On September 21, 2021 Noord hosted a virtual boardroom in association with Sungard Availability Services. The event consisted of a presentation by Noel O’Grady, Director of Sales (Ireland) and Dave Williams, Cloud Specialist, followed by a discussion among senior IT professionals on making the most of public cloud.
Reasons for attending
Attendees were asked to introduce themselves and explain where their organisation was on its cloud journey. They represented various sectors, including supply chain and product development, healthcare, automotive, financial services, hospitality and manufacturing. They brought expertise in areas such as applications and connected services, fraud investigation and IT management.
One attendee noted that their organisation had a cloud-first approach but still had an on-premise data centre for its office in Shenzhen, given that China’s firewall is prohibitive to cloud adoption. Similarly, another participant had a cloud-first strategy and was adopting a two-pronged approach to get key infrastructure into the cloud and then look into providers which can offer solutions for the remaining infrastructure. One participant noted that their organisation had successfully moved to the cloud over the course of the pandemic, having come up with a new business strategy and underpinned it with technology.
Case study 1: acceleration to the cloud
Dave presented a case study of a Sungard client – a forensics company hosted on a client PC/server. The company wanted a cloud solution and an interim cloud service was required while it moved towards a SaaS offering. Flexibility was key and a concurrent license model was required. Sungard had conducted some technical and commercial modelling, looking at functionality, flexibility, cost and the licensing model. It then dissected the workload into functions, mapping those functions to cloud services wherever possible. As a result, the cloud services were made available to all of its clients and the solution was flexible enough to meet client needs.
The point was made that cost is often a major pain point when moving to the cloud, and charges can skyrocket if data transfers are not monitored properly. In a similar vein, organisations sometimes move into the cloud and suddenly find that they are consuming more features and services than they had expected. Dave cited an example of a major travel company which had put a large workload into the cloud and had taken it straight out again because of the cost. The travel company had then looked at why they were using a database and had ended up splitting its data across three different database servers – saving around £1 million in the process.
With this in mind, it was felt that good monitoring was crucial, in addition to realistic modelling. In other words, organisations should always think of modelling as an estimate, because they will always miss an element which will drive up costs. Dave therefore suggested that organisations thinking of moving to the cloud do a proof of concept, as well as choose a partner with expertise.
Protecting data and ensuring security
One participant underscored the importance of identifying breaches within systems and protecting data in the move to the cloud. While their organisation ran its own cloud, which made it more secure than public cloud, it was not 100% secure. Although encryptions and passwords are important, there was an education piece that needed to be done to prevent the security issues that occur, whether by blackmail, bedevilment or criminality. Companies must therefore ensure that they plan for the worst. With public cloud, Dave noted that it is very easy to consume but is indeed more difficult to set up securely. He therefore underlined the importance of working with experts to get it set up correctly.
Furthermore, one participant said that their organisation was piloting virtual desktops, given that its hiring had become non region-specific in the wake of the pandemic. It had opted for Google Workspace on all its remote laptops, which have endpoint security but no longer allow users to come onto the company domain. In other words, the organisation had found it better to silo its approach. Adding to this, Dave stressed the importance of having air gapped back-up copies, as cybercriminals will be looking to corrupt any back ups.
Case study 2: the longer journey to the cloud
Noel talked attendees through the case study of a software company hosting an IoT app for transport companies. The company had approached Sungard as it had an ageing infrastructure and wanted to move to public cloud. Ultimately, it had been forced to rewrite its whole application from scratch and migrate mission-critical infrastructure while keeping the lights on. Sungard had helped to provide a flexible option with smarter scaling and cost optimisation, along with performance efficiencies.
Making the business case for the cloud
One attendee sympathised with the challenges that company had encountered, having spearheaded their own organisation’s move to the cloud. Initially there had been a complete lack of trust, with data siloed and employees reluctant to share information across departments. The first step had been to make the business case for cloud to the board by using a risk management framework. It had then been a case of being clear about business outcomes and looking at key enablers of the approved strategy. To win hearts and minds, the company had pledged that with a cloud-based system, all employees would be able to retrieve the information they needed in three seconds or less. From a business perspective, the company had ultimately leapfrogged its competitors thanks to its cloud-first policy.
Following on from this, one participant asked how they could convince top executives to move to the cloud when the benefits were not immediate but longer-term. Dave responded that organisations need to look at their strategic plan and ensure it is aligned with their IT strategy. Similarly, the point was made that all key stakeholders within an organisation need to understand the vision and work together. One way of achieving this was having cloud budgets per department, which makes employees more judicious when it comes to their usage levels. An inspiring example was that one organisation’s IT department had made savings by doing so and had donated the £1 million in savings to the HR department, enabling it to recruit more healthcare professionals while also bridging the gap between IT and the wider business.
The value of experts
In closing, Dave underscored the importance of bringing in experts to plug the gaps in knowledge. While IT departments are often keen to learn about the cloud, it is about striking the right balance between getting in-house teams to focus on the work they have expertise in and bringing in the right people to get the service implemented correctly the first time. While this often represents a large initial investment, it undoubtedly saves organisations pain and money in the long run.