Choosing your cloud

by Paul Gysen - Cloud & IM Consulting Lead | minutes read

In the ten years that the public cloud has been on the rise, major offerings such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and Microsoft Azure have continued to rival and steadily supplant existing private IT infrastructures. Except in businesses and organisations where data sovereignty is a non-negotiable requirement. Typical examples can be found in the public and the financial sector, where regulation still demands compliance with the physical location of the data within the country. Cloud service providers (CSPs) address this issue through their private cloud offering and provisioning.

Today’s decision-makers are still faced with this dilemma of choosing between public and private cloud. They are comforted by the idea that a hybrid cloud implementation will undoubtedly offer them the most options, possibly even allowing them to switch their application environments from one type of cloud to another, depending on the strategies or imperatives of the moment. Emerging multi-cloud tools will, among others, allow them to shuffle workloads to the CSP with the most relevant specialised offering or pricing. Or to balance workloads between CSPs, reducing the risk of vendor lock-in. To top it all, new cloud hosting offering emerge from non-US based CSPs, in Europe or in Asia, having other stakes with regard to data location and sovereignty, shuffling even more the cards of complexity and possible choices.

Digital transformation is key

In fact, the main criterion that should guide your choice in this matter is how well that choice fits in with and supports the overarching digital transformation strategy your company’s management has carefully set out. The nature of that transformation will highlight the IT technologies and services that will best carry its success.

Each digital transformation journey starts with an analysis of the existing situation. That will reveal how much of your IT infrastructure can and /or needs to be retained, reinvented, or migrated to more efficient platforms. A traditional company-managed e-mail system, for instance, would likely be a good candidate for a migration to a messaging software as a service (SaaS). Whereas a chatbot to ease customer support on a 24/7 basis would best use a machine learning interface to interpret user requests and match them with a catalogue of predefined answers. Finally, an IT department might want to offload the dynamic management of its SQL databases by selecting a CSP-managed SQL database platform (in PaaS, Platform as a Service).

Value for business

Once this strategic analysis has been carried out, the resulting choices will be better framed and their costs and benefits better identified. In addition, the accelerators on your activities will be better identified, based on the emerging technologies that the major cloud players are constantly evolving. For example, IoT technology will bring large amounts of information about the continuous use of your end-point or client devices, anticipating potential issues. Machine learning technology applied on big data repositories will help better profile consumer behaviours to be better addressed. And dynamic workload monitoring of servers can trigger just-in-time allocation of additional resources, when peaks arise or performance degrades. The list of examples is endless.

The issue of choosing a cloud type is hence shifting towards which player can offer you the most relevant value for your business through his portfolio of new technologies (AI, BizDevSecOps, big data, machine learning, automation and NoOps, edge computing, …) and the ease with which they can be integrated and operated. In today’s fast-moving markets, Amazon, Google and Microsoft compete through creativity and innovation. These cloud service providers all offer a rich and competitive array of services, the complexity and specificity of which is difficult to disentangle without starting from the needs of your digital business transformation.

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