Is the Cloud Right for You?

Sean Gilmour, Chief Technology Officer, Approyo
Sean Gilmour, Chief Technology Officer, Approyo

– by Sean Gilmour, Chief Technology Officer, Approyo

As we move into this new decade, more and more customers are asking how they can move their workloads to the cloud. But is the cloud utopian dream for everyone or for everything?

As an IT professional, I am often asked about “the cloud”, both by customers and the common friends and family collective. The cloud means different things to different people – the non-work questions typically are around security and the latest news story around data-breaches and the likes, but the work-related questions, while more articulate and buzzword heavy, have a similar nucleus.

Increasingly, solutions and services are being added to the cloud catalog, with everything from customer relationship management (CRM) and Big Data-in-a-box to entire business landscapes – at the push of a credit card. This has led to one of the largest explosions of IT landscapes since Y2K; employees standing up systems with zero governance, oversight, or security.

The major players in this boom – Google, Amazon, and Microsoft – are bending over backward to make the entry very easy and affordable. This sandbox world has enabled customers to review what this new cloud-based universe has to offer, but next comes the hard part – moving there.

The common misconception of cloud being easier, where everything works flawlessly and, of course, is cheaper, has become less common. A growing number of IT executives are now struggling with the challenge of new business models around procurement, billing, and a growing skills gap to support their new cloud dream.

As the cloud becomes the new destination of choice, greenfield setups or startups can quickly and easily start afresh and take advantage of the plethora of services and solutions hosted in the cloud. The largest challenge is lifting and shifting existing workloads from legacy data centers to the cloud.

Companies interested in accessing the cloud model are beginning to prefer a multi-cloud approach over a hybrid approach. This allows them to be diversified between vendors, or better yet become cloud-agnostic, by having IT as a service (ITaaS) on-premise and one or more cloud providers.

Migrating legacy applications and data to a cloud model can come with numerous challenges ranging from unsupported code/platforms to regulatory and compliance issues. Almost weekly we hear about companies still utilizing very old operating system versions, applications that have become victims of data breaches, and applications struggling to update. A recent survey put the number of companies still using Windows XP at 32%, and Windows 7 at 79% – neither of which are supported by Microsoft.

  • This leads to a number of challenges when making the move to a cloud model:
  • What is the cost and skills required to simply upgrade the operating system?
  • Can my applications run on the newer operating system?
  • What business process do we need to change/implement to enable a cloud model?
  • Can my data be transmitted/stored in different locations/countries?

The pricing and skills questions do not have an easy answer. Most recent IT surveys conclude that the unpredictable and dynamic costing models, combined with legacy business procurement and accounting practices, make for a challenging transition. While many of the cost savings come from no longer having data centers or rooms full of aging hardware, this is how IT has worked for a long time. Companies will need to change how they acquire and capitalize IT assets.

A larger gap has developed around skills. Do you retrain your existing workforce, or do you outsource some if not all of your IT business? This can be one of the toughest questions asked of system integrators, most of whom are normally looking to take over the management, with managed services becoming the new “offshore” cost-saving option.

Many companies with legacy landscapes have a historically older IT staff, who have supported this landscape for many years and are unwilling or unmotivated to retrain/retool to the new cloud model.

The outsourcing model becomes very attractive at this point, but this new outsourced team has zero business understanding of who or what makes this landscape tick. When we are simply talking about a service-level agreement (SLA) driven delivery model, this can lead to high-level dissatisfaction, especially while they are also changing how the landscape functions.

Ensuring that proper time and effort are applied to the pre-cloud project typically produces a cleaner migration.

All three of the major cloud companies are heavily ramping up their onboarding abilities, with some going with the “build it and they will come” mentality, and others leveraging strategic partnerships to enable specific workloads or verticals.

Is the cloud right for everyone? No, but many legacy functions or services can be replaced with more agile and diverse access models allowing companies to concentrate on their core business model. Moving functions like E-mail, CRM, and device management to a cloud model, enables companies to ensure what makes them money is optimized, while what can be viewed as core services can be utilized in a way that can be more cost-effective.

About the Author

Sean Gilmour holds the role of Chief Technology Officer at Approyo, a technology software company. He is a seasoned and successful technology professional with 25+ years of experience in developing advanced solutions, leading systems, and technology integration, and managing global technical solutions for technology organizations. Utilizing technical expertise to design, improve, debug, and deploy solution architectures and management software. He leverages the best practices to develop customized, cost-effective solutions to business problems. Proven leader adept in SAP Technologies committed to implementing technology with company goals and delivering outstanding service.

At Approyo, his goal is to make SAP simple for customers and partners looking to implement and operate SAP cloud systems. Approyo provides worldwide consulting, solutions, managed services, and support for companies of any size and any industry running SAP solution systems. They specialize in implementations, migrations, and upgrades for every platform from R/3 to S/4HANA.