Cloud migration and managed services specialist Arkphire has seen the transformation of business IT in recent years: even before the pandemic, cloud computing was outpacing investment in on-premise systems.
“I think that the cloud has become the norm; it’s maybe even gone beyond that,” John Casey, head of sales at Arkphire Services, said.
One thing that this means in practical terms, though, is that in-house IT departments are under increasing pressure to not only manage systems, but ensure that they are not left behind.
“The challenge we feel, now, is organisations keeping up with developments in the cloud. The issue of internal IT resource availability is real, as is staying abreast of IT security, compliance and governance,” Casey said.
This, for Casey, is a key reason for engaging with a managed services provider well beyond the migration process itself: not only does it take the pressure off internal IT, it frees them up to look at strategic issues while also ensuring that cloud systems are managed by experts.
“We can bring that best of breed,” he said.
In addition, IT teams in businesses are already busy with both operations and strategy, so evaluating, for example, software and platforms, such as security, can be a Sisyphean struggle.
“There are thousands of technologies out there vying for the business to do this. Unless you have your own IT team vested entirely in [for example] security they will struggle to deal with it,” he said.
Cloud adoption has been strong for some years, but Casey said that the reasons for investing in it, or increasing investment in it, are changing.
“Every organisation at this stage has dipped their toe in the cloud, whether deeply or just something simple like Office365.”
Previously, one major driver was a change in accounting practices, with widespread moves to deal with IT as operating expenditure (opex) rather than capital expenditure (capex).
Now the discussion is deeper, according to Casey.
“The opex and capex issue is still very important, but people are analysing their whole stack. In particular, security and governance are hugely important,” he said.
In addition, while legacy systems and on-prem IT in general are not in danger of disappearing, new services are developed in the cloud for deployment on the cloud – something that is driven as much by user expectation as by accounting.
“If someone comes out with a new process it’s almost guaranteed it will be cloud,” he said.
Of course, there is an argument for moving on-prem systems to the cloud, but it needs to be done with care.
Shifting existing software to the cloud can be done, but will it really bring benefits? After all, a monolithic application running in the cloud remains a monolithic application.
Options do include containerisation, but also replacement with collections of microservices.
“An old ERP [enterprise resource planning] system, for example, can hold an organisation back. This is a big opportunity. They might have [previously] tried to move a workload to the cloud and got badly burned.
“Simply containerising an old system is not really feasible, but if the application is already available in a containerised form that would be a great help,” he said.
“There will come a time when it’s not why go to the cloud, but why not?”
In the medium term at least, this means a hybrid strategy, possibly utilising public cloud from the likes of Amazon, Microsoft, Google or IBM alongside private cloud running systems hitherto handled entirely in-house.
“Any organisation with some sort of legacy is going to end up with some sort of hybrid set-up with an on-premise private cloud,” he said.
“A big push for us is getting people to look more closely at security. How secure is it?
What am I accessing? How am I getting to it? Is it encrypted?”
On the question of how strategic decisions should be made, Casey said that organisations need the right answers in technology and business processes. However, he does not see the two at loggerheads.
“The technology is so good that it makes the business case,” he said.
In the end it all comes down to digital transformation – and this relates to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Casey said that there was no doubt that Covid had driven digital transformation to a level.
“We all hear that there has been ‘two years of digital transformation in two months’, and it’s clear to see,” he said.
Much of the recent transformation, such as moving to omnichannel sales, as well as the rush to apps and to remote working, has been haphazard.
Now is the time for consolidation, Casey said.
“Our digital workstation division has seen huge deployment of Citrix, for example. It was the right thing to do, but it’s now the time to ask, ‘What is the strategic thing to do?’
“It was ‘do it or go out of business’,” he said.