How to get the most out of your cloud deployment – some factors to consider when moving to the cloud

It has been a blur. Mostly. The pandemic year went by like a fierce storm. It was very disorienting for businesses of all types, and the burden or privilege of keeping the lights on fell on the IT department’s shoulders. Suddenly, digital capabilities became more of a core business strategy than a choice. Every enterprise that wanted to survive and stay resilient found some form of answer in the solutions that the cloud offered.

In the ‘Cloud 2025 study’ by LogicMonitor (done in May-June 2020), it came up that 87% of global IT decision-makers find COVID-19 pandemic caused organizations to accelerate their migration to the cloud. As many as 74% expect within the next five years, 95% of all workloads will be in the cloud. This survey also points out that global IT decision-makers expect a downward trend in on-premises workloads over the next five years amidst accelerating shifts to the cloud. Before COVID-19, 35% of workloads operated on-premises, but by 2025, just 22% of workloads are slated to reside on-premise – and that sums up like a drop of 13%.

As the NTT 2021 hybrid cloud report echoes, 93.9% of C-suite executives feel technology is inseparable from their business and the COVID-19 situation has sharpened their focus. In fact, 89.6% of organizations are more reliant on technology since the inception of the pandemic. About 84% find that cloud is more important to their organization today than it was in the previous year.

This trend is affirmed in many other places, like the F5 2020 state of application services report where a third of respondents shared that the cloud migration process has been accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic. Their 2021 survey told almost half of the respondents had accelerated their public cloud and SaaS deployments. The workloads were redistributed away from on-premises data centers to support remote workforces.

A lot of organizations had started embracing cloud even before 2019 but the momentum and penetration rose expeditiously when 2020 arrived. The advent of the pandemic has forced many business functions to finally realize the advantages that IT brings with the cloud. The promises of flexibility, scalability, and agility had taken new connotations altogether when businesses all over the world grappled with challenges of survival while serving customers scattered far and wide. Gartner had augured in its 2020 trend-watch that by 2023, the leading cloud service providers will have a distributed ATM-like presence. They will serve a subset of their services.

But most of the applications and usage that were wielded during these tough months could have been knee-jerk responses. Also, you may have not utilized the full value out of a cloud investment even though you put money and effort into this model. Many other possible gaps would appear in clear view now if you can confront your actual gains and dead-ends pragmatically. This is a good time to reckon what, if anything, has gone missing in applying cloud models. It is also the right time to elevate the outcomes that cloud investments are quintessentially packed with.

How can the cloud go awry?

In the IDG (Industrial Development Group) 2020 cloud Computing Survey that polled 551 tech buyers, 59% had planned to be “mostly” (43%) or “all” (16%) in the cloud in 18 months. But 40% found “controlling cloud costs” as the top-most challenge. There were difficulties related to governance.

The F5 Report discovered that 76% enterprises used either traditional (3-tier/client-server/monolith) or modern (mobile/microservices) architectures. About 21% used only traditional and merely 3% used only modern. Those that are managing five different application architectures have surged from 18% to 48%. Similarly, in Flexera’s 2020 state of the cloud report, it was noticed that understanding app dependencies, assessing tech feasibility, and comprehending on-premise vs. cloud costs were top challenges for multi-cloud adopters.

In 2021, cloud issues continued to gather gravity. About 81% struggled with security, 79% with managing cloud spend, 75% with lack of expertise, 75% again with governance, and 71% with Cloud migration.

Gartner’s prediction showed that through 2022, insufficient cloud IaaS skills could delay half of enterprise IT organizations’ migration to the cloud by two years or more.

In an IHS Markit study, about 48% found “increased complexity” as the main downside to using multiple clouds. Some organizations also identified the “increased cost of training and hiring” (34%) as a challenge. A lot of them shared that they fail to anticipate the expertise required to manage a specific IaaS cloud’s complexities effectively. If we return to the NTT 2021 report, we will see that 95.2% struggle with compliance, 46.3% find managing data security as a barrier to adoption of hybrid cloud, and 29.2% feel security factors are key reasons for migration from public cloud to non-cloud environments.

All these issues explain why some enterprises would prefer to stay in or return to the usual environments. The Forrester/IBM report titled ‘The key to enterprise hybrid multi-cloud strategy’ indicated that half of the mission-critical workloads and 47% of data-intensive workloads would be run either on-premises or in an internal private cloud in two years.

Gartner had also outlined that through 2024, nearly all legacy applications migrated to public cloud infrastructure as a service (IaaS) will require optimization. This would be done for cost-effectiveness. It also indicated that cloud providers will continue to strengthen their native optimization capabilities. This should equip in selection the most cost-effective architecture that can deliver the required performance. 

The pattern is not hard to grasp. Most challenges and setbacks happen in these major areas – lack of resources, lack of a proper plan, ignorance on security, misalignment of architectures and workloads with the final cloud scenario, impediments in governance, and oblivion in the area of actual cloud costs.

You can go all the way on the downhill road and then switch back or stretch your cloud investments. But you can do something better here. You can step back right now and get an honest review of how well your cloud is working or will work for your enterprise. Do this with brutal honesty, guidance, and complete objectivity. A lot of tangible as well intangible indicators will tell you the signs you are looking for.

The blueprint for making your cloud work

Here are some check-points that can help you eke out great value out of cloud deployment:

  1. Remember that you need to plan what workloads suit a cloud setup and provision them properly. Shifting everything to a cloud will not serve your purpose of agility
  2. Adopt the right architecture. Shun monolith contexts if they do not fit the scenario. Complexity and heterogeneity can be very different terms when experienced in a practical way. Having the choice of multi-cloud setups does not mean you should always resort to that option. Pick your cloud model after a lot of homework and blueprint work on your workloads. This is where using a good partner will arm you with actionable insight and the big-picture view
  3. Figure out any redundancies or wastage that may be lying unnoticed due to a swift movement to cloud
  4. Take care of security and governance in the highest possible priority. Jumping to a cloud also increases some risks and vulnerabilities. The year 2020 has been a great example of how supply-chain loopholes can be ripe entry-doors for threats and bad actors
  5. Design for the cloud from the bottom to all the way up. At least, do so wherever possible. Orchestration is an important part of the success of any cloud investment. Cloud-native applications always deliver better results and agility than traditional ones
  6. Do not let cloud bills pile up. Read the SLA (Service Level Agreement) and licensing terms very carefully. Every small unit or instance can add up to your cloud costs. Avoid unnecessary usage and sprawl. This may look like a small number today but by the time the year ends, it can be quite a rock to carry
  7. Have guidance and workload management done by experts in the field. The administration and planning parts should be managed by someone that brings enough experience in the execution of cloud investments in a successful manner. Choose your cloud team very carefully. Use as much expertise as possible – and preferably for your own specific scenario or vertical
  8. Devote some efforts in enhancing the investment that has been made in the cloud, like optimizing the network, modernizing applications, use of next-generation infrastructure, use of microservices and containers, and the cloud-specific skills that your team needs to equip
  9. Have a comprehensive cloud strategy that should be monitored, adapted, and executed with a big picture in mind. It is easy to get tempted with new technologies, and trends that are overpowering the industry. But these investments entail a lot of commitment and long-term implications. Just picking up anything with a short-sighted excitement is not going to bring the real impact of the cloud. Tailor your cloud strategy as per your overall business strategy. It should never be the other way round.

Once you do your cloud appraisal you will get to know what areas have been abrupt investments and what areas have actually delivered on the value that the cloud promises. Some of the non-performing ones can still be optimized by using the right consultation and remediation. If an area shows no scope for improvement, you can consider alternative models like hybrid clouds or return to on-premise setups. Whatever you do, make sure that do not stretch your time and data into the cloud for the sake of it. Reconsider your choices and approach. Apply it with clear visibility on actual benefits, costs, and spill-overs into other areas.

That way, your business will be ready for any storm lurking in the future somewhere.