“The cloud” has achieved a near-mythical status across boardrooms and media headlines in recent years — and for good reason. Forrester has reported that nearly 60 percent of North American enterprises now rely on public cloud platforms and predicts that cloud spending and adoption for core business applications will soar in 2019. A combination of hype and misunderstanding have created the impression of an all-powerful technology that can transform businesses and bring prosperity to all sectors. The cloud is up there with terms like digital transformation and artificial intelligence that get thrown around with a sense of awe and urgency: if you don’t have it, you’re a dinosaur.
While adopting a cloud strategy can undoubtedly benefit many companies, the myth of the technology as an unstoppable force is actually holding many companies back from unlocking its true potential. Cloud really does offer a lot of advantages, but there are always trade-offs that need to be examined. High-level executives read hype-filled news headlines and demand that staff come up with a cloud strategy quickly, often without fully assessing the short and long-term impacts. In order to benefit from the speed and agility that a cloud strategy can provide, IT leaders need to articulate impacts of the various myths that surround it, set realistic expectations, and recommend thoughtful approaches that fit their business.
Myth 1: The Cloud is Always Better
Heightened expectations and generous headlines have positioned the cloud as a magical cure-all. Like leasing a car, there are times when it makes sense and times when it doesn’t. Historically, the cloud has provided temporary servers and storage to improve agility and capacity. As businesses look to modernize their applications, the cloud helps make small and frequent changes easier. That assumes, however, that every business application has lots of small and frequent changes that need to be pushed out. Not all do.
Where the cloud hits its sweet spot is with startups. Many startups may not have their own data centers from the get-go, which means working with a cloud provider to start running their core business software could bring major benefits. Other companies that have large data centers may use it for storage. The bottom line is that not all companies will benefit from all cloud use cases at once. If your company doesn’t need large scalability, agility, or extra capacity that cloud adoption provides, it may not make sense.
Myth 2: The Cloud is Always Cheaper
Transitioning to the cloud is a long and complex process. It won’t always result in immediate cost savings and may not even be less expensive in the long run. Cloud applications provide excess capacity and can help companies scale more gracefully, but this process can naturally use more resources. You can’t expect to take your legacy applications running on a data center, move them to the cloud in a “lift and shift” approach and expect things to magically improve. Presuming that your company will instantly take advantage of redundancy and high availability in the cloud is not realistic. Someone has to do the upfront work — and that takes money.
A company may need to rewrite its applications from the ground up using cloud technology. That expertise needs to be developed slowly, which means not rushing in. Developers need the necessary skills for cloud adoption, which may require training current employees, outsourcing or hiring new team members. This could result in a big expense in the short term in order to gain a large cost savings over a longer term.
Myth 3: Companies Should Go All-In on Their Cloud Strategy
One of the biggest myths surrounding cloud adoption is that companies need to dive in headfirst, abandoning private data centers with an all-or-nothing approach. This mindset can be quite harmful to enterprises. The move from private data center to public cloud is not always seamless. In fact, a more realistic multi-cloud strategy may be the most valuable move.
Companies can take advantage of the fierce competition between cloud providers to create more of a hybrid architecture. Instead of rushing into cloud adoption and relying on the services of a single provider, one strategy is to develop apps and software that will be able to seamlessly move between multiple providers later on. It may be beneficial to build architecture as if you need to switch at any second. Instead of going all-in on a single cloud provider, companies should take the time to slowly build up their expertise and leave their options open for the long run.
Myth 4: All Cloud Providers Are Created Equal
Amazon Web Services, Google, and Microsoft Azure have each emerged as leading cloud providers amidst the explosion in cloud excitement and demand among enterprises. Choosing the right vendor is an important part of every cloud strategy. Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the most seasoned provider and has the richest set of services. It is ideal for app development enablement and its massive investment in infrastructure has helped it maintain market leadership. Amazon’s large network of data centers around the globe provides some of the best support to help organizations meet regional compliance requirements. Finally, their first-to-market position means that they are likely to continue to be first with release updates before the competition.
Meanwhile, Microsoft focuses on the audience they know extremely well: traditional enterprises. It can help with a “lift and shift” cloud strategy that allows companies to seamlessly continue using Microsoft products in the cloud. Microsoft understands the pain points of these traditional companies — namely, business continuity and cloud adoption with minimal impact — and has focused on enterprise application migration.
Google shines brightly in one area where Amazon and Microsoft lack: its support of open source. Google excels at offering storage and is making a big push to containers by supporting Kubernetes. They’re betting that containers are the future and are investing in that space, winning the hearts of open source advocates and the DevOps space. Google’s infrastructure will continue to improve as more applications become centralized.
Meanwhile, Alibaba has emerged as a cloud provider and both IBM and Oracle have options to offer. Each of these platform providers is expected to grow even larger in 2019, with few new challengers waiting in the wings.
So What’s The Best Strategy?
The best cloud adoption strategy will be different for every company. The key is to tune out the noise and hype that have perpetuated these myths and focus on your core business needs. IT executives must develop a thorough understanding of how their business may (or may not) benefit from cloud adoption and set realistic expectations. While the cloud has numerous advantages, there is still a big difference between hype and reality. The companies who truly take advantage of these tools will be those who take the time to develop their expertise and leave room for a multi-cloud approach.