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Is Your Cloud Investment Future-Proof?

May 31, 2024

by Punish Malhotra - Executive Vice President & Global Head, Strategic Sales and Partnerships

Not long ago, CIOs were entrusted with the task of transferring/shifting/migrating the IT infrastructure to the Cloud, by hook or by crook. Many of them resorted to starting the movement by doing lift and shift, aiming to report back to the stakeholders with a percentage of workloads migrated to the Cloud. It was deemed necessary for large enterprises to set these goals to avoid being left behind. Cloud adoption was now being directly correlated with the digital maturity of an enterprise.  By learning from the mistakes of industry titans like Barnes & Noble and Blockbuster—whose unwillingness to change ultimately led to their downfall at the hands of disruptors like Amazon and Netflix—organizations sought to avoid becoming obsolete.

The Cloud, with its many attributes like scalability, flexibility, cost-effectiveness (at the time), security, and resilience became the cornerstone of the digital economy. For those of us who have been associated with the industry for the past 30 years, the Cloud represents the most significant disruption journey we have experienced, as opposed to still-emerging technologies such as Blockchain and Quantum Computing. Likely, we are at the dawn of the next disruptive cycle with GenAI, and cloud computing has found its play with GenAI as well.

We witnessed significant advancements over the past 20 years, making it one of the key drivers of the enterprise tech sector’s expansion. The late 2010s witnessed a surge in cloud adoption, with enterprises migrating critical workloads to cloud environments. On one hand, technology firms wanted to be Cloud companies and on the other hand, services/enterprises wanted to be part of the cloud journey. The transition was coupled with complex hybrid architectures, cloud-native development methodologies, and the principles of DevOps to enhance operational efficiency and drive digital transformation initiatives.

The paradigm shift not only gave rise to new tech giants like AWS, Google, Salesforce, but it also pivoted technology behemoths like Microsoft, IBM, SAP, and Oracle. Traditional license-based software vendors embraced the consumption-based world.

Forever Altered: The Future of Cloud Computing

Even while cloud adoption has emerged as the cornerstone of digital transformation for businesses worldwide, every organization is going through its own, unique cloud journey. Moreover, the conversation around cloud adoption has evolved over the years.

The dialogue focused on the intricacies such as the maturity of cloud utilization, type of usage, organizational maturity in cloud operations, strict governance, architecture optimization, and the primary pain points. These discussions go beyond adoption and focus on ongoing cloud usage, including why and how to use cloud.

The Ongoing Management Phase: Prevent Cloud from Becoming a Liability

While the initial migration to the cloud was considered a significant milestone, it is merely the beginning of the journey, and everyone realizes that. The true value of cloud computing lies in the ongoing management and optimization efforts that follow. This phase encompasses several key areas of focus that are critical to maximize the return on cloud investments.

Financial Engineering of the Cloud

One of the primary drivers for cloud adoption was the potential for cost savings but most CXOs discovered this to be untrue the hard way. However, there is a renewed emphasis on the financial aspects of cloud usage. In the absence of proper management and optimization, cloud costs can escalate rapidly. Continuous monitoring and rightsizing of cloud resources are crucial to ensure efficient utilization and prevent unforeseen expenses. Most of it can be achieved by integrating FinOps into ongoing MSP goals.

Architecture & Design

Empowering your engineering or Center of Excellence (CoE) team with the ongoing task of enhancing architecture and design is essential to derive the maximum value from the cloud. This involves refining cloud architecture to ensure scalability, performance, resiliency, compliance, and alignment with best practices. Achieving this necessitates modernization, adopting microservices, embracing serverless architectures, and leveraging the top tools offered by cloud providers and their partners.

Security Posture Improvement/Enhancement

We often hear two things from cloud providers: “Cloud is more secure” and “Security is a shared responsibility.” Though both of these assertions may seem paradoxical to newcomers, they are true. Regular assessments, robust access controls, data encryption, and continuous monitoring for potential threats are essential for maintaining a strong security posture. The cybersecurity landscape has evolved significantly with the advent of the cloud, making attacks more sophisticated and emphasizing the critical role of CISOs in effectively managing business operations.

Technical Debt Reduction

Technical debt invariably builds up over time, impeding agility and inflating maintenance costs. It is essential to proactively identify and tackle technical debt through refactoring, code optimization, and architectural enhancements to ensure long-term sustainability. This demands dedication, a continuous effort to modernize and streamline both code and the tech stack. The Managed Services Team should be held accountable for reducing technical debt.

More Cloud, More Compliance

Not long ago, compliance was considered a problem in regulated industries like banking, insurance, healthcare, and defense etc. However, the advent of Cloud made compliance a cause of concern for everybody. Data sovereignty became a challenge for the IT department of every organization. Along with this the digital wave of retailers transitioning to e-commerce, exponential growth of digital payments, and more kept introducing need for more checks and balances globally.

Therefore, it is imperative for organizations to assess and optimize revenue-generating applications, mission-critical workloads, and customer-facing services. Fundamental to this approach is the concept of continuous assessment, governance, and ongoing transformation, aimed at ensuring that cloud resources are aligned with business objectives and responsive to dynamic market conditions.

Well-Architected Framework Assessment: A Good Start

A Well-Architected Framework Assessment is the biggest gift to the cloud CoE or anyone using Cloud to run workloads. It embodies a holistic approach similar to an annual physical check-up, emphasizing the importance of maintaining overall health. It is more than a technical review; rather, it helps companies develop a culture of continuous improvement.  This implies that workloads and cloud architectures must be routinely assessed and adjusted as needed to meet changing business needs, embrace new technology, and follow industry best practices.

At its core, the assessment aims to foster integrated and continuous governance across an organization’s technical and operational areas. While the approach to this assessment can be focused or broad. For instance, a specific challenge like reducing the ongoing cost of cloud services can serve as a perfect example or a problem statement within this framework.

Financial Operations (FinOps)- Facilitates the cultivation of a cost-conscious culture, enabling a unified view of cloud expenditure and the identification of underutilized, orphaned, or idle resources for optimization. Along with this it offered an opportunity to adopt new services/capabilities that can not only reduce costs but also drive greater transformation goals.

The recent survey titled “The State of Cloud Cost In 2024,” conducted by CloudZero among 1,000 finance and engineering professionals, sheds light on the evolving trends in cloud cost management. The statistics reveal that from 2022 to 2024, the percentage of companies with dedicated FinOps professionals rose from 21% to 25%, indicating a rising awareness of the importance of managing cloud costs effectively.

The emphasis on assessment and governance not only enables organizations to optimize cloud costs but also empowers them to achieve long-term financial sustainability in their cloud operations and reinvest the savings into innovation, like the GenAI projects your CEO/Board is eager to accelerate.

Some of the other areas of focus across large enterprises these days include Security or Automation.

Security Operations (SecOps)- Contributes to establishing a robust security posture, nurturing a proactive approach to cloud security and compliance assurance. It empowers organizations to navigate the complexities of multi-cloud compliance challenges, data privacy and sovereignty issues, and so on. Security and compliance have become more complex with cloud adoption and advancements in technologies.

According to “The State of Security Remediation 2024” report, a survey was conducted in December 2023 and garnered 2,037 responses from IT and security professionals. The primary objectives of the survey were to gain a deeper understanding of current cloud environments and security tools, assess challenges in today’s vulnerability assessment and mitigation practices, and identify opportunities to lower risk. The survey results included in this report highlight:

  • Only 23% of organizations report having full visibility in their cloud environments.
  • 61% of organizations use between 3-6 different detection tools.
  • 75% of organizations have security teams spending over 20% of their time performing manual tasks when addressing security alerts.

The statistics highlighted above highlight the critical importance of maintaining ongoing assessment and governance of cloud environments to fully capitalize on their potential benefits.

Cloud Operations (CloudOps)- Streamlines and automates processes, simplifying the integration of tools and services across multiple platforms. It provides comprehensive insights into cloud resource utilization, enabling informed decision-making and resource allocation.

Well-Architected Framework Assessment Pillars

Tools for Cloud Assessment and Governance Frameworks

Today, major hyperscalers offer well-architected frameworks for assessing and optimizing cloud workloads on AWS, Azure, GCP, OCI, or multi-cloud environments. Despite being useful, these frameworks can be complex, with hundreds & thousands of checklist items added continuously, making assessment, governance, and maintenance of cloud ecosystem a manual, time-intensive process – especially for multi-cloud users navigating different best practices.

To effectively govern cloud environments, enterprises leverage tools like CoreStack, Morpheus, Apptio and other cloud management platforms (CMPs). These CMPs provide visibility, cost control, security enhancements, automation, and continuous optimization capabilities.

Organization Name CoreStack Morpheus Data Apptio, an IBM Company
Description CoreStack is a cloud governance solution that helps organizations assess, optimize, and govern their cloud environments. Morpheus helps organizations streamline their multi-cloud and hybrid IT environments. Apptio provides a range of advisory services, onboarding and enablement programs, and guided services focused on optimizing cloud costs, establishing FinOps practices, and providing visibility and cost allocation capabilities.
Solution/Capabilities Cloud assessments, NextGen governance, Automated issue detection Multi-cloud unification, Self-service provisioning, Lifecycle management, Automation capabilities FinOps advisory service for cost optimization, FinOps practice management, FinOps advisory service for visibility and cost allocation
Cloud Management and Provisioning Assessment and governance tools Self-service provisioning, Lifecycle management, Automation capabilities Advisory services, tools for optimizing cloud costs and improving financial visibility
Multi-Cloud Support Provides capabilities for managing multi-cloud environments Unifies the management of various cloud technologies under a single platform, supporting multi-cloud and hybrid environments Offers services for optimizing costs across multi-cloud environments
Security and Compliance Focuses on ensuring security and compliance in multi-cloud environments. Provides security enhancement capabilities as part of its solutions. Includes features for establishing best practices in cloud financial governance, transparency, and accountability, which indirectly contributes to security and compliance efforts.
Cost Optimization Optimization features within governance solutions Cost optimization features as part of broader suite of capabilities Specializes in cloud cost optimization through advisory services, tailored strategies, KPI setting, and optimization recommendations
Visibility and Reporting Provides visibility through assessments and governance features Offers reporting and dashboards for monitoring and managing resources Improves visibility through workshops, assessments, and tailored reports and dashboards on Cloudability platform

Kick Off Safely: Navigating Cloud Without Risk

Using these tools, most workloads can be evaluated within one or two weeks, possibly extending to a month for more complicated systems. The tools available today streamline the process of data collection and recommendation-making significantly.

To address the issues at their core, it is essential to establish a robust managed services practice – people, process & tools. This team will consistently support development, infrastructure teams, and stakeholders by offering recommendations to enhance the organization’s digital presence. The beauty of these initiatives lies in their
ability to self-fund.

I will once again use the example of going for an annual physical examination. You identify the problems early, treat them early in the life cycle, and manage
the health of the business.

In summary, do remember two key takeaways:  Set up the yearly cloud evaluation and call an expert to assess your cloud health.

Key Contributors: Divya Gupta – Lead – Content/ Research & Sales Enablement, Pulkit Jauhari – Lead – Research/ Content & Sales Enablement

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