The winds are shifting in the industry, and enterprises are clear for takeoff to the cloud.

It’s no longer a question of should you move to the cloud. Nowadays, you need a good reason not to be in the cloud, according to Ken Corless, a principal with Deloitte Consulting in its cloud practice.

In a recent IDC worldwide public cloud services spending guide, the research firm predicts public cloud spending will grow from $229 billion in 2019 to about $500 billion in 2023. RightScale also found in its 2019 State of the Cloud survey that enterprises are prioritizing public cloud with it being a top priority for 31 respondents and companies planning to spend 24 percent more on public cloud this year compared to last year. 

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“Adoption of public cloud services continues to grow rapidly as enterprises, especially in professional services, telecommunications and retail, continue to shift from traditional application software to software-as-a-service and from traditional infrastructure to infrastructure-as-a-service to empower customer experience and operational-led digital transformation initiatives,” said Eileen Smith, program director of customer insights and analysis at the IDC.

The RightScale survey also found that 94 percent of respondents are using the cloud, 91 percent are in the public cloud, and private cloud adoption is at 72 percent. Additionally, 63 percent of adopters are at intermediate to advanced stages in their cloud journeys. Sixteen percent are beginning their first projects and another 13 percent are planning their first projects. Only 8 percent of respondents revealed they had no plans to move to the cloud. 

“Organizations see the value and understand the value of the cloud,” said Abby Kearns, executive director of the Cloud Foundry Foundation (CFF). “They are no longer moving to the cloud to check a box because that is what the boss wants. It is more of thinking about the cloud more holistically and around the larger transformation journey.”

The new driving factors behind the cloud
As cloud technology has matured and the benefits have been realized, the reasons for moving to the cloud and how to get to the cloud have changed.

According to Corless, a couple of years ago cost would have been the number one driver to moving to the cloud, but today agility and responsiveness are some of the top drivers. For instance, end users expect companies to respond and deliver faster, and the cloud helps facilitate that agility. 

“What customers find is that they can just get things done more quickly and be more agile because they no longer have to worry about their own infrastructure anymore. Instead, they can focus on getting the applications, getting the analytics and other functionality they want up and running very quickly in cloud environments,” said Dominic Sartorio, SVP of products and development for Protegrity, enterprise and cloud data security software provider.

Cost, however, will still be a big factor for enterprises moving to the cloud because it has the potential to dramatically reduce overall cost, according to Tej Redkar, chief product officer at LogicMonitor, a SaaS-based performance monitoring platform. “If you look at how much savings a cloud can add especially when you look at the infrastructure, hardware, and software, you need a lot of resources to maintain and manage all those things, and all that is being taken care of when you are in the cloud. Ultimately, it leads to cost savings whether that’s labor costs, licensing costs, or general performance, which translate back into costs,” he said.

Whether it is cost, agility or something else, one thing that is certain is moving to the cloud isn’t really about the cloud at all today, according to Deloitte’s Corless. Trends like DevOps, Agile, microservices, machine learning and automation are becoming imperative to the way an organization works and develops, and they are using cloud as a catalyst to break traditional workflows and transform the company. 

“The cloud truly makes you a digital company,” added Redkar. “It helps you transform digitally pretty quickly and helps with the global reach of your solutions.”

Starting the journey
Understanding what is driving your organization to move to the cloud is really going to spark your planning for takeoff, according to CFF’s Kearns. “Is it improving your ROI, improving velocity, decreasing costs, or deploying app workloads in a variety of different regions? Think about what you are trying to gain and then be clear with your teams about what those expectations are,” she explained.  

According to LogicMonitor’s Redkar, there are three adoption phases to moving to the cloud: First, any new applications you are building should be built in the cloud. Then, you should move bespoke apps into the cloud and see how they run compared to those on-premises. The third phase is transforming those bespoke applications from an infrastructure service to more of a platform-as-a-service. “For complex enterprises, it is going to take time because there are thousands of apps within the enterprise, and to cover all of those, their dependencies, their data and their dependencies on the network is going to take time,” Redkar said. 

Because of the number of services and solutions enterprises will have to move to the cloud, even the most aggressive adopters of the public cloud will continue to have a hybrid cloud strategy for years until they can completely move their footprint out to the cloud, according to Deloitte’s Corless. 

Rackware’s co-founder and chief architect Todd Matters suggests organizations start with a pilot. “Almost everyone ends up overspending in the cloud, so picking a relatively small pilot could help understand how to use the cloud and how billing works.” 

Corless also added that companies should start with things that are less mission-critical because “migration is going to be bumpy and you would rather learn and make mistakes on things that aren’t going to be that detrimental to the business.”

According to RightScale’s cloud survey, cloud cost optimization is the number one priority enterprises have this year. As cloud adoption begins to grow, enterprises are struggling with how to manage their cloud spending and optimize cloud strategies to reduce costs wherever possible, the report finds. The report revealed cloud users underestimated the amount of wasted cloud spend, with respondents citing 27 percent of waste in 2019. Despite an increased interest in cloud cost management, only a few companies actually implement automated policies to address issues. 

Getting serious early on about deploying software like auto-scaling will help manage costs because it allows cloud adopters to dynamically increase and decrease workloads as needed, Matters explained. Monitoring software also can reduce costs by detecting underutilized servers or over-provisioned servers that have too much CPU, memory or storage.

A multi-cloud, multi-platform approach
Most enterprises are also taking a multi-cloud strategy when it comes to adoption. According to RightScale’s cloud report, 84 percent of enterprises are taking a multi-cloud approach. 

“You don’t want to put all your sensitive information and applications into the hands of one cloud company,” said Rackware’s CEO and co-founder Sash Sunkara. “It is important to be able to easily move from one cloud to another because the costs of one cloud can significantly change or the reliability can significantly change. We have heard of outages at Amazon, outages at Google. You want to make sure that you can easily move so that no matter what cloud goes away or what datacenter goes down, you are going to be fine and those applications and sensitive data are going to be protected,” she said.

Multi-cloud is going to continue to be an important part of a cloud adoption plan because apps and services and business goals change over time, so cloud adopters need to be able to adapt and adopt a strategy that allows them to move to different clouds based on their current needs, Kearns added. 

In addition to multi-cloud, enterprises are also adopting a multi-platform strategy. According to a recent report from the Cloud Foundry Foundation, 48 percent of responders are embracing multi-platform with a combination of PaaS, containers and serverless. The report also finds containers are expected to become mainstream within the next year, with 34 percent of respondents using 100 or more containers. According to the CFF’s Kearns, containers usage is rising because it actually helps enterprises along their cloud journeys. “Think of containers as the building blocks to organizations that want to take advantage of these cloud architectures. Containers are still at the very heart of that. They are what allows portability and a constant environment,” Kearns said. 

Deloitte’s Corless explained that containers also help you balance some of the fear against vendor lock-in due to the ease of moving containers and migrating their workloads.

The road can be bumpy
Even though there is a lot of interest in the cloud and a lot of enterprises claiming to be executing a cloud strategy, there are still a number of things that can go wrong. 

One of the first steps to moving to the cloud is moving business applications such as third-party apps enterprises traditionally have hosted themselves, like Office 365, SharePoint, Slack, Box and Microsoft Exchange, according to Deloitte’s Corless. So while it may seem like most enterprises have moved to the cloud, they may have only moved to these types of SaaS solutions, which tend to be less disruptive and invasive cloud adoption strategies, Corless explained. 

This is just a stepping stone to a broader cloud adoption, according to Corless. 

The hard part is when you take that to the next level and start moving bespoke applications or applications enterprises have built themselves, such as consumer-facing apps, to the cloud, according to LogicMonitor’s Redkar. “The complexity of those existing workloads becomes a challenge because you can’t just lift and shift an application to the cloud,” he explained. “You need to tweak it for the cloud, and that tweaking takes time and comes with its own complexities.”

Enterprises have to evaluate which workloads can be moved to the cloud, and which ones should remain on-premises. They also need to consider the data itself. According to Redkar, if enterprises are hosting their own data and have been for years, whether in a mainframe or data warehouse, that is going to be extremely difficult to move to the cloud. That is why it is  important to hire the right people with the right skills to help facilitate a cloud adoption. 

“Once you have the right people with the right skill sets in place, then they will make the right decisions on how to run and move apps to the cloud,” said Redkar. 

However, that can be a challenge in itself because a culture change also needs to take place to successfully move to the cloud, according to CFF’s Kearns. “The technology part is the easy part. Changing your culture, changing your business, changing the way your business works and communicates is the larger challenge. It isn’t just a matter of putting some apps in the cloud, it is really a matter of building that velocity in your organization,” she said. 

Developers, operators, line of business, product owners and security experts all need to be put into a single team with a single goal in mind around not just the application development, but iteration and ideation, according to Kearns. “The hardest thing to do is build those cross-functional teams and getting that collaboration when you need it,” she said. 

A cloud culture is one that thrives on change and innovation, according to David Linthicum, managing director and chief cloud strategy officer for Deloitte Consulting. And then in order to make sure you have the right skills in place, enterprises should do a skills gap assessment, decide what technology they are going to be using and what skills they have on staff. This will help assess whether an organization needs to hire or train new employees, Linthicum explained. 

While cost is a driving factor for companies to move to the cloud, it’s not always cheaper than running on-premises, according to Kearns. Having the right skills within the organization can help evaluate which workloads go where and how to continuously evaluate those efforts, she explained. 

Ensuring a smooth transition 
One major hurdle that cloud adopters continue to deal with is security. There is an ongoing debate in the industry on whether it is more secure to stay on-premises than move to the cloud. 

Deloitte’s Corless argued it is a risk either way. “I believe good world-class security is easier in the public cloud than it is on-premises. I also believe big gaping security issues are also easier on the public cloud.”

According to LogicMonitor’s Redkar, the cloud itself isn’t less secure; the biggest security issue when it comes to the cloud is the people who are managing cloud environments are not aware of the exposure in the cloud. 

Symantec’s 2019 Cloud Security Threat Report revealed while organizations fear moving to the cloud could result in a larger risk of data breaches, it is actually immature data practices. “Data breaches can have a clear impact on enterprises’ bottom line, and security teams are desperate to prevent them. However, our 2019 CSTR shows it’s not the underlying cloud technology that has exacerbated the data breach problem – it’s the immature security practices, overtaxed IT staff and risky end-user behavior surrounding cloud adoption,” said Nico Popp, senior vice president, cloud and information protection for Symantec.

While tools can help organizations design and implement policies as well as apply protection methods like encryption algorithms, tokenization, and anonymization, security is actually more about people and processes than about technology, according to LogicMonitor’s Redkar. “Because most of the data used to reside in the enterprise datacenter, there were not many ways to get in. With the cloud, there are different ways to get in, different credentials which if they leak can lead to different levels of security hacks, so making sure developers and engineers understand and embrace the secure lifecycle of the infrastructure is important,” he said. 

According to Protegrity’s Sartorio, cloud vendors publish a shared responsibility model, which explained what layers of the stack the cloud vendor is going to cover such as the physical protection of their infrastructure, hardware or network. “What they don’t cover, and they are very open about this, is their customers’ own application workload and the customers’ own data. They say you as the customer are responsible for making sure whatever data and whatever applications you are standing up in these cloud environments are protected.”

The reason cloud vendors don’t protect customer data is because they don’t have any way of knowing what data is coming in and out of their environments — or even if they can tell it is customer data. Further, they don’t know how sensitive it is or what regulator region it is in, Sartorio explained.

In order to properly protect data, organizations need to have a set of policies in place, be able to control who sees the data, and take stock of the data that is already there. In addition, implementing a discovery tool can detect if there is any sensitive customer data out in the open that shouldn’t be. 

“The biggest problem is ignorance. You hear about all these embarrassing breaches all the time where someone put something in Amazon S3 that is just out there for people to see because they were ignorant about cloud security,” said Sartorio. 

If you are not confident about the processes you have in place or your organization’s ability to control data in the cloud, you should stay on-premises for now and figure out how to make it work, according to LogicMonitor’s Redkar. “Eventually, you are going to need the cloud to help you expand your business more rapidly than your datacenter can, unless there is a regulatory need to say on-premises,” he said. “If you want to compete in the marketplace then you need to adopt the cloud.”