As increasing masses of data outpace traditional infrastructure capabilities, cloud computing has emerged as an oasis in the tumultuous landscape of digital transformation. The number of businesses leveraging the cloud is scaling up exponentially, with the market value of cloud services expected to reach $186.4 billion by the end of 2018, according to Gartner Inc.
Despite the fervor, new research suggests that the rush to modernize has fostered an ecosystem of enterprises employing “universal” solutions to serve their custom business needs but not employing cloud adaptability to its full potential. In a market where stagnation can quickly become decline, cloud experts are urging businesses to reappraise their efforts in order to achieve the cloud’s promised benefits.
“Organizations are starting to think, ‘How does my cloud strategy map to my larger organizational values?’” said Lauren Nelson (pictured), principal analyst at Forrester Research Inc. “For a lot of organizations, it’s a step they’re doing this year, being more pragmatic on how they should approach cloud.”
With more than 10 years of experience advising hundreds of enterprises in their cloud strategy development, Nelson is offering her unique perspective to support organizations through the fits and starts of virtualization.
Nelson sat down with Stu Miniman, host of theCUBE, SiliconANGLE Media’s mobile livestreaming studio, and guest host Keith Townsend, principal at The CTO Advisor, during the recent Commvault GO event in Nashville, Tennessee. (* Disclosure below.)
This week, theCUBE spotlights Lauren Nelson in its Women in Tech feature.
The truth about cloud migration
The cloud zeitgeist encouraged many enterprises eager to enjoy the benefits of a cost-efficient, agile computing environment to keep pace with evolving market trends by quickly pushing forward with data migration efforts. This haste precluded the development of goals and use cases necessary to delivering positive cloud results, according to Nelson.
“Migrating an app to an infrastructure as a service environment is difficult,” Nelson said. “A lot of companies talking about cloud migration don’t recognize that. It’s this conversation: ‘If we hear one company doing it, then maybe that should be our entire cloud strategy.’”
For most enterprises, cloud migration as a data center replacement method is not the most effective option for storage and management, as the costs associated with that transference exceed its immediate returns. Transplanting an application from its original infrastructure, without adapting it in terms of customer experience, to an environment not built to handle it can even cause processes to suffer in performance.
Forrester’s research shows that while cloud migration overall is on the rise, the various inconsistencies in processes and the low quantity of applications being migrated tell a different story about the platform’s current enterprise efficacy, according to Nelson.
“Our August survey shows 69 percent of enterprises in North America and Europe are migrating workloads to the cloud,” she said. “If you then ask about how, their methods are all over the map; the number of total apps they’re moving is far less than what we’re made to believe.”
With migration proving more fraught for many legacy organizations than initially expected, an increasing number of companies are considering the “multicloud” option. “Multicloud includes private cloud and your on-prem data center for use in specific workloads,” Nelson explained. But she noted that it doesn’t make sense to have too much change at once or to force the economics.
Restrategizing from the data out
With both the results of their efforts and new options emerging, businesses still have many questions to answer in the retooling of their cloud strategies. Nearly all of these questions stem from the complexities presented by a business’s greatest strength and most susceptible resource, its data.
“Some data sets are more valuable than others; some have security requirements that are far more expensive to meet,” Nelson said. “Some organizations are literally creating two different data hubs [with] different access levels and apps that you’re allowed to connect to based on classification for that particular data.”
Valuable data sets are a driving force behind the development of custom hybrid infrastructure strategies in the enterprise with their myriad unique needs and storage requirements. From General Data Protection Regulation mandates to performance insights, an increasing number of business imperatives rely on data’s security and availability. With so much at stake, businesses must take a “data-out” approach to building their processes, according to Nelson.
“GDPR is making them think about data from a security and compliance perspective, how quickly they can react to requests and being held accountable,” she said. “[They’re] trying to draw insights to change customer experience, design products, [and] market, but leveraging data that they don’t know where it is, [or] how to use it.”
As organizations discover new ways in which to leverage the increasing influx of data, these needs will continue to shift.
“Companies have done very little of this so far,” Nelson said. “You don’t really understand where that [cloud] strategy breaks until you start testing. It’s a challenging problem but one organizations are going to be facing for the next few years.”
Building the best cloud solution
Forrester has found that strategies focused on the inclusion of cloud technologies are all too often used as a solution to the problem of modernization, engaging with the platform as a baseline requirement for remaining competitive.
While the employment of a one-size-fits-all approach may initially give an outward appearance of transformation, beneath the optics many businesses are overextended and underserved by their limited utilization of cloud offerings.
“I think that’s been one of the biggest problems of the cloud industry for the last seven years, this bottom-up approach or top-down approach with very little thinking about where’s the value,” Nelson said.
Challenges to building an effective cloud strategy can come from many different directions — an executive board looking for relevance instead of results, a legacy team reluctant to engage in infrastructure overhaul, or a general lack of resources and funds, according to Nelson.
Forrester advises organizations to reevaluate internally in order to engineer a unique solution and discover their own best cloud fit.
“It takes a lot of critical self reflection, [and] that isn’t easy,” Nelson said. “A lot of organizations trying to change are trying to get individuals in the same room together, start from a business strategy and work into how cloud serves that greater purpose.”
Here’s the complete video interview, part of SiliconANGLE’s and theCUBE’s coverage of Commvault GO 2018. (* Disclosure: TheCUBE was a paid media partner for the Commvault GO event. Neither Commvault Systems Inc., the event sponsor, nor other sponsors have editorial control over content on theCUBE or SiliconANGLE.)
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