Accelerating digital business – how to select and optimise the right cloud for greater agility

Moving to the cloud is widely understood to be a mandate for IT and business agility. In today’s Application Economy nearly every aspect of an enterprise is driven by applications and they are often a customer’s first and most direct touchpoint with an organisation.  Success depends on delivering applications faster by leveraging the cloud to help increase business responsiveness to customer needs.

The pressure on IT teams to move quickly to support high-speed digital business has never been higher. However, without the right plan to navigate cloud migration and transformation, it’s almost impossible for projects to succeed.

This article shares a best practice framework to help organisations map applications to the right cloud environment and optimise cloud performance to achieve greater digital business agility. It explores how to select the right cloud services partner to provide specialist assistance, assess the best path to the cloud, manage multi-cloud strategies and connect cloud environments to company networks for greater performance.

Select the right cloud services partner

Many companies lack the internal resources and skills to effectively navigate the changes required for digital transformation. The rate of technology change is so fast that it’s difficult for organisations to keep up with the new skills sets that are required. Some of the most common cloud challenges businesses face include complexity of integration, lack of expertise, and poor planning and strategy.

The best solution for many businesses is to find the right cloud services provider to partner with them on their digital business journey.

It’s important to look for a services partner that has the flexibility to support the model that best fits the business’ requirements. Companies might want to outsource everything from cloud migration, planning and execution to security, governance and cost optimisation or divide up responsibilities.

It is also vital to assess a service partner’s capability to draw up and achieve digital goals. Key things to consider include – are they cloud-agnostic so that they can provide impartial advice? Are they able to demonstrate experience with a variety of hosting environments and use cases? And do they have the requisite accreditations for their investment in resources, training and technology to deliver successful outcomes for their customers – on public cloud platforms such as AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud and private cloud platforms such as VMware?

Assess the best path to the cloud

The cloud isn’t a one size fits all. Before starting any cloud transformation, organisations need to determine the “best execution venue” for their essential business applications and systems, rather than struggling to fit all applications into one model.

While cloud technologies have become widely adopted in businesses around the world, many organisations still struggle to understand which of their applications should be moved to the cloud, and which type of cloud platform and deployment model (e.g. SaaS, PaaS, IaaS) should be used. Moving applications to an unsuitable execution venue can result in poor performance.

A best execution venue assessment collects a wide range of data around the use of each application, as well as considerations such as geographic location and data sovereignty for global organisations. It also takes stock of existing infrastructure, licensing, staffing, and hardware capabilities and limitations, as well as a holistic perspective of business priorities.

The data points collected will inform the design of the application migration process. Some applications will be suitable for public cloud, others that are an organisation’s ‘crown jewels’ may need to be on premise in a private cloud, in an environment that is secure enough to handle the most sensitive customer data or regulatory compliance requirements and flexible enough to support highly customised applications. For the majority of organisations, a hybrid cloud approach – a mix of  on-premise, private, and public cloud – best meets the requirement to optimise performance for customers and the business.

Once applications have been mapped to the right cloud platform, organisations can select the most suitable cloud services provider to meet business requirements. Certain applications run better and are more affordable in one cloud than another. Key things to consider are whether the best fit is a large provider who continually innovates and has a large geographic reach or a smaller niche player offering bespoke services, if there’s a need for an organisation with a specific capability or expertise in a vertical industry, or the driving factor will be to base the decision on cost or performance. Not surprisingly, it’s not unusual for organisations to use four or five clouds to fulfill different requirements.

Manage multi-cloud strategies seamlessly

The complexity of multi-cloud environments is driving the demand for multi-cloud management tools. These solutions with automation features enable IT teams to operate uniformly and save time managing their cloud environments by seamlessly managing applications across multiple clouds, via a single pane of glass, without sacrificing availability, resources, or governance. Without these cloud-centric tools, IT leaders face challenges around issues such as standardisation of technology.

Connect to cloud environments in a secure, fast and easy way

No matter what cloud architecture an organisation chooses, they need a solid networking strategy that provides a secure, fast and easy way to connect their locations and data centres to cloud service providers. The latest technology innovations provide built-in automation, holistic management, and dynamic connectivity to clouds, enabling enterprises to seamlessly link to cloud service providers in real-time. These capabilities are key to creating a high-performance application environment.

Digital business is accelerating the pace of change. Companies have to act faster to deploy applications to serve customers better. However, making the decisions about which applications to move to which clouds and how to optimise performance is complex to navigate and requires a lot of planning and proper execution. Businesses should look for experienced partners that can help them to implement a best practice framework and advise on the most effective cloud solutions to help them achieve their digital goals. With these elements in place, organisations can better position themselves for greater digital business agility and success.

Steve Falkus, Product Management Lead, Cloud Solutions, CenturyLink in EMEA