Cloud adoption continues to increase. Close to 80% of organizations are running workloads in the cloud¹. Advanced cloud workloads saw a 25% increase year-over-year, a reasonable indicator that more complex workloads are moving to the cloud. The hybrid cloud architecture remains in the lead, with 36% of organizations leveraging this architecture.

I’m not surprised by the popularity of hybrid cloud architecture. Full transparency – I’m a big fan of hybrid cloud. One of the first things I did after joining Definitive Logic was revise our tech strategy to include hybrid cloud. As a tech executive, one of my favorite mantras is “put the right workload on the right platform.” It’s tempting to think of this as a one-and-done decision, but it isn’t. Cloud options are evolving rapidly in a Darwinian competition. Business dynamics are evolving at an equally frenetic pace.

For example, while 99.99% of tech start-ups begin life in the public cloud, venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz actively encourages successful hyper-scalers to migrate fully or partially out of cloud² as early as possible. The best platforms available today will be old news in 18-24 months. You can’t afford to get anything less than the best performance for your money. After all, cloud adoption isn’t about technology. It’s a model for using and delivering digital services securely and quickly. That means you also can’t afford to be complacent when you’re looking for:

  • Cost optimization
  • Faster time to value
  • Assured quality
  • Effective security and control
  • Better customer experience
  • Future readiness

Key Questions

  • How will modern cloud computing services improve your organization’s customer experience?
  • How will modern cloud computing help your organization power improved outcomes?
  • What initiatives could you launch if you had access to modern IT services like:
      • Artificial intelligence (AI)
      • Robotic process automation (RPA)
      • API-enabled web services
      • Data management services with no/low maintenance burden

Think about re-platforming upfront. Just because the cloud is cheaper and better at one point doesn’t mean it won’t be more costly later. You either passively accept it or you plan for it. More modular architectural investments early on — including architecting to move workloads to the optimal location and not get stranded — reduce the effort and cost needed to re-platform or repatriate workloads in the future. With a suitably modular architecture, re-platforming can be done incrementally. This is ideal given the “right workload / right platform” mantra.

Think about customer journeys rather than applications. It’s tempting to focus on specific assets, for example, enterprise applications for financial management or human capital management. That’s less helpful than examining customer journeys. These typically cross applications and benefit from integrating different types of data to reveal new insights. What’s more, enterprise applications tend to align with organizational structures. Customers shouldn’t have to understand your organizational structure to complete their journey and achieve their intended outcome.

Work in an Agile model. This isn’t just about the IT department. Agile brings business and IT together to continually prioritize and deliver new business functionality. And yes, that does mean IT operations and infrastructure have to become modular and scalable to enable continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD). This won’t be easy given the age of some of your IT portfolio. You’ll have to make hard choices about what to do first. But don’t stop with modernizing your on-premise IT infrastructure.

In parallel, modernize your IT talent—identity- and access-management specialists, data engineers, full-stack developers, cyber-security engineers, and cloud engineers. External hires will be rare and prohibitively expensive. Concentrate on upskilling your existing people to move away from manual activities in favor of heavily automating everything the first time they do it. It’s the only way to achieve the speed, cost, and quality you want.

Buy IT without contractual or emotional commitment. The future is unpredictable. Buying IT in an agile way – by the drink – is the safest model. It’s the best way to prepare for unpredictable fluctuations in volume. On the upside, digital traffic can surge to the tune of 300 to 500%, causing massive requirements. On the downside, traffic can drop. You’ll want your infrastructure consumption costs to drop accordingly. Make few contractual commitments to fixed volumes or minimum volumes. Put as few assets as possible on your balance sheet.

Operate IT in with data-driven disciplines. IT operations data is your friend. With modest automation, IT operations can generate rich data sets. But don’t stop there. Having the data is one thing. It’s another thing entirely to consistently use the data for insights like performance tuning and capacity planning. You’ll need both the right analytical tools and, more importantly, the right skills and organizational performance incentives. The right talent can use artificial intelligence technologies with capabilities like telemetry and event correlation to link data sets and produce self-tuning capabilities.

Govern IT in with a business attitude. First of all, business executives are taking an active interest in IT governance. Without IT, their business functions cease to exist. Also, the need for speed-to-value means business executives are actively looking for opportunities to subscribe to new business capabilities through SaaS rather than have them custom built. With that background, IT governance now applies three different dimensions.

1. The traditional dimension looks at the IT estate as horizontal layers: data, business logic, compute, storage, connectivity, cybersecurity. Hybrid cloud adoption turbo-charges this dimension because the assets aren’t all in one place. Nor are they all directly owned by the organization. It’s complicated

2. The next dimension looks at the IT portfolio as vertical stacks. After all, when you subscribe to Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) you are renting the entire stack for a given application.

3. The final dimension looks at customer journeys. Customer journeys span multiple business functions, multiple departments, multiple applications and multiple (nominally) end-to-end processes all to enable customers to achieve their intended outcomes. The fundamental challenge for this dimension of IT governance is integrating data (not integrating applications) across these multiple spaces to deliver real-time and 360º situational awareness.

A hybrid cloud architecture is a foundational element of your tech strategy. This means thinking about, working with, and buying technology differently. If you’d like to talk through some of the challenges, I’m ready to help.

¹Denodo Global Cloud Survey 2021
²“The Cost of Cloud, a Trillion Dollar Paradox”, Andreessen Horowitz