On the one hand, the answer seems to be clearly yes. According to the 2020 Flexera State of the Cloud Report nearly 93% of enterprises are not only using the public cloud, but have already embraced a multi-cloud strategy. Of these, 87% have adopted a hybrid architecture that combines both public and private clouds. The report also shows clearly that annual enterprise public cloud spend has increased considerably. In 2020 20% of enterprises spent more than $12 million, compared to only 13% in 2019. Similarly, 74% spent more than $1.2 million, compared to only 50% in 2019.
On the other hand, enterprises are, by definition, not “born in the cloud”. For these organizations, cloud migration continues to be an ongoing process and there are still technical and organizational roadblocks that get in the way. In the first part of this article we take a look at some of those cloud computing challenges.
Now enter stage left — the COVID-19 pandemic. Suddenly cloud-based digital transformation has to be accelerated in order to survive in an altered reality. People working from home have to be kept productive. Data centers are not always accessible and their on-site staff has to be kept to a minimum. And everyone is talking about the post-pandemic “new normal” in which very high levels of cloud maturity will be imperative in order to stay competitive.
In this article we look at why it has always been crucial that enterprises migrate to the cloud, how COVID-19 has accelerated the need for cloud migration, and how enterprises can mitigate cloud migration challenges in order to lower risk and shorten time-to-value.
Enterprises and Cloud Computing
Let’s remind ourselves about the advantages of cloud computing for enterprises. Perhaps the most important is the agility gained from self-service provisioning and an on-demand service model. This agility promotes innovation and faster time-to-market for new products and their revenue streams. Another clear benefit is optimized scalability so that infrastructures can respond quickly to dynamic business requirements. Enterprises have also learned that the public cloud’s high availability and resilience support enhanced business continuity SLAs.
Other benefits include:
- Harnessing big data analytics to drive sales and marketing strategies.
- Improving the end-user experience for customers, employees, suppliers, and partners.
- Shifting infrastructure costs from CAPEX to OPEX, which introduces greater budget flexibility.
- Reducing operational costs — or at least the potential to do so if cloud spend is carefully managed.
According to the Flexera report already mentioned, enterprises are running 48% of their workloads and storing 45% of their data in a public cloud. Why is it that after 10+ years of public cloud availability and all of the clear advantages cloud computing brings to enterprises, they have migrated less than half of their workloads and data? The answer is that enterprises are still addressing significant public cloud challenges, with security, managing cloud spend, and governance topping the list. Moreover, 70% of enterprises still see cloud migration as a top challenge, as broken down into the following issues:
The Catalytic Impact of COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic abruptly presented a new reality to enterprises, who were suddenly driven to accelerated cloud usage by:
- Work-from-home employees, whose productivity (and sanity) now depended on reliable remote access to apps, data, and IT service desks. This spurred enterprises to embrace cloud native services and apps that could meet these needs quickly and at scale.
- Difficulty in accessing and/or staffing data center facilities, which made cloud-based backup and disaster recovery more important than ever to ensure business continuity and data integrity.
- Delays in hardware supply chains were yet another reason for looking to scale up cloud rather than on-prem infrastructure in order to meet the new demands.
- Even greater customer and partner expectations for always-on, low-latency online interfaces.
The Flexera report shows clearly that all the major cloud service providers have experienced growth since the onset of COVID-19, with AWS continuing to lead the market. The providers have all had to scale quickly to ensure that their users have the compute-storage-network resources that they need. They also offer cloud native apps that have been instrumental in helping enterprises respond quickly to COVID-19 demands. For example, AWS offers the following fully managed services:
- Amazon Connect, an omnichannel cloud contact center that lets companies provide superior customer and IT service with a cost-effective pay-as-you-go pricing model.Users can easily and quickly set up a full-featured contact center that can scale to support millions of end-users.
- Amazon Chime, a communications service for meeting, chatting and placing business calls within and outside the company. It can be consumed either as a standalone service, or as an SDK for integration into enterprise apps and services.
- Amazon WorkSpaces, a fully managed and secure Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) solution that provisions Windows or Linux desktops in minutes and frees up IT from the capital expenditures and ongoing maintenance burden associated with on-prem Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)..
For example, Enova, one of the largest licensed lenders in the USA, used Amazon Workspaces to deploy a secure and compliant work-from-home solution for 1,200+ employees in less than 24 hours. And BlueVine, a Fintech start-up, collaborated with AWS to develop a product that helps small US businesses access Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans as part of the US government COVID-19 relief stimulus package. The product uses a number of AWS services, including Amazon Textract — a fully managed machine learning service that automatically extracts text and data from scanned documents.
In the healthcare sector, which is on the front lines of the pandemic, AWS is helping companies like BenevolentAI and Arcadia.io scale up their services in order to facilitate new drug discovery or streamline communications between healthcare providers and COVID-19 patients.
With an eye to the future, a recent McKinsey report exhorts CEOs to leverage the COVID-19 pandemic to accelerate their cloud journeys in order not to fall behind nimbler competitors in the post-COVID world. They discuss how CEOs can and should back the cloud migration efforts of CIO/CISOs by getting stakeholders to work together: to establish sustainable funding models for cloud investments, embrace new business-technology operating models that break down silos, and acquire the talent necessary to migrate to and operate in the cloud.
A Winning Cloud Adoption Strategy
The July 2020 AWS blog Evolving GRC to Maximize Your Business Benefits from the Cloud notes that 70% of cloud adoption programs falter or fail due to nontechnical challenges, i.e., mindset or organizational stumbling blocks. Although the context of the article is establishing cloud-based GRC (Governance, Risk, Compliance), we believe the excellent insights and guidelines are applicable to any and all cloud migration strategies.
The author points out that the nontechnical issues typically arise when the cloud program moves into its later stages, when assets and apps are moving from small-scale, isolated development and test environments into larger, public-facing production environments. All of a sudden conflicts will arise when, for example, teams want to continue applying traditional controls to agile cloud environments. This attempt to impose a legacy mindset undermines one of the prime motivations to migrate to the cloud, i.e., benefit from cloud agility. It is important, therefore, to get all the stakeholders involved and informed from the outset.
The AWS Cloud Adoption Framework(CAF) enumerates six organizational units, or Perspectives, that must be involved in discussing and buying into the fundamental mindset and organization changes that are key to a successful cloud adoption program. The following table summarizes the Perspectives and their responsibility in the cloud migration strategy:
If followed diligently, the CAF ensures that all these different perspectives are brought on board from the very beginning of the cloud adoption process and collaborate to develop and implement a cross-enterprise action plan.
Other cloud migration best practices that are recommended in the AWS blog within the context of evolving to cloud-based GRC (but are generally applicable) include:
- Experiment with challenger operating models in parallel to legacy models in order to learn how cloud adoption can be accelerated and desired business outcomes achieved faster. The example they give is a traditional bank that lets a digital bank subsidiary develop outside the legacy GRC framework. A more general example could be experimenting with agile project management methods for selected projects.
- Clearly signal the prioritization of cross-organization transformation by assigning a board-level executive to oversee the program and designating other high-profile “transformation champions”.
- Leverage the cloud migration to adopt advanced capabilities such as big data analytics and machine learning — technologies that can boost more focused and better informed business decisions.
Adopting the best cloud migration practices described above will surely mitigate the risks inherent to any transformative undertaking. They should go a long way in developing a sound long-term cloud migration strategy that’s aligned with your business needs, and keeping the implementation on track.
Another way of enhancing the success rate of your cloud migration strategy — and especially when that strategy is disrupted by dramatic events like the COVID-19 pandemic — is to use AWS Partners like CloudZone to overcome gaps in cloud adoption knowledge, experience, and skill. CloudZone has the competencies and proven track record to guide enterprises through the planning and implementation phases of a future-proof cloud adoption strategy, as well as provide ongoing advisory services and FinOps to ensure optimized architectures and cloud spend.