Cloudy with brighter periods – this is not the weather forecast for the next days, but a description of the use of cloud computing in Germany. For a long time, the prospects of cloud services were not bright at all in Germany.

Scepticism related to data security, the issue of cloud computing and meeting compliance guidelines, missing trust in cloud providers and some other vague fears resulted in a difficult start of cloud services, particularly in Germany. But since the year 2016 at the latest, the subject is up and coming. Bitkom's and KPMG's Cloud Monitor 2016 presented in the middle of last year shows that cloud technology has been widely accepted in the business landscape. 54% of German companies use cloud computing, another 18 % plan or discuss its use. According to the survey, this result has mainly been caused by the dramatically increased use of public cloud computing.

IT giants such as Microsoft, Deutsche Telekom and IBM move their business models more and more from licence business to a service model, dominant newcomers such as Amazon and Google draw companies with attractive offers in the direction of the Cloud. But it is not only the extended offer that is responsible for the cloud boom. Increasing connectivity as well as growing mobility also contribute to the use of cloud technologies.

The progressing digitization of all spheres of life and the associated change of user behaviour nearly force enterprises to change their business processes step by step. Staff members expect even in their professional environment to have access to business data, applications and functions any time, independent of devices, platforms, time or place. We dream of “IT power from the wall outlet” which permits users, as in the electricity sector, to obtain the service required at the push of a button in “self-service“ mode where IT costs refer only to real use and price models feature usage-based billing. Economically, a change of CAPEX due to IT infrastructure to OPEX is possible.

But is the cloud world really so simple?

Enterprises who dare leap into the Cloud frequently underestimate the complexity associated with such a transformation. It is not enough to simply instruct the IT department to switch for example from on-premise software to a cloud solution, because cloud services work on the basis of a completely different principle than classic IT.

Another challenge is presented by the large variety of cloud solutions with different supply and service models. While we talked about “the cloud solution” five years ago, we can chose now between public, private, hybrid or multi-cloud models and between Iaas, PaaS up to SaaS approaches. This often leads to a cloud shadow IT with many different heterogeneous SaaS solutions, distinct PaaS approaches in the Cloud and different solutions to system and application integration. One quickly realizes that outsourcing an IT department to the Cloud does dramatically increase the complexity of a corporate IT landscape.

Tailor-made or standard Cloud or in-house IT?

When leaping into the Cloud, it is not only about technological aspects. It is also a question of changes of methods and the development of more efficient processes. Similar to the task of digital transformation, companies should define clear expectations in advance as to what they want to achieve with their first steps into cloud technologies.

Whereas 5 to 10 years ago, the move to the Cloud was associated with the use of SaaS solutions such as Salesforce or Office 365, today, it is about designing the complete existing IT environments in a more agile, open and secure way. To select the most suitable cloud strategy, each company has to decide on the balance between simplicity and agility in relation to adaptability and dependence.

Not all workloads and business-critical applications are suited for operation in a public cloud, as this model has its limits especially related to IT security. Specific applications and data cannot be outsourced for legal reasons and due to compliance guidelines. Neither the annual financial statement should be saved on an USB stick, nor should contracts, business figures, financial data or sensitive customer information be placed in public cloud structures.

But there is no alternative to public clouds for applications such as for example collaboration and communication solutions. Programs as Office 365, which can be provided in a standardized way for the whole company, have a clear cost advantage compared to traditional licensing. Maintenance of a frequently heterogeneous licence clutter which is extremely time-consuming and may cause additional costs due to warnings in case of sublicensing, is omitted and unburdens IT departments. Hybrid cloud models, consisting of a more cost-effective public cloud and a more secure private cloud, are often the best option.

Whatever the cloud infrastructure is you opt for setup and operation of such models require a comprehensive set of skills and a profound understanding of IT and cloud architectures. Public cloud providers usually supply the pure scalable infrastructure resources in fail-safe operation and only a few companies have the required specialists and expertise so that the successful independent implementation of a cloud structure mostly fails due to a skill gap. So-called Managed Cloud providers such as for example we at syscovery with Metropol Services offer a complete support where experts of the provider deal with technical issues such as computing, storage, network and operating systems as well as complex tools and applications to be run on the infrastructure.

Conclusion

What cloud strategy to choose and how quickly and comprehensively implementation is to be performed considerably depend on the existing IT, company size and additional factors such as for example business importance of applications to be run in the cloud as well as the integration degree of applications with other business functions

In particular the decision to leave the own infrastructure and move to an infrastructure service model in the public cloud should be well considered. Who outsources data to a provider, whether to a public or a private environment, needs a high-performance network connection. If you use for example business software as SAP from the cloud, huge data quantities are sent and received. When Big Data is concerned at the latest, for example due to a large number of sensors and machinery sharing information, data connection will be a challenge.

Sometimes it is a good idea to evaluate alternatives in advance and to consider if the investment in a network infrastructure will pay off or if a hybrid model will result in a return on investment on the long term.

Companies cannot focus on a single IT form, whether only cloud services or only traditional IT. Modern IT environments need a mix of a dynamical and static IT. IT organizations require undoubtedly scaleability and agility to develop and operate new types of applications and services. The first steps into cloud technologies require, however, a change of service culture, too.

When leaping into the cloud, IT will be provided as a service. Whether computing capacity or software, everything runs via a network connection and has to be integrated into your own systems via interfaces. Applications have to be organized in a service-oriented way already before migration takes place.

When considering the leap into the Cloud, companies have to be aware that cloud services normally cannot be configured and adapted to business needs in such an individual way. For this reason, system and service requirements should be flexible, because high-performance solutions can be offered by cloud providers at reasonable prices, if customers use the standardized and optimally coordinated services and systems in the cloud providers’ computing centres.

We think ...

Hardly any enterprise has, however, the necessary expertise to deal with the change to a service-oriented IT infrastructure without assistance. External service providers with a neutral perspective can help by consulting.

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