The cloud market in Australia is maturing, and organizations that fail to take advantage of the capabilities it offers may lose their edge against competitors that do, warned Darren Hawkins, president and CEO of a new data center operator Polymer Connected.
With more than a decade in the industry and having plenty of experience with cloud projects on both the infrastructure and strategy fronts, Hawkins has observed that the choice of cloud platform is not a one-time decision but a continuous process that will keep IT managers occupied for years to come.
Cloudy down under
There are some Australian firms that have completely outsourced their IT, Hawkins acknowledged, moving everything including their email, file storage and application services to the public cloud. Many others, though, have adopted a more cautious approach by outsourcing some business functions but maintaining others in-house as part of a hybrid cloud strategy.
Yet others have gone “all cloud” by leveraging the best of public cloud platforms for customer-facing systems, while running business applications on their own private cloud deployments. These are typically organizations with offices across multiple regions; they also tend to implement internal product clouds to address their more complex requirements.
Finally, there are organizations that use the cloud for agility. This approach is favored by established Australian businesses with older IT systems, due to the ability to quickly implement bespoke capabilities or services in the cloud without having to tear up existing infrastructure.
Hawkins shared a story about a bank that initially struggled to deploy a mobile app for a banking product, but solved its woes in the cloud: “They had a team produce a mobile app with a cloud backend, which was connected back to the core banking platform. This was much easier than moving their core banking [systems] into the cloud.”
Choosing the right cloud
How does a typical Australian business go about selecting which cloud to use? “This will vary by organization and whether they are governed by Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA), or [belong to] Government agencies that require Tier IV security,” Hawkins explained. “Often the choice is around price, scalability, flexibility, technology match with existing systems and platforms.”
Technology match is not necessarily the first consideration, but one which can make a huge difference to the effort required: “If you are on the Microsoft platform, then a migration to Azure going to be pretty straightforward. However, migrating from Unix to Amazon Web Services (AWS) is going to be a bit more complicated.”
Hawkins also highlighted the importance of the timeframe for a cloud project. The choice here is not necessarily intuitive, he said, pointing out that while a 12-month deployment may culminate in more capabilities, the wait may not be acceptable from a business competitiveness point of view.
Regardless of the time window available, expect to do a lot of work for a cloud implementation: “[The timeframe] includes drawing up your business case, user requirements, validating them, project tender, selection and implementation. Then you’ve got the planning, migration and testing.”
Many clouds to rule them all
Organizations looking for the perfect cloud platform to meet their needs may be disappointed to learn that multi-cloud deployments look to become the norm.
“Complexity in business requires different solutions to address market need… some clouds are created to service particular business functions, in the same way traditional IT segregates backend functions like email, storage and archive from customer-facing applications like registration systems,” Hawkins said.
“Business units within a big company have specific problems that they are trying to solve. One cloud could be better for accounting, another could be for customer-facing platform. Other clouds could be good at specific parts of the application stack. It’s not necessarily a bad thing; it’s a matter of matching them and checking on their interoperability.”
For now, the maturity of the Australian market means businesses are spoiled for choice. Major cloud vendors such as AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud and Alibaba Cloud are all available in Australia, not counting the host of lesser-known infrastructure, platform and Software-as-a-Service providers.
The future of cloud
If there is one challenge remaining, it’s the fast pace of innovation in the cloud. Choosing the right combination of cloud platforms and services isn’t a one-time decision, but one that will need to be constantly reviewed. And the intense pace of change means that CIOs must stay on their toes to maintain the right mix of cloud capabilities for their organizations.
“Given how the cloud is evolving now, how much you want to use a particular cloud over another will shift over time. I think it will be quite an art form for customers to work out which cloud is better for which [aspects] of their business. People have to be very good about costing the value and the cost of change,” Hawkins said.
“The skillset to determine how and why use [a cloud] will become very important, as well as evaluating the cost of the business disruption, the risks, and other considerations. An outage could cost a lot of money and destroy the benefits in the first place – there’s a lot of thinking that has to happen to make sure it’s the right move.”
As more organizations look to the cloud, Hawkins expects greater interoperability of cloud platforms over the next two to three years. And he expects this to be hugely beneficial for businesses. As the nuances in both technology and business processes taken care of, businesses can expect to have an easier time even as they operate in more regions than ever, he says.