By Jesse Stockall, Chief Architect at Snow Software
The rapid acceleration in cloud adoption underpins a significant shift in the way we work, and this has only intensified since the pandemic. Many organisations fast-tracked their cloud migration or adoption plans to support employees during the sudden and unexpected shift to remote last year. According to recent data, 76% of IT leaders have increased their spending on cloud infrastructure in the past 12 months.
In fact, according to Gartner, this trend may continue well past the pandemic. “Through 2024, businesses will be forced to accelerate digital business transformation plans by at least five years to survive in a post-COVID-19 world that involves permanently higher adoption of remote work and digital touchpoints.”
However, some organisations have been reactive with their cloud management strategies — developing solutions to issues as they arise on an ad-hoc basis. Now, as the dust begins to settle, these same organisations are being faced with greater expenses and even further siloed public, private and/or virtual machines as a result of the rush to public cloud adoption. Before the next phase of hybrid work sets in, organisations should take a step back and ensure that all cloud investments align to an overarching hybrid cloud strategy.
Developing a hybrid cloud blueprint
Despite popular belief, the cloud is frequently more expensive than data centre infrastructure – when not planned for accurately. As a result, many businesses are left battling unexpectedly large bills, which can be particularly challenging after the whirlwind adoption brought about by longer than initially anticipated COVID-19 lockdowns. The most concerning factor, however, is that a significant portion of IT leaders do not have a clear understanding of the costs behind the cloud. Research shows that only 42% of leaders strongly agreed that they have clear visibility of their entire cloud infrastructure, and 27% admitted to experiencing unexpected technology costs post deployment.
The initial promise of the cloud saw many organisations scramble to implement resources that would ease the burden and enable remote work, but many failed to create an effective implementation strategy. There were no guardrails or guidelines put in place alongside cloud integration. In many cases, there was simply no time to do so. This lack of visibility and understanding around how the cloud would impact businesses in the short- and long-term meant organisations were not able to unlock all of the value of that cloud infrastructure can provide. And this urgently needs to be addressed before migrating more workloads or deploying new applications.
Organisations can begin to create alignment and develop a formalised strategy by taking stock in the needs of various cloud stakeholders around the business. Bringing in voices from marketing to engineering will provide a more comprehensive view into the larger requirements from these cloud users and offer a blueprint to ensure the business outcomes each desire. These can then be mapped back to access, usage and resources available, allowing IT or Infrastructure & Operations (I&O) teams a chance to understand the current value of their hybrid cloud investments.
Gaining visibility and understanding assets
Visibility across all assets – software, hardware, Software-as-a-Service, and cloud – has never been so critical. It’s also an essential component of a hybrid cloud strategy. Not to mention its importance ensuring cost controls, minimising issues with misconfigured resources and out-of-date software, or maintaining compliance requirements.
However, gaining visibility is difficult.
Even within IT, teams may operate different systems in silos – not to mention challenges understanding spend and usage across various departments that may operate their own technology budgets independent of IT. Add to this the rapid acceleration of cloud adoption during the pandemic and you’re looking at quite a few blind spots across your environment.
IT and I&O teams should look at how to create a shared view of their technology data – especially for cloud consumption, whether by bringing together inputs from the department stakeholders or by adopting a management tool (direct from the cloud providers or a third-party resource). License models, budgets and resource costs could more accurately be assessed against organisational goals since they vary considerably by cloud provider. Organisations should also be prepared to share this holistic data with their company stakeholders, not just those on the IT team or I&O group.
Getting a handle on your cloud
Once you have insight into the cloud workloads in use and different users’ requirements for the cloud resources available, you can better begin to understand the full extent of your cloud sprawl. Again, it is essential to have comprehensive visibility into a technology environment as SaaS and cloud management can be treated in similar fashions – and most organisations employ a hybrid IT environment. Getting a complete handle on your cloud means considering how all your technology investments factor together.
When considering how to optimise cloud workload costs, organisations can use one or many techniques including incorporating automation, implementing power schedules and regularly analysing usage patterns for rightsizing or downsizing opportunities.
In additional to optimising costs, it’s also worth considering how different cloud providers can offer better experiences for certain workloads. This could better empower an organisation to really ensure they see value from their cloud investment. Just be sure you have individuals in your organisation have the certifications and experience in those specific cloud providers, especially if you’re embracing a multi-cloud approach.
The key is to remember that managing cloud (and SaaS) is an ongoing process, not a one and done affair.
As we begin to plan and enter a new reality of hybrid work, it’s crucial that organisations begin to better manage their cloud environments now. The mainstream idea around hybrid work has not yet been defined, but it will likely include some sort of combination between many businesses current and past realities with remote and in-office work. Though the execution is bound to be more complex. And technology will likely continue to enable this new way of working. Organisations must take the time now to gain visibility and properly manage their cloud, software, SaaS and hardware investments before more disruption is introduced. We are not ‘returning to normal’ by any means; we are adapting to find our place in a new workplace.