There is clearly still a place for non-cloud apps, with our research showing that 11 per cent of respondents don’t plan to migrate their most important apps to the cloud ever

Despite this, we found that 38 per cent of ICT decision makers agree that cloud in their organisation is failing to live up to its potential. We’ve also seen it slip into the ‘Trough of Disillusionment’, based on Gartner’s latest Emerging Technologies Hype Cycle. Issues such as security, compliance and governance are all identified barriers to cloud, while complexity and the need for patience are not. And it is the latter two that are developing into several significant frustrations felt by businesses.

Spoilt for choice – adding to the cloud conundrum

Our Cloud Reality Check research found that on average, respondents are running approximately 100 business applications and 4 separate cloud platforms across their organisations. However, there is little consensus as to which apps are ‘cloud ready’ and which are ‘data centre bound’ – there was no notable correlation among respondents on which apps sit on which platform and whether the most critical applications can and will ever migrate.

The significant choice faced by businesses extends to the number of cloud vendors themselves that are available and even then, some of these vendors aren’t doing enough to help with the move to the cloud. Almost half (41 per cent) of the respondents find managing cloud vendors confusing and challenging, with 41 per cent also stating they find migration more trouble than it is worth.

Bimodal IT – a barrier to innovation

With so much hype around the cloud, businesses need to act with caution and remember that not all apps belong in the cloud. There is clearly still a place for non-cloud apps, with our research showing that 11 per cent of respondents don’t plan to migrate their most important apps to the cloud ever, citing security, governance and compliance as the main reasons (65 per cent.) for this. Consequently, ICT departments have to invest a significant amount of time maintaining the current performance of both cloud (44 per cent) and corporate data centre (55 per cent) applications, while trying to innovate at the same time. In contrast, less than a fifth of respondents are spending more time developing functionality for cloud and corporate data centre apps (17 and 11 per cent, respectively). This bimodal strategy is becoming a burden for some ICT decision makers as they attempt to juggle two speeds of IT.

It’s time for a cloud reality check

Both our and IDC’s research clearly show that organisations are aware of the huge transformative potential of every type of cloud platform and want to invest more in it – but they are also conscious of the challenges that lie ahead.

Organisations need to stop seeing cloud as a ‘quick fix’ to business problems but see it as a powerful tool for digital transformation

In order for cloud to live up to its potential, vendors need to do more to make migration to cloud smoother. They must be just as realistic about the promised benefits of their solutions as customers should be about their expectations. The scepticism around the cloud demonstrated by our respondents may be a reaction to the claims made by cloud providers’ that they offer simple, out-of-the box solutions to what are deeply entrenched, highly complex technological, budgetary and organisational challenges.

Furthermore, businesses need to approach the planning of their ICT strategies differently. By taking the time to use a smaller proof of concept project to map out what their ICT landscape will look like rather than diving straight into a big transformation, organisations can make much more informed decisions on the appropriate environments for certain apps and also avoid integration challenges.

These factors should also be communicated to internal stakeholders in order to manage expectations. Understanding that the benefits of cloud accrue over time can help organisations find the patience and tact needed to deal with the complexities of moving to cloud. This realistic approach should also extend to the choice of vendors and cloud solutions. Organisations must scrutinise providers and not be hesitant to opt for a solution that spans different types of cloud and in-house infrastructure if it meets the needs of the business.

What organisations need to do is to stop seeing cloud as a ‘quick fix’ to business problems but see it as a powerful tool for digital transformation. And digital transformation is not about cutting costs, or finding a new way to consume services, but about changing the customer experience. To that end, cloud’s biggest role is to help organisations disrupt themselves from within and build their digital DNA – develop a culture of speed, agility, and innovation, that ultimately changes the customer experience.

*The Cloud Reality Check survey took place during February and March 2015, and was carried out by independent consultancy Vanson Bourne who polled 1,580 CIOs, IT Directors and senior IT decision makers, of companies with more than 250 employees in the UK, USA, France, Germany, Spain and the Benelux region

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