While Canadian businesses tend to be late adopters when it comes to new technologies, there is a consensus that cloud computing is poised to go mainstream in Canada – but business will need to tread carefully if they want to reap the benefits.
A recent webinar hosted by ITWC CIO Jim Love (click here for the replay) dove deeper into Canada’s move to the cloud with Paul Monaghan, director of cloud and managed services, solution development with Rogers. Monaghan said many businesses are still thinking about where they need to be rather than moving along the path when it comes to cloud computing, but there is a definite shift happening away from traditional in-house IT when it comes to hardware, software and staffing.
“Canadians have adopted cloud providers, but it’s difficult to pin down how much because of differing definitions,” said Monaghan.
Canadian businesses are primarily focused on three flavours of cloud: software as a service (SaaS) owned, delivered and managed remotely by one of more service providers; platform as a service (PaaS) application infrastructure services including application platform, integration, business process management and database services all in the cloud; and infrastructure as a service (IaaS), a standardized, automated offering where compute resources, storage and networking capabilities are owned and hosted by a service provider and offered on demand.
“Canadians are focused in IaaS. We haven’t seen much take up on PaaS, and SaaS is a no-brainer these days with applications such as Office 365, Google for Work and Salesforce,” said Monaghan.
Other cloud types include the private cloud, community cloud, public cloud and hybrid cloud. Love noted there are a lot of differing definitions for hybrid cloud, but Monaghan’s definition is the coordinate use of cloud services across provider boundaries.
Hybrid cloud is becoming the stepping stone to doing more and more in the cloud. Gartner forecasts hybrid cloud use growing from the preferred solution of seven per cent today to 20 per cent in 2017, with sectors such as healthcare, insurance and government leading the way.
“The Canadian marketplace is very much embracing the hybrid cloud,” said Monaghan. “They realize you can’t do everything in the public cloud. Some things transition well into the public cloud and some don’t. Companies want to have control over highly sensitive things they want to keep internal, and that customer layer and anything that needs to be more dynamic can move into the public cloud.”
Public cloud is also popular, particularly in the manufacturing industry, with 63 per cent of global respondents saying they’re making significant investments in the public cloud. Banking, education, retail, transportation and wholesale trade also scored highly for public cloud investment.
“Businesses are trying to get those non-core competencies off their plates, focus on what is core and speed up their businesses,” said Monaghan.
And once companies move some workloads to the cloud they tend to be happy they did. A U.S. study found that 43 per cent of companies that have adopted the cloud wish they had done sooner.
“Pretty much all the companies I see these days have some sort of asset that is cloud-based,” said Monaghan. “The feedback is once they do it they realize how good that is.”
Before they get to the cloud though, there’s some myths they need to overcome.
- Cloud is always about money
There can be cost-savings sometimes by moving to the cloud, but Monaghan said that’s not why you do it. “You go to the cloud to leverage some of the operational efficiencies and get your staff working on what’s important,” he said. “Money is always a concern, but you get what you pay for and you’ve to make sure what you’re buying makes sense.”
- You have to be cloud to be good
Cloud-washing, or vendors attaching the term cloud to whatever product they’re pitching, is running rampant. It has led to the myth that if it’s cloud, it must be good, and it needs to be cloud to be good. “Cloud doesn’t need to be used for everything, and that’s where hybrid comes into play,” said Monaghan.
- Cloud should be used for everything
The cloud may not benefit all workloads equally, and it would be wrong to assume it does. Each application should be looked at on an individual basis to see how it should be handled, and that may mean a non-cloud solution.
- “The CEO said so” is a cloud strategy
If your cloud strategy is going to be successful, it needs to rest on a strong business foundation. That means identifying business goals and the potential benefits the cloud could mean in achieving them. Cloud is the means to an end, not the end itself. “If you as a company can develop that strategy you’ll be far more successful,” said Monaghan.
- We need one cloud vendor
Companies want to minimize the number of vendors they work with to limit complexity, but there’s no one cloud solution that does everything. Working with a service provider such as Rogers that brings the vendors together can help manage that complexity, and Monaghan said companies really need to develop a cloud strategy for each of its business units – what’s right for IT may not be right for marketing.
- Cloud is less secure than on-premises capabilities
In fact, Monaghan said service and cloud providers have more to lose than an individual business, and so they invest much more heavily in security infrastructure and expertise. Security isn’t the core competency for most companies, but it is for Rogers, so choosing the right service provider can actually mean a more secure environment.
- Cloud is not for mission-critical use
“I wholeheartedly disagree with this one, and so does every mid-sized and large company that has moved to the cloud,” said Monaghan. “There are use cases where cloud isn’t a fit – I wouldn’t run the Canadian Air Traffic Control system on Amazon – but for most businesses you can create a far more resilient solution using cloud infrastructure.”
- Cloud = data centre
A cloud strategy is not a data centre strategy, and the cloud is not a data centre. Cloud isn’t an all or nothing proposition; businesses should focus on deciding
Look at cloud decisions on a workload-by-workload basis, rather than taking an “all or nothing” approach. Cloud and data center outsourcing strategies are related, but they are not the same thing. Assuming that cloud is “all or nothing” leads to the wrong analysis. Look to link cloud and data center strategies. Focus on cloud services and service interfaces.
- Migrating to the cloud means you automatically get all cloud characteristics
Not true, said Monaghan. It will take time. And it will depend on the solution. Just because a solution is hosted doesn’t mean it’s a cloud service; it could simply be an application moved from your data centre to that of a service provider. That will be enough for some solutions; for others, you may want and need the traditional cloud characteristics, including scalability and elasticity.
- Virtualization = private cloud
“Cloud is more than just virtualization. Technology aside, it’s likely to have virtualization as part of it, but what are the operational things you’re doing differently than before?” asked Monaghan. “If you haven’t changed operational procedures it’s not really a private cloud; you’re just leveraging the economies of scale of a virtualization platform.
When it comes to moving to the cloud, Monaghan advises to not try boiling the ocean. Instead, look at your infrastructure and come up with a plan.
“There’s no one cloud strategy. It’s different for every business,” said Monaghan. “Choose low hanging fruit to move to the cloud, picking the solutions that make sense.”