Chris Weston (Principal, European Client Advisory)
Marc Dowd (Principal, European Client Advisory)

On August 19, the IDC Digital Leadership Community, comprised of CIOs from across Europe, came together to discuss the perennial question of cloud computing and the pressures and opportunities for digital leaders in 2021.

The session was informed by Marc Dowd and Chris Weston of IDC’s European client advisory practice, Thomas Gordijn from IDC infrastructure experts Metri, and IDC’s own Archana Venkatraman, an expert in cloud data management.

The session began with some simple questions — what cloud services are the group using now as a matter of course, and what do they think will happen next?

The Multicloud Question

A CIO in the meeting spoke about the lure of multicloud operations. “Multicloud does offer flexibility; that’s true and people also say it’s cheaper. However, that’s not always our experience.”

He explained his reasoning. “It will be cheaper if you design it to be cheaper. But if you just copy the existing environment and are not diving into the differences or exploiting the variables that are offered by cloud, it will be more expensive.”

Flexibility

Thomas Gordijn from Metri concurred that enterprises should not be too attracted by the claims of flexibility from multicloud deployment as this will also have its costs. “There will be scenarios cropping up that will add to the cost.”

IDC’s Marc Dowd agreed with this, pointing out that cloud deployment wasn’t always about cost and that it could be the most expensive option. His colleague, Chris Weston, explained that cloud added an element of risk that was not present before. “When you’re on-premises, you’re constrained by the hardware, and you can’t burst out. When you go to cloud, you can do this — but if you are not managing it closely you don’t know what you’ve spent …. until you get the bill.”

The next speaker said that the talk of cost could be a diversion, as the reason that most users opted for multicloud was to reduce risk. Although, he pointed out that different cloud providers specialised in different areas. “If you’re a company with a need for detailed analytics and statistics, then it’s more likely that you’ll choose Google Cloud.”

Archana Venkatraman from IDC revealed some information from recent IDC research regarding how many developers work. “There are developers who have a propensity to use certain cloud services, and that can be an important factor in the choice of technology.” She added that when companies do choose a multicloud strategy there is usually a core choice, an “anchor cloud” that contains the bulk of their computing.

She said that companies need the right cloud for the right strategy. It can be more expensive, but “if you live and breathe it, if it’s part of the enterprise, it will work out better.”

Allegiance

The question of connections between some cloud providers and developers. As IDC’s Marc Dowd said, “It’s true that some cloud providers spend a lot of time and energy building loyalty in the developer community. This means that allegiances are split between the employer and the cloud provider.”

The next speaker explored flexibility in his implementation, stating that “hybrid cloud is the magic word.” He pointed out that his company uses multiple providers. “If we have architecture that’s been set up in Google then it won’t work in AWS or Azure.” And in a throwback to the past, he said that “it’s almost like vendor lock-in as you have to build a layer above the cloud.”

He explained one instance of how this works. “We have chosen to have our data replicated outside Google, even though Google has excellent disaster recovery.”

There are other issues with multiple clouds, not least data retention. As one speaker pointed out, some regulators will force companies to keep data in a particular locality and data sovereignty can have a bearing on the choice of provider.

Top Security

However, many speakers agreed that one of the true advantages of cloud is improved security. One participant explained that it was in their best interests to manage security as their business depended on it. “Your data is much better protected with a cloud provider than you can manage in your own datacentre.”

So, while there are some advantages of multiple cloud providers, there are some challenges too. One speaker set out the problem: “With so many cloud providers, what do we do? Shall we move them to a consolidated view? And how do you bring the on-prem systems on board?”

The group then discussed the rise of FinOps tools and methods that allow companies to provide more flexibility and ownership of cloud capacity to product teams, while maintaining control of spend even across multiple operators. There was an acceptance that the governance of cloud was still playing catch-up with the capabilities, but that the gap is narrowing.

Overall, there was certainly a view that businesses want the benefits of cloud services, and vendors are pushing that way too — but the technical challenges and complexities of moving existing systems to cloud models are still significant.

The final word went to Thomas Gordijn of Metri. “Companies need to make sure they benchmark their existing systems’ performance and measure the benefits of a cloud migration so that providers can be held to their promises. Don’t overcomplicate things unnecessarily, and build innovation into your contracts to ensure you get the best value from cloud providers.”

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