As an evergreen technology, cloud computing has had quite the journey. From the promise of public cloud collaboration to the demands of private and hybrid strategies, nearly every business leader has something to say on the technology. Prior to 2020 most responses could be boiled down to a balancing act between cost and efficiency; the beginning of the decade however was unlike nearly all before, however, and just as cloud technologies were starting to stretch the patiences of boardrooms, it became the partner solution for survival. Not only was it instrumental in allowing workers from home to quickly continue their work, but it also gave the industry an eye-opening dichotomy of cloud-enabled business versus not. The latter are still to catch up.
So, what then of this vital solution’s future? Technology leaders Joanna Drake, CIO, The Hut Group, Itumeleng Makgati, VP Security and Architecture, Sasol, Rob Tribe, Regional SE Director, Western Europe, Nutanix, and James Gupwell, Managing Director, Wellbridge Consulting, came together at The Studio @ Home to reflect on their own cloud journeys and consider what they need in 2021.
“We were growing so quickly,” reported Joanna Drake, “by acquiring new businesses and teams, sometimes 50 to 100 new starters every Monday, and that was only made possible by our cloud investments prior to 2020.”
Although cloud computing hasn’t caused Drake to amend any of her strategies, it has been the catalyst of change for her entire change program. It’s a distinction worth noting.
“Cloud has indeed accelerated our projects and our point along in our road map,” said Itumeleng Makgati. “We’re further ahead in our two to three year journey with it and that’s down to remote working and new normal business contexts encouraging us to move forward.”
Rob Tribe of Nutanix, a cloud provider, noted that Drake’s and Makgati’s responses were typical of technology leaders today.
“Clearly the last six months have accelerated many customer plans and cloud adoptions, but these were happening anyway. Cloud is allowing people to drive through business more quickly than expected and, yes, remote working has acted as a lightning rod for people to understand just how important a technology this can be for businesses in a crisis.”
For James Gupwell, the pandemic has augmented a laser-like focus for what businesses ought to place into the cloud. Certain workloads, he argued, need to go into the cloud as soon as possible, whereas others do not. He noted that Nutanix cloud hardware was being used for that very prioritization. He’s also redeveloping applications and microservices to get them into the right shape before any cloud migration.
As he puts it, “cloud is mostly about the background work than the front-end.”
One thing remote working has also created is a security challenge—and cloud has accelerated that too, Gupwell continued.
“Many old applications weren’t built with new software and security principles in place so we have to redevelop the architecture and build in that security post-haste,” he said. “Only then will they have a fighting chance of being secure in the cloud.”
“We also considered identity management,” replied Drake. “By considering single-sign on and many others we had control over who had access to what in our applications even on the cloud. We made sure the entire estate was well managed and secure, and we patched effectively and regularly, so our entire business was unaffected by the shift to remote working.”
Makgati, however, was keen to stress the importance of understanding the relative responsibilities between your business and your cloud provider. Commenting on The Hut Group’s varied and well-thought-through practices, she said other businesses, who weren’t as aware of what was required of them and their teams, would suffer down the road.
“To protect your teams and your data you have to know what you are buying from your cloud provider,” she advised. “Some businesses migrate workloads to a cloud provider and hope for the best, hoping the provider will protect them. That’s a mistake. Understand contractually what those providers offer and suit your strategies accordingly.”
Gupwell strongly agreed with this point. For him, this is the “most important aspect of cloud security conversations”. He admitted to having read all of Microsoft’s Trust Center information, for one, and second, he believes if you choose the wrong provider, or you misunderstand the obligations set by them, you’ll be architecting your solutions and products on sand.
“The regulatory framework is one of the most important to understand.”