For individuals, deciding to use a cloud computing service often requires nothing more than signing up with an email address. For enterprises, however, cloud adoption can be a much more complicated process.
In any organization, a number of key groups will be involved in the cloud adoption process: business managers, the CIO and other executives, IT program managers, solutions architects, application developers, IT security staff, IT operations personnel and many others. Those people all have different perspectives, and getting them all to agree can be challenging, to say the least.
Before they fully embrace cloud computing, those key stakeholders need to have a thorough understanding of the potential business benefits and risks. They should examine how other organizations in their industry are leveraging the cloud, and they need to conduct a thorough business analysis to make sure that it makes sense for them from a financial perspective. They need to learn about the technologies involved and make vendor, product and service choices that make sense for them. They need to consider their current IT landscape and decide which parts to change and which parts to leave as they are. And they need to make sure they are following best practices to maximize their chances of success. To put all the technical aspects of what the vendor provides in writing, every cloud customer needs a Service Level Agreement.
It’s a complicated process with a lot of moving parts, but organizations need to move very quickly if they want to keep up with their competitors.
Cloud Adoption Trends
By most estimates, cloud adoption is skyrocketing. According to IDC, spending on public cloud computing alone will likely increase 24.4 percent in 2017 to reach $122.5 billion. And the same firm forecasts that spending on private cloud infrastructure will grow 16.6 percent this year.
Many, many different vendors have published studies showing that somewhere between 90 and 100 percent of enterprises now use at least one cloud service. And most of those organizations are increasing their use of the cloud over time. The Skyhigh Cloud Adoption and Risk Report for the fourth quarter of 2016 found that the average organization now uses 1, 427 different cloud services, a 23.7 percent year-over year increase. It said, "The average employee actively uses 36 cloud services at work, including nine collaboration services, six file sharing services, and five content sharing services (e.g. YouTube, Flickr, etc.)."
Source: Skyhigh Cloud Adoption and Risk Report Q4 2016
The report also found that cloud adoption is more mature in some industries than in others. Not surprisingly, technology companies use the most cloud services — 2.033 on average. Manufacturing (1,837 services), business services (1,771 services) and energy companies (1,587 services) also use many different cloud services, while the typical government agency accesses just 944.
Source: Skyhigh Cloud Adoption and Risk Report Q4 2016
And some types of applications are better candidates for cloud migration than others. For 2017, the reports suggests that analytics, data storage and data management are some of organization's highest cloud adoption priorities.
Overall, the clear trend is toward more cloud usage, and enterprises that delay cloud adoption or move too slowly run the risk of missing out on the benefits enjoyed by their competitors.
Benefits of Cloud Adoption
From a business perspective, organizations that adopt cloud computing experience a number of benefits that could help them outperform the competition:
- Agility and Flexibility: For any company, being able to respond quickly to changing market conditions can provide a critical competitive advantage. Cloud computing allows organizations to deploy new infrastructure and applications almost immediately. That translates into faster time-to-market for new products and services.
- Scalability: In order to succeed, your business must be able to grow. Cloud computing allows organizations to access more computing resources as they need them. With public cloud services, they pay only for what they use but have the capability to expand as necessary.
- Availability: In today's world, employees and customers expect to be able to access your applications any time day or night, and they will quickly defect to a competitor if your services are experiencing downtime. In general, cloud computing environments provide higher uptime than traditional data centers. In addition, many organizations choose to make cloud computing a key part of their business continuity (BC) and disaster recovery (DR) plans.
- Mobility and Productivity: Using cloud-based applications and infrastructure enables employees to work from any Internet-connected device, including mobile devices. It also enables greater collaboration, which helps improve productivity overall.
- Financial Benefits: In many cases, cloud adoption allows organizations to reduce their IT costs And depending on the type of cloud used, enterprises may be able to get rid of some capital expenses and take on operating expenses instead, which may be desirable.
Risks of Cloud Adoption
Although most organization determine that the potential benefits of cloud computing make it worthwhile, cloud adoption does carry some risks:
- Security breaches and data leaks: Organizations using public cloud services often express concerns over cloud security. When they use a public cloud service, enterprises don't have control over their physical infrastructure, and public cloud services can present an attractive target to hackers. Some business leaders also worry about the fact that the public cloud is a shared environment, and their workloads could be running on the same physical servers as their competitors'.
- Non-compliance: Before moving forward with any cloud adoption plans, organizations need to make sure their cloud will meet all of their compliance requirements. This is a particular concern for organizations in the healthcare, retail and financial services industries.
- Unexpected costs: Because organizations pay for public cloud services based on their usage, they sometimes receive unexpectedly high bills when their usage is higher than expected. Enterprises can mitigate this risk with appropriate monitoring and governance procedures.
- Management complexity: Organizations that take a multi-cloud or hybrid cloud approach often find that their new cloud environment is more difficult to manage than a traditional data center. To deal with this risk, organizations should look for tools that simplify the management of these complex cloud environments.
- Unplanned downtime: In general, cloud environments provide better availability than traditional data centers. However, unplanned outages do occur from time to time in both public and private clouds. Organizations need to prepare with a business continuity (BC)/disaster recovery (DR) plan that accounts for their cloud usage.
Best Practices for Cloud Adoption
Once you have made the decision to move ahead with cloud adoption, experts recommend a number of best practices that offer the best chances for success:
- Involve key stakeholders early. If your cloud adoption project is going to achieve the business that you hope to obtain, you need to get buy-in from key personnel early on. In many cases, that will mean involving the CIO and other C-level executives, as well as influential IT managers. It's also important to gather input from the people who will be using the cloud within your organization.
- Make sure everyone involved understands the reasons and goals behind your cloud adoption. The cloud offers a number of different benefits. Make sure you clarify which benefits are most important to your organization and put that information in writing. If, for example, your company is primarily interested in increasing agility, you may make different decisions regarding cloud deployment models and vendors than if your key goal is improving availability while securing customer data. Having these goals written down will help keep everyone on track and give you useful criteria for measuring the success of your initiative.
- Build a business case for your cloud adoption that includes TCO and ROI analysis. Before you get final approval to move ahead with your cloud project, you're probably going to need to provide management with a firm estimate about costs. Most cloud computing vendors have tools that can help you generate these numbers. In many cases, it will be helpful to do both a total cost of ownership (TCO) and return on investment (ROI) analysis for the various vendors you are considering.
- Determine which of your current applications are suitable for migration to the cloud. Most enterprises use a number of legacy applications, and not all of these applications will be suitable for migration to the cloud. Depending on their architecture, programming language and dependencies, it may be less expensive to continue running them on your existing systems, or you may want to consider replacing some with new cloud-based apps. Many organizations choose to start their cloud initiative not by migrating apps but with a brand-new app. This allows them to take a "cloud-first" approach to the design.
- Analyze your security and compliance needs. Make sure that you understand the data protection steps necessary for your initial cloud project and any other applications you know that you want to run in the cloud in the future. You may find that it is necessary to take a hybrid cloud or multi-cloud approach in order to provide the level of security you need. Knowing that in the beginning can help you make better choices about which vendors and tools to use.
- Define your governance structure."Shadow IT" is one of the biggest headaches associated with cloud computing. If they can, employees will begin using consumer-focused cloud services with or without the blessing of IT. Make sure you have procedures and technologies in place to assure the security of your data, applications and networks and to prevent staff from using services that could expose you to risk.
- Begin with a pilot project.Rather than move all of your legacy applications to the cloud at once, most experts suggest that organizations start small. Deploying just one cloud-based service can give you a chance to learn from mistakes and help smooth the process of future rollouts. Often, enterprises begin by moving their development and testing environments to the cloud before they deploy any cloud-based applications in production.
- Select and test technologies meant to simplify the cloud adoption process.Vendors offer a host of tools and services that can make it easier to create new cloud-based applications or to migrate your legacy applications to the cloud. Investigate tools that might sense for your needs, keeping in mind the overall goals of your cloud adoption project.
- Scale your cloud adoption efforts.Once you have completed a successful pilot project, it's time to take what you learned and apply it to more use cases. After they begin their cloud adoption process, organizations often find that it is economical to use the cloud for more applications than they had originally intended.
Cloud Adoption and Migration Services
Many different vendors offer cloud adoption, management and migration services. Some of the better-known enterprise vendors include the following:
- AWS Professional Services Cloud Adoption Framework
- Cisco Cloud Enablement Services
- Dell Cloud Consulting Services
- HPE Cloud Services
- IBM Cloud Consulting Services
- Microsoft Enterprise Deployment Services
- Oracle Cloud Adoption Consulting Service
- VMware Professional Services
To learn more about cloud adoption, check out the following resources: