Choosing the Right Cloud for Your Enterprise

By:  Sanjay Ahuja, VP of Sales - Middle East & Africa at AGC Networks

In the computer animated science fiction comedy “Cloudy with a chance of Meat Balls”, I see a parallel to the widespread dilemma that we face today – that of deciding the approach for the “Right Cloud Solution!”

The Cloud really has lived up to its hype of being an industry disrupter and one of blockbuster proportion at that! It is no secret that the Cloud is impacting the business world to varying degrees, irrespective of the industry vertical. The problem isn’t just that the Cloud is a disruptive technology. Today, the CIO has to navigate the organization through Public, Private and Hybrid clouds and then there are the IaaS, SaaS and PaaS dimensions. While on one hand there are benefits of agility, flexibility, lower TCO, Innovation and CapEx reduction, there are the challenges of Data ownership and security, regulatory compliance, SLA enforcement, customization etc., on the other. The CIO is required to navigate through all aspects of the Cloud and land “Digital Transformation” safely and securely.

Complicating matters further is the fact that everyone is taking a radically different approach to Cloud implementations, and this is in addition to the on-premise offerings of the Cloud Service Providers! The rapid pace at which these are being rolled out is what adds to the challenges. Changes which would earlier happen in 12 or 18 months are now happening every 3 or 6 months. While choice is a great thing and the fact that there are varied deployment options is perfect for the organization that knows precisely what it wants, the complete Cloud proposition presents an obstacle for those that don’t know what they need.

Everyone now agrees that a Cloud strategy requires planning and thinking that is extremely strategic and that the priorities must be clearly understood by all members of the management team. A common understanding of all possibilities, opportunities, risks, costs and management challenges of the various available options will go a long way in helping enterprises make the right decision, though I will be the first to admit that this is Utopian for most organizations!

Most organizations choose to take the ‘safe bet’ and call in “Experts” to make the assessment and help get an RFP out. This is a good approach but in an era where there’s limited patience for long RFP creation and evaluation cycles, it is actually turning out to be an exercise in futility. More often than not, we end up with Paralysis by Analysis where fewer of the bold have moved forward to be the innovators in adoption and a larger percentage have decided to stay laggards.

My view is that this journey to the “Right Cloud” can be simplified with a few steps:

1. Assess business priority – It is imperative for everyone in the enterprise to understand the drivers for cloud adoption - Is it disruption and competitive advantage, redundancy and reliability, agility and flexibility, CapEx reduction or freeing up IT resources? Be clear on the priority and do not tick all of the above. Personally, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of Data Security and Compliance.

2. Start by stating the objective(s) – What is the overall purpose of the new solution? If you aren’t thinking big picture here, stop and just stick with what you have. Sweat out whatever is the investment that’s being made. This is the time to really cast a vision for how technology can significantly affect business outcomes and become a competitive advantage. One doesn’t want to sit through another lecture from the CEO of changing business models, technology as the next frontier, Uber, Tesla, Amazon, you get the idea!

3. Keep an eye on the changes in the B2C world – We all know that the best user friendly technology is at home. GUI in software interfaces for mobile applications, response time, ease of reporting and viewing are all lessons to be learned from the B2C technology expansion. The Digital age (often confused with Smart Phone revolution) is upon us. Let’s learn from it.

4. Be open and prepared for changes – Don’t be surprised if new offerings pop up half way through the evaluation phase. With the aforementioned acceleration of change, it is likely there will be further changes in the industry during the project – embrace it!

5. Sandbox it – Most Cloud service providers provide this option today and it’s a great way to capture business requirements, rapidly deploy them and integrate them with other applications. It enables an organization to reduce the risk while testing out Use Cases.

6. Create an innovation/disruption team within the organization – The change should be led by a cross functional team – this ensures that the solution meets the needs of all users but more importantly, it helps user adoption which is key for any change in an organization.

7. Eco-System Orchestra – There are definitely a few partners who get affected when one disturbs the existing on-premises model. Realistic TCO, Contract Termination and Planned Downtime are part of this, which the CIO – Conductor of Information Orchestration needs to manage.

All Cloud Service Providers have multiple offerings in every possible stage of the product lifecycle. This is a difficult time to make a decision, but the opportunities get more exciting every day as technology matures and offers increased value for solving business problems. So as it rains burgers, spaghetti and pizzas, make sure that you apply some of the above criteria to help you on your journey to the Cloud.

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