Key Learnings from a Cloud Advisor: Demystifying Cloud

guy looking to climb a ladder into the clouds
It seems like every company discovers the same thing when embarking on a transformation journey. Their move to cloud isn’t as easy as expected. People discover they must wade through a lot of misinformation and wait longer than they thought to get cloud benefits.

As a Cloud Advisor for many years, I find myself talking about six key misconceptions:

1. The biggest benefit of cloud will be lower hosting costs. Like many companies, you are probably convinced that “getting your stuff into cloud” will achieve significantly lower hosting costs. But there’s more to it than that. You need several disciplines to manage applications in cloud: rationalisation, standardisation, automation and reorganisation. The real benefits come only once you’ve done all that. Why? Because IT sprawl – lots of different flavours of operating systems and databases, and lots of non-production environments – slows down the ability to deliver change efficiently and effectively. Infrastructure is only one area in which you can obtain benefits from cloud.

2. We’ll still have control, won’t we? Unless you use private cloud, you’ll relinquish a lot of control when you make your move. In public cloud and in virtual private cloud, it’s the provider that dictates the standards and the timescales – for example, OS patching and the compliance schedule, deployment processes and pricing. This means you must develop the discipline of synchronising with the provider’s Infrastructure lifecycles and maintenance routines. And of course, the option exists to transfer OS and database management to your provider.

3. I can do this cheaply. If you aren’t a small or a newly formed company, you probably have complex, integrated systems that are built on a variety of operating systems and databases. Your legacy may even include some aging infrastructure as well as hosting across multiple data centres. No-one could transform all this on the cheap. So, the starting point should be to understand your existing IT platform and then transform it. In my experience, the best way to do this is to set out all costed and planned options – this helps you to make an informed strategic decision. When we do this for customers, our advisory work shows that we can help them deliver a return of up to $7 for every $1 invested in up-front transformation (over a 3- to 5-year investment cycle).

Another point to make about cloud costs is that many companies forget there are bills for more than just compute and storage. You need to factor in the additional costs of networks, security, tooling, service management and taking data out of cloud. Unless you are continually monitoring and assessing your cloud computing power (virtual machines or VMs) and switching these assets on and off as demand fluctuates, then you will always be paying more than you should.

4. Traditional IT is inferior. If you are a business product owner or CIO living with a creaking, unstable infrastructure and long provisioning times, you may think traditional IT is inferior. But I’ve worked with many customers to automate their Unix and Wintel platforms and to transform Cobol-based systems to cloud hosting (or at least to become more “cloudlike”). And I can assure you that these transformations deliver a compelling business case. Companies see reduced operational costs, increased resilience, improved flexibility and significantly enhanced compliance.

And there’s more good news. Compared with cloud, the latest converged infrastructure platforms are potentially just as flexible, efficient and responsive with automation tooling as standard. Also, this newer infrastructure is significantly more powerful than your old tin, so you need less of it. It’s more flexible and comes with automation out of the box. Did I mention it’s more power efficient too?

5. We don’t need to do things differently. Sorry but you must change your ways of working. There is a saying: If you always do with you always did, you’ll always get what you always got! The real benefits of cloud come from doing things differently – the reorganisation mention above – and reconfiguring the IT operating model. You need to focus on developing real IT operational and delivery disciplines (DevOps), achieving agile delivery and automation, automation, automation. If you currently support a multi-vendor model for your IT delivery, you already know how hard it is to manage suppliers and standards while also increasing the pace of change. I’m working right now with several customers to increase DevOps capabilities and define new organisational models.

6. The cloud provider is responsible for cloud security. Unfortunately, this isn’t true. Your cloud provider gives you some basic tools for public cloud (there is much more support for virtual private/private cloud) but it is your responsibility to more tightly secure your public cloud subscription. I’ve seen everything from root password theft to the stealing of source code, when companies failed to take adequate precautions. Our team at DXC Technology has developed the concept of the Network Operations Centre (NOC) to strengthen and secure public cloud subscriptions, protecting our customers from external and internal threats from the outset.

I hope this short blog has helped to shape (or perhaps reshape) your thoughts and approach to your company’s cloud journey. It’s the first in a series to distil my key learnings from customer engagements. Click forward to my second blog on delivering the transformation and my third blog on understanding the benefits case and building an investment strategy to successfully transform.

Working within the DXC UK&I Workload and Cloud Practice over the last 18 months, I’ve had the privilege to engage on advisory projects with a wide range of clients including airlines, banks, telecoms, utilities, retailers and central, regional and local government. In particular, I have focused on cloud in its widest sense encompassing:

  • IT investment strategy
  • Legacy application transformation
  • Mobile
  • Big data
  • DevOps and IaaS/PaaS (infrastructure/platform-as-a-service) programmes

If you’d like to know more, just get in touch. I’d be happy to hear from you.

Paul Brown

Author: Paul Brown

Paul Brown is a highly experienced Business & Technology Transformation Leader who has worked with a range of clients across financial services, legal, telecoms, travel & public sector. He currently is a strategic cloud and digital advisor at DXC Technology where he supports a range of global and UK clients.

He has experience of driving strategic change including technology investment strategy, IT programme delivery, digital transformation, CRM and Big Data solutions in Europe, US, Canada and the Middle East. He holds a PhD from University of Plymouth, focused on business transformation in financial services.