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IBM VP: How are CIOs mastering a multi-cloud world?

FYI, this story is more than a year old

Cloud. Cloud. Cloud.

Everyone wants one, most organisations have more than a few by now, and some CIOs have more cloud than they can reliably manage.

According to IDC worldwide public cloud services grew 28.6% in 2017, with Asia Pacific the highest growing region in the world.

IDG Research data from August 2018 shows that with 30% of IT budgets allocated to cloud spending, 43% of enterprises are using hybrid cloud, 12% are using multi-cloud and 30% are using both, with a complex evolution of cloud emerging as companies gradually move more applications and services to the cloud with an ever sophisticated and regulated environment.

Everyone loves cloud, but not everyone is a master. Here, I'm outlining what sets apart the CIOs that have mastered the many demands being placed on hybrid cloud environments by the enterprise.

In 2018 for most CIOs this is not their first time around the block with cloud, and they've had some hard-earned lessons along the way.  An experienced CIO managing a cloud environment should have earned their stripes in a few areas which have tended to be pitfalls during the nascent stages of cloud deployment.

CIOs should now be familiar with the latest Born-on-the-Cloud techniques and technologies, and mastering some of the soft skills that allows them to manage teams, vendors and multiple internal stakeholders to drive the maximum impact from cloud spend without compromising security and/or compliance. Even the largest and most regulated banks in the world, are moving to cloud.

Earlier in 2018, Westpac, Australia's oldest bank, was one of the first major banks globally that implemented a fully integrated hybrid cloud, moving the full spectrum of its banking services to cloud.  The bank has reduced the time it takes to set-up new applications from 19 days to just 3-5 days, with a more than 30% reduction in set-up costs, from start to deployment of an application.

CIOs that have mastered cloud, have encountered and now predict the following challenges that emerged during the first phase of the enterprise journey to cloud:

  • Predicting and controlling “hidden costs” of cloud. By now, the CIOs that are mastering cloud are savvy to the previously “hidden costs” of cloud, and they know how to work with vendors to accurately cost out cloud without falling into the trap of overlooking ingress and/or egress fees, the need to turn off un-needed infrastructure, the ability overspend by over-consumption each of which could land CIOs with unexpected costs.
  • Detecting and preventing shadow IT. With the democratisation of cloud and SaaS, the enterprise has seen incidences of non-integrated, non-compliant, non-secure ‘Shadow IT' enter the enterprise from the business units – from marketing software SaaS offerings, to HR apps, and new collaboration tools. CIOs have had to find a balance between excitement, agility and value in new technology and controlling and protecting the enterprise from security and compliance risks.
  • Understanding the public cloud - dealing with noisy neighbours, network latency, loss of perimeter security. CIOs that master cloud are now experienced at application architectures that are horizontally scalable and can have additional instances initiated to solve for 'noise' issues to ensure every user of every application, critical or not, does not suffer from poorly behaved neighbors.
  • Avoiding over-provisioning. Too much cloud? There is such a thing. By now, CIOs are increasingly using tools that monitor under and over-provisioning to ensure that performance is not suffering nor is the business paying for unused capacity.
  • Poor housekeeping. Keeping configuration databases up to-date is difficult in a non-automated world.  In the world of cloud, these activities, the processes that support them and the storage of them must be changed to be completely automated as current manual processes will prevent any agility realised from turning infrastructure into code.

3 new technologies emerging to help CIOs better manage multi-cloud environments

  • Brokerage – Brokerage, including the ability to instantiate an application, all its associated infrastructure and tooling, is an imperative to alleviating all the manual housekeeping tasks outlined above.  The associated policies that ensure conformance with geo-fencing, proximity to data etc. can be executed by a work-flow component in the broker or be executed outside in a ITSM like Service Now.
  • Provisioning –The provisioning capability for an enterprise must be robust enough to be able to materialise a hardened, secure, instance on anyone of a number of target platforms – on and off premise, Amazon, Azure, IBM Cloud, Alicloud or OpenStack.  This permits the enterprise to optimise workload placement policies to maximise value while ensuring compliance and appropriate performance.
  • Cloud aware development methodologies -The recognition that traditional build and run processes, skills, KPIs and organisational constructs are ill suited is often left to the end.  Building agile, interdisciplinary teams that include infrastructure coders along with application coders, QA professionals, security and business representatives are imperative to realising the agility that startups enjoy in their Born-on-the-cloud environments.  Furthermore, the run operations are materially different – particularly for newly developed cloud Native applications.  The model is one of cattle, not pets – i.e. you recover from failure by restarting the application rather than working tirelessly to collect data, recreate the problem, issue a fix, run regression tests and push into production.

As the journey to the cloud continues for Government and enterprise, so too do the options, and the skills needed to optimise this new computing model for maximum effect. When managed correctly, cloud brings the promise of agility, cost effectiveness and elasticity that CIOs and business have been craving. As more applications and services move to the cloud, CIOs will need to sharpen their ability to both manage and optimise cloud for their enterprise.

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