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.  

Where to Start with Microsoft Azure

In collaboration with Microsoft. 

Cloud migration often comes across as an immediate win for organizations, making infrastructure simpler and less expensive to manage. In truth, making the move to a public cloud provider like Microsoft Azure can be a complex, protracted process.

In many cases, expert guidance makes the difference between success and failure.

Cloud transitions often don’t succeed — at least not right away. Many run into problems like spiraling costs, misconfigurations and challenges surrounding shared security responsibilities.

None of this is to say that migrating to the public cloud is a bad idea. On the contrary: Moving the right workloads into Azure will yield considerable operational benefits. Nonetheless, your success depends on taking an approach that accounts for all relevant infrastructure, dependencies and possible risks along the way.

For example, Azure can provide the scalability, security and deep integrations with the Microsoft ecosystem to modernize existing IT environment and address evolving business requirements. Of course, this only works with proper planning and management.

Let’s look at some of the common roadblocks to a successful Azure deployment and how to overcome them.

Common Cloud Challenges

Every Azure migration needs a detailed plan that accounts for:

  • The technical feasibility of migrating the workload in questions
  • All associated risks and costs
  • Any relevant application dependencies
  • Formal management and governance policies

While building such plans, you will likely flag one or more of these concerns. In some cases, moving and supporting a given workload in Azure may require a skill set your organization doesn’t have on staff.

The Skills Gap in the Cloud

The early 2019 edition of the Emerging Risks Survey from Gartner found that “talent shortage” had become the top concern for IT decision-makers, up from third place in the previous quarter.

Public cloud infrastructure requires skills, like scalable architecture, cloud security and cloud-specific technologies such as microservices or containerization. In today’s tech talent marketplace, all of these are in short supply.

The services within Azure are undergoing continuous updates and improvements. This means Azure consumers need to dedicate time and resources to keeping up with these changes and mitigating the impact on their IT environments.

In response to the need for specialized expertise and practices like DevOps, many organizations have built strategic partnerships with managed service providers (MSPs). As overall public cloud consumption continues to grow, the need for specialized assistance with cloud migration and management will likely grow in tandem.

Budgetary Pressure During Cloud Migrations

Cost savings are perhaps the most well-publicized benefits to cloud adoption and migration. Moving from capital expenditure (CAPEX) model of procurement in the data center to operating expense (OPEX) in the cloud has a certain appeal.

But shifting workloads into the public cloud is far from guaranteed to save organizations money. In fact, in the following situations,  migrating to the cloud increases costs:

  • Limited or no accountability for commissioning and decommissioning workloads, resulting in unnecessary or redundant cloud resources.
  • Inadequate visibility into existing cloud resources, some of which may no longer be needed (such as instances spun up for testing or now-defunct projects).
  • Over-provisioning resources to accommodate peak capacity, a practice held over from the on-premise data center that’s often unnecessary.

A survey of decision-makers in enterprise IT found that many were disappointed with the level of savings they realized in the cloud. This was especially true for “lift-and-shift” transitions, where few if any modifications are made to a given workload prior to migration. These results highlight the need for rightsizing of cloud resources, i.e. ensuring that the services being used match the customer’s actual needs.

Misconfigurations and Security Vulnerabilities

Data breaches have only grown more expensive, as organizations place more strategic assets and operations into complex cloud architectures. These often require precise management by both the cloud service provider and the customer. Misconfigurations are a common cause of these breaches because they can leak data or expose resources to direct attack.

The 2020 Cloud Misconfigurations Report estimated that organizations worldwide collectively lost about $5 trillion across 2018 and 2019 due to configuration errors in the cloud.

Ensuring the right configurations and mapping the relevant application dependencies is complex work. A shortage of specialized skills, combined with fluctuating IT budgets and the growth of remote work, make it tough to coordinate in-house efforts to find and address every vulnerability. Working with a managed IT service and solutions provider is often a necessary step for mitigating risk in the cloud.

How Softchoice Will Help Guide Your Azure Journey

Many of the challenges above are relevant to organizations moving into Azure for the first time.

However, even organizations with one or more workloads running in Azure today can benefit from reassessing their current status, internal skill sets, cloud budgets and security practices. In our experience, there’s always room for improvement.

Softchoice is a certified Azure Expert MSP (Microsoft’s highest designation for cloud MSPs) with 500+ cloud migrations under our belt. We have designed solutions, including the Softchoice Public Cloud Accelerator and Cloud Workload Assessment, to provide the full breadth of support you need for a successful Azure migration, from technical support to ongoing technology mentorship.

To learn more,  download our guide, “The Essential Starter’s Guide to Microsoft Azure for IT Leaders” or connect with a member of our team.

 

What’s New with Azure Security 

Cybercrime is happening all around us. If you haven’t been affectedit’s not a question of “if” but “when. Organized crime syndicates or script kiddie hackers employ sophisticated tools to generate profit or cause reputational damage. Nationstate actors leverage hacking to further political or economic agendas. The threats we see today are not new, but the level of sophistication has reached new heights.  

“The World Economic Forum estimates the economic value destroyed by cybercrime attacks at $3 trillion.”

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