Cloud: An Innovation Engine – Softchoice Research Brief

As organizations prepare to rebuild and re-invent in the wake of COVID-19, there is little doubt we are entering new territory.

While unlocking new efficiencies and streamlining operations will be important, organizations in every industry will need to think beyond reducing costs. There will be a pressing need to find new ways to deliver their services, products and experiences. It seems that in this new world, the digital revolution will no longer be optional.

A recent Softchoice survey of IT decision-makers across different verticals and organizations of all sizes reveals the new role the cloud will play in re-thinking the concepts of innovation and business agility. Let’s look at the most important insights.

Cloud: The New Innovation Engine

For the past decade, the cloud conversation has orbited two key ideas.

On one hand, the cloud offered enterprises a way to simplify and remove some of the management burdens in the three-tiered data centers. On the other, the cloud presented new security and compliance risks, slowing adoption as some organizations hesitated to move critical applications or sensitive data to the cloud.

Our survey has revealed that the first of those central conversations has evolved, while the latter has stayed put.

In this new research brief from Softchoice, we explore a new trend: Businesses of all sizes, across all segments, are starting to see cloud as something much more than a tactic to “get out of the data center.” Today, they see cloud as the top enabler of new business models, new services and new levels of efficiency. But the path ahead isn’t clear of hurdles.

Challenges Arise, New and Old

We found that 37% of businesses have started to look to the cloud as an innovation engine, according to the data. Meanwhile, 66% of decision-makers said they intend to go “cloud-first” for all new workloads.

But perennial barriers continue to slow down cloud adoption journeys. Our research brief shows that skills shortages, lack of cloud expertise and the complexity of hybrid and multicloud deployments are resulting in failure and poor performance. At the same time, concerns around security, data privacy and compliance are also impeding progress in the cloud.

Cause for Hope and Proven Paths Forward

How are organizations adapting to drive cloud adoption, despite the hold-ups?

The short answer: They are investing in people, partners and new technologies. Our research shows that priorities for the next 2 years are boosting security, closing skills gaps and shoring up data foundations, all with the goal of clearing the path for cloud-powered innovation.

The Path Forward

Organizations today know the cloud will play a vital role in their re-invention efforts, but getting there demands a measured, methodical approach.

We conclude our report with clear advice for accomplishing on this mission. With our stages of cloud adoption, businesses can plan their roadmap for efficiency and effectiveness, helping overcome concerns and unleash the full transformative potential of the cloud.

Download the research brief.  

How to Solve 4 Common Cloud Management Challenges

Your organization has implemented cloud services like infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) or platform-as-a-service (PaaS) in your environment. You are considering taking a cloud-first approach for new workloads, making cloud the new standard for application delivery.

Due to current economic pressures, you have a mandate to maximize efficiency and bring costs under control. You may also be tasked to deliver on projects that will help the business compete and thrive once recovery begins.

You want to make these things happen, but run into the same challenges facing many cloud adopters:

  • You are exceeding your planned cloud budget but don’t have enough data to pinpoint the source of those unexpected costs. Or you don’t have a consistent way to drive accountability for line of business (LOB) departments that are commissioning cloud resources on their own.
  • Senior management is concerned about security and compliance in the cloud (as they should be),but your IT team has limited tools to enforce its policies.
  • The business relies on cloud infrastructure and services to be always-on, but IT hasn’t had the time or resources to establish a formal structure for cloud operations.
  • Many of your IT staff are comfortable in a traditional data center, but public cloud infrastructure skills are hard to hire for and often come at a premium. Perhaps you would like to retrain staff, but your team needs to spend most of its time maintaining current operations.

With the right tools, policies and partnerships, however, you can get a greater impact from your cloud investments and refocus on business priorities.

We’ll examine the cloud management benefits of improving visibility and accountability for cloud costs, establishing effective cloud governance, enhancing the efficiency and resilience of cloud operations and closing gaps in public cloud infrastructure skills.

Improving Visibility and Accountability for Cloud Costs

When you migrated some critical workloads to public cloud IaaS and PaaS, you probably learned fast that the same approaches that apply on-premise infrastructure don’t always work in the cloud.

In the cloud, approaches like over-provisioning resources to meet demand often drive up unnecessary spend. At the same time, public cloud services make it relatively easy to commission new resources, allowing LOB departments to spin up new instances outside the purview of the IT department. If some of these are left idle or underutilized, the result is further wasted spend.

Relying on usage and cost data available from their cloud provider alone, you may not be receiving all the information you need to allocate the costs in your cloud environment. This in turn makes it more difficult to build an accurate picture of ROI for key initiatives.

By introducing tools to automate cost allocation, you get clearer visibility into exactly where cloud costs are coming from.  This allows the IT team to identify and decommission idle and underutilized resources. Meanwhile, you are also better equipped to bill or show back cloud costs to the appropriate LOB departments, driving greater accountability and awareness of cloud value.

By rounding out your team with a cloud managed service partner (MSP), you can also benefit from ongoing advice and mentorship on ways to eliminate unnecessary spending in the cloud and better manage burst and elastic spend.

Looking for more guidance on cost management in the cloud? Watch the webinar on-demand

Establishing Effective Cloud Governance

Early in your cloud journey, you may have learned the substantial difference between security and compliance in the cloud and the data center. While shifting to the cloud offsets some security and regulatory compliance responsibilities to the public cloud provider, the cloud consumer retains some core accountabilities.

From our experience at Softchoice, many new public cloud adopters make decisions quickly and in a decentralized manner, which results in manual efforts that in turn lead to sprawling patchworks of configuration standards.

Here, a formal governance model – a framework with a set of policies and standard practices for cost optimization, resiliency, security, or compliance – is vital for keeping the entire organization on track.

While Forrester indicates that IT teams should dedicate 10% to 15% of cross-functional resources to governance activities, many IT departments are stretched thin and don’t have the time to spare [1].

As Forrester recommends, a formal governance program starts with federated approach to continuous improvement and management guided by a central cloud advisory board. As an extension of this team, a formal cloud management role or group can help define and enforce standards and best practices.

In distributed or siloed cloud environments, it’s important to have a central place for cloud practitioners to share best practices.

For newer cloud adopters or organizations with lower confidence in their cloud capabilities, a cloud MSP will help select and implement the standards and tools necessary to monitor the health, usage, security threats and compliance across multiple cloud environments. They can also lend support in tracking and enforcing governance policies through automated cloud deployments based on built-in standards.

An effective formal governance model is critical to success in the cloud. Download the Forrester Report.

Enhancing the Efficiency and Resilience of Cloud Operations

When it comes to deploying new cloud services, you may have found it difficult to ensure your cloud infrastructure resilient and optimized for performance.  When your cloud infrastructure is serving critical applications and services, however, stabilizing the environment and operations to keep supporting your critical business applications is paramount.

Some of our cloud customers have found that when they need to access support from a public cloud provider, they spend a long time navigating complex phone trees and escalation paths to reach the best person to solve the problem. While these providers deliver the best support possible, the sheer volume of clientele makes it difficult to offer service tailored to a given organization’s environment or needs.

With the help of an MSP, you can adopt a turnkey operational model that addresses the processes, people and skills required to effectively manage their public cloud resources. Many MSPs are also equipped to help you take advantage of public cloud provider programs and incentives to reduce your cloud costs and build the best cloud setup for your needs.

Are you struggling to balance innovation projects with effective cloud governance? Get the guide.

Closing the Gaps in Public Cloud Infrastructure Skills and Experience

When your journey to the cloud began, you likely faced a considerable challenge: limited or no in-house expertise related to cloud management best practices.

In fact, Gartner indicates that by 2022, insufficient cloud IaaS skills will delay half of enterprise cloud migrations by 2 or more years [1].

Without these skills however, understanding cloud cost drivers, deploying cloud resources effectively and monitoring the health and performance in the environment becomes an uphill struggle.

We find that when many Softchoice customers have attempted to build cloud operations team in-house, they quickly hit a proverbial brick wall – demand for cloud-native skills far exceeds the current supply. Those with cloud experience have become rare and expensive to recruit.

Meanwhile, taking the time out to retrain and upskill internal IT staff on cloud skills risks leaving the current environment unmaintained. It also creates the possibility that investment in cloud knowledge or certification could leave the organization when somebody moves on to another opportunity.

With an MSP relationship in place, your IT team has the option to offload the operation and maintenance of their cloud services and infrastructure to a certified team of engineers. Meanwhile, some MSPs will provide ongoing training sessions to build cloud expertise within your team while moving at their own pace.

The results? In many cases, by working with an MSP you can operate your cloud environment at a lower cost than hiring, receive 24/7 support and remain safe in the knowledge that your staff are receiving ongoing education from cloud certified engineers.

What Are Your Next Steps?

If you plan to adopt or have recently adopted public cloud, one or more of these examples may have hit home. With the rapid adoption of public cloud, many organizations are looking to optimize costs and ensure they grow their cloud environments in a way that supports smart, sustainable growth.

But balancing your cloud journey with other IT and business priorities is a common – yet surmountable – challenge. Wherever you find yourself on your cloud transformation journey, Softchoice is positioned to help.

Explore Softchoice Managed Cloud Services.

[1] “4 Trends Impacting Cloud Adoption in 2020,” Smarter with Gartner, January 2020.

Where to Find Savings in Your Cloud or Data Center Environment

Part 1 of our 2-part series on Driving Efficiency through Infrastructure Optimization. Read Part 2, “How to Add to Your IT Environment without Adding Costs.” 

For IT departments, the mandate to do more with less and get the most out of technology investments isn’t new. But today there’s much more pressure to find and seize immediate opportunities to cut costs.

In addition to rationalizing software and restructuring contracts, on-premise data center and public cloud infrastructure are two high impact areas for potential short-term savings.

There are some common challenges, however. In the cloud, lack of visibility and formal governance practices makes it harder to learn where and how to find savings. In the data center, the need to avoid new capital expenditures makes it necessary to free up existing capacity to support new projects.

In fact, cloud consuming organizations waste an average of 30% of their cloud spend due to redundant resources (Source: RightScale). At the same time, inactive data accounts for 50% of total storage capacity, taking up valuable space (Source: NetApp).

The best options for making short-term financial impact in the infrastructure environment are:

  • Reducing cloud costs by improving management and visibility
  • Freeing up data center compute and storage capacity to avoid future costs

Below, we go deeper into each of these cost saving opportunities.

Reducing Cloud Costs through Improved Management and Visibility

Without careful management, public cloud infrastructure costs can get out of control.

Because organizations can procure and consume public cloud resources much easier than their on-premise counterparts, losing track of workloads and associated spend is a common problem.

Redundant resources, the absence of adequate monitoring tools and lack of control over who initiates or decommissions workloads in the cloud all contribute to over-spend.

The Flexera State of the Cloud Report for 2020 found that 79% of those surveyed cited managing costs as a top cloud challenge, second only to security.  The report also found that enterprise companies overspent their cloud budgets by 23% on average in 2019.

To right-size public cloud infrastructure and drive cost efficiency, consider the following actions:

  • Find and remove overprovisioned or idle resources: Identifying and reviewing accounts with low I/O activity helps you determine which resources could be decommissioned with minimal impact to the business.
  • Implement and enforce formal cloud governance: A formal cloud governance policy helps you better understand the structure of cloud costs, establish accountability and control access and decision-making around cloud resources.
  • Adopt a cloud management platform: A cloud management platform helps enhance visibility into your public cloud environment to promote better forecasting for cloud budgets based on real-time usage. Further categorizing cloud instances by assigning metadata tags related to billing, environments, applicable compliance requirements and more allows IT teams to track usage and associated cost across cloud instances, even in a hybrid or multicloud environment. IT can then augment and automate tagging using cloud native tools for policy enforcement. Together, these ensure that utilization meets requirements while reducing financial risk.
  • Optimize cloud storage: As with on-premise infrastructure, automating the categorization and storage of active and inactive data into performance and capacity tiers in the cloud helps drive further efficiency.
  • Implement automated scaling: Putting automated scaling in place allows you to scale up resources when needed and scale down the rest of the time. This replaces the need to accommodate maximum utilization, which is often a needless expense.
  • Use reserved versus on-demand instances: The leading public cloud providers offer discounts to customers for reserving instances for anticipated future needs in advance rather than pay higher rates for on-demand usage.

Looking to learn more about managing in the cloud? Get the guide

Freeing Up Data Center Resources to Avoid Costs

Compared with adding new usage-based public cloud resources, the cost to continue operating an owned data center is often negligible. However, when capacity isn’t optimized for efficiency, the result is additional capital expenditures when the time comes to support new applications or projects.

For instance, many organizations over-provision data center hardware to avoid the problem of running short of capacity within their virtualized infrastructure. Meanwhile, inactive data stored on-premises takes up valuable storage resources that could be tapped for other initiatives.

To free up on-premise infrastructure and avoid unnecessary future spend, we recommend these steps:

  • Optimize virtual machine resources: Optimizing workload placements and right-sizing VM allocations addresses inefficiencies by addressing risk and capacity waste. This increases efficiency by reclaiming resources from over-sized Virtual Machines (VMs). At the same time, increasing VM density by rebalancing VMs helps to safely address workload requirements and avoid resource contention.
  • Optimize on-premise storage: While not a direct cost reduction, optimizing on-premise storage allows you to extend the life of existing storage and defer capital costs. Tiering storage to the cloud automates the categorization of active and inactive data. By moving inactive data to a lower-cost cloud storage provider, you can free up on-premise capacity for new projects and pay for additional storage at a lower monthly rate.

Next Steps to Finding Cost Savings in Your Environment

Finding short-term opportunities and immediate steps to reduce infrastructure spending may require the help of an experienced and specialized solutions provider like Softchoice.

We offer the following solutions to assist organizations like yours to find and take advantage of these savings opportunities.

  • Cloud Cost Assessment: Analyze your existing public cloud workloads to uncover immediate cost-savings opportunities and improve visibility into cloud cost drivers.
  • Data Center Technology Review: Pinpoint opportunities to optimize infrastructure with the goal of freeing up existing capacity to offset future capital expenses. The review targets server, storage, virtualization, hybrid cloud, backup and file systems.
  • Cloud Data Tiering Accelerator: Identify inactive data stored on-premise that could be moved to lower-cost public cloud storage to free up on-premises capacity.

Our team of licensing and technology vendor experts are ready to help you find efficiencies wherever you are in your journey from response to recovery.

Looking for help to find and address cost savings opportunities in your IT environment?

Connect with an Expert.