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Get ready for the next decade of cloud computing

Cloud is growing up, and it’s going to look a lot different over the coming decade than it does now. You’re probably already using cloud – many clouds, in fact. But as you shift toward digital business, you’ll need a new strategy to reflect this new reality.

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Like the realization that your child is suddenly a teenager, cloud has grown up — we’re already into the second decade of cloud computing.

“The trend is unmistakable, cloud is happening and it’s happening in a big way. We are now … entering the next 10 years of cloud,” said David Mitchell Smith, a VP and Gartner fellow, in a cloud computing primer for 2018 webinar earlier this week.

During its first decade, cloud was primarily a disruption to the IT world, from hardware and software to networking and security. While cloud is now an integral part of doing business, it will also be part of the digital disruption of the coming decade.

Fuelling digital disruption

“Cloud is the modern baseline for pretty much everything else that is disruptive,” said Smith. Whether it’s artificial intelligence, machine learning, the Internet of Things, the API economy, big data or digital media, they all require cloud to fulfill their disruptive potential.

“We’re also starting to see what we call extreme or radical cloud adoption, things like … data centre migrations all-in and cloud-first strategies now being — in some cases — replaced by cloud-only strategies, especially in the vendor community,” said Smith.

There’s also an emerging trend called multi-cloud, which Smith describes as a “special case of hybrid cloud.” So, with hybrid, you’re not using on-premises private cloud but multiple public cloud providers for the same purpose (like using both AWS and Azure). “Almost everyone in the future will be doing true multi-cloud,” he said.

Solving IT problems

Whether your approach to solving IT problems is more traditional (focused on stability and reliability) or cutting-edge (with more of a focus on agility, flexibility and speed), cloud can be used for both. In the first approach, cloud is often associated with cost savings or efficiencies; in the second approach, it’s more about innovation, agility and time to market.

That’s where cloud strategy comes in (Gartner says this is the firm’s No. 1 inquiry). A cloud strategy is often confused with implementation plans. But a data centre strategy is about data centres, said Smith.

“That should be aligned with the cloud strategy but it’s not a replacement for or the same thing,” he said. “Cloud strategy is also not a plan to migrate everything to the cloud.” It’s also not a vendor selection process, nor is it a series of checklists.

Creating a strategy

Smith says your cloud strategy should be a living document, focused on strategy, and it should be short (10 to 12 pages). It should also be broken down workload by workload; cloud-first doesn’t mean everything goes to the cloud, but rather you work with public cloud first and work your way back to private cloud or some other solution.

Here are a few pointers from Gartner on creating a cloud strategy:

  • Start with an executive summary, “for those people who will only read one page,” said Smith.
  • Create a cloud computing baseline. There’s still a lot of confusion around cloud, so define upfront what it means for your organization.
  • Create a business baseline: Focus on business outcomes, what you’re trying to accomplish and how cloud could potentially help (including issues unique to your business, industry and geography). Lay it out workload by workload.
  • Do an assessment of where you’re at today. This is where a lot of the work is, says Smith. He recommends making a list of each workload: where it’s at in its lifecycle, if it’s virtualized and what kind of data it needs access to.
  • Create a services strategy. How are you going to consume cloud services? How are you going to govern it? In some cases, you may even become a cloud provider.
  • Consider supporting elements, such as staffing issues, as well as your current infrastructure and architecture.
  • Last but not least, create an exit strategy. Smith says people spend a lot of time figuring out how to get into cloud, but not enough time on how to get out of it. This includes contracts, terms and conditions, and service-level agreements. Consider lock-in, who owns the data and how you get the data back.

“The cloud strategy document is meant to bring these things to light and explore them at a high level, as opposed to solving all of it right then and there,” said Smith.

So, if you’ve been looking at cloud the same way you always have, it might be time to create or update your strategy for the decade to come — and create a platform for digital disruption.

Image: iStock

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