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Why aren’t businesses making more of public cloud?

Image credit: Alexandersikov/Dreamstime

Most businesses have ventured into cloud computing and are seeing its advantages, but there are still obstacles that need to be overcome if it's to get the level of uptake it deserves.

The public cloud – AWS, Google Cloud, Azure – is one of the greatest technological advancements of the modern age. Though it doesn’t have a flashy interface or futuristic packaging, it’s arguably the tool that is most contributing to the success of businesses across the globe today thanks to its flexibility, agility and collaborative nature.

But placing your trust in these systems isn’t always easy for business decision-makers. How do they feel about deploying it across the entire business, cloud security and potential vendor lock-in? What does this mean for their business growth going forward?

Recent research, polling cloud-users from engineers and managers to directors and C-level executives, found that while many agree public cloud is the biggest enabler in a generation, organisations need to focus. To get the best from the cloud, they must gain confidence in it through understanding the key trends and challenges the public cloud poses:

Why is public cloud so popular? First and foremost, the technical and business benefits of the cloud are unequivocal. Almost all business leaders agree that the public cloud provides better technical benefits than on-premises. Of these benefits, the top three most recognised by business leaders are greater efficiency, scalability and agility (the ability to quickly provision infrastructure).

The most cited benefit is often making IT more responsive to the needs of the business – ensuring that the technology is able to work flexibly alongside teams to meet ever changing needs in the organisation.

This is testament to the power of the cloud and how it can be such a radical enabler of each specific business.  Its technological maturity ensures that this tech prowess is not merely aesthetic but contributes directly to business goals.

Only a minority of businesses are fully deploying public cloud. It would be unfair to suggest that every enterprise should be using the public cloud optimally right now. This technology is relatively new – particularly to many organisations that have used heritage technologies for years. We are still in a period of transition and experimentation.

That being said, very few organisations have not yet dipped their toe into the cloud in some way. Of those who have, the vast majority are using the public cloud as part of their estate (as opposed to private).

The most popular approach is hybrid cloud, while only a small proportion of enterprises are making heavy use of the public cloud across their business, suggesting that the enterprise is still in a period of transition from the use of on-premises towards private and public clouds.

Advanced cloud services tell a similar story. Serverless and container technologies are being used by many organisations. Yet they are only used by a small proportion as a standard way of deploying systems. They are still being used experimentally!

The public cloud, then, is firmly entrenched in the enterprise IT landscape. But, clearly, the vast majority of cloud programs are not fully mature, have not yet been adopted by businesses as the central IT platforms for their whole business and are still rather experimental in nature.

The greatest barriers to adoption must be overcome. Security and compliance are the biggest, but for the majority of business leaders the cloud will be more secure and easier to maintain compliance than on-premises. Only a tiny minority of decision-makers find that the public cloud is less capable in terms of both security and data compliance than on-premises.

Although superior in terms of capability, switching to cloud-native security and compliance models is a struggle for some enterprises. However, almost everyone is planning on growing their cloud program... despite the concerns some have expressed about vendor lock-in.

The vast majority of enterprises will continue on with their cloud journey, although around a third are predicted to go full steam ahead, migrating “as quickly as is feasible”. This is by no means the case for all enterprises, though. Around half wish to migrate more cautiously.

Vendor lock-in appears to also be a major issue for most enterprises. The majority of enterprises express that they are significantly concerned by the consequences of putting their all eggs in one cloud provider’s basket. Only a fearless few do not see this as a concern, and this is the way to go. Vendor lock-in is something of a myth. Many vendors are moving towards allowing data to more easily move in and out of the cloud, and onto local systems – nothing to fear.

The concern around vendor lock-in is somewhat at odds with the fact that so many organisations are using the cloud in some degree, suggesting that the potential benefits of the cloud outweigh the risks of lock-in in the minds of enterprises.

Scaling up the public cloud is a must. The public cloud is here to stay, without a doubt. Now that organisations have had a taste of its collaborative abilities, data siloes should be gone for good. Yet organisations should now be moving forward with their public cloud journeys. It begins with experimentation – finding how public cloud works best for your staff and customers, and scaling these up and across departments. Ultimately, the whole enterprise should be connected through the public cloud.

Fully-fledged public cloud programs are rare at the moment, but this is changing. As economies get back on their feet, competition will be based more on the ability to use data as efficiently and creatively as possible. This won’t be possible without the freedom that the cloud allows. Those who do not yet have this feeling of data freedom must figure out their public cloud strategies soon, in order to have a fighting chance in 2021.

Michael Chalmers is MD EMEA at Contino.

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