Fundamentally, IT infrastructure is a unique island on its own in the enterprise. IT infrastructure professionals are supposed to be beholden to business requirements and business challenges but really they are most impacted by their budgets and trying to get things done and fixed within their budgets. It’s an insular existence where the business realities of external competition and disruption often seem far away. The complexity of making something work, keeping it working and figuring out what’s next is all consuming. As well, there is no escaping from the complexity of IT infrastructure. As long as the organization has one foot in the cloud camp and one foot still in the data center, costs, risks and complexity will likely be higher. The only real choice is to accept the new cloud reality and then make a concerted effort to get to cloud as quickly as possible. This is especially true for large enterprises with complex IT infrastructures. If you start today, it will take years, so waiting and treading slowly and carefully is not an option.
There needs to be a real sense of urgency driven from the top of the organization. With a migration to cloud there must be infrastructure sunsets and removal. The on premise footprint must collapse and shrink. Cost reduction must be measurable. Difficult decisions need to be made to unload assets. This may involve selling sacred cows. Dealing with holdout functions needs to be both a carrot and stick approach. Finally the organization must not indulge in cloud sprawl in the same way it indulged in server sprawl or infrastructure sprawl. It is better to choose a few key cloud providers and select best of suite rather than many different cloud providers based on best of service. The goal has to be to get the enterprise to the cloud as fast as possible so reducing the cost and complexity inherent in the transition stage. The IT infrastructure organization needs to move away from being a systems integration shop and instead become a Service Management and cloud consumption brokerage.
Ultimately moving to cloud is more than just about architecture and technology. It requires and organizational and cultural shift that is part of a wider digital transformation and revolution. Enterprises need to support their executives, managers, supervisors and employees in making this cultural and behavioral shift. Change can be painful and some people will resist change. Organizations need to understand these challenges and address them as part of a cloud and digital transformation.
Readers may point out that driving to cloud quickly is neither possible due to the afore mentioned complexity and cost nor desirable due to the interoperability challenges between applications and data in the cloud and on premise. Some organizations have migrated apps and data to the cloud and then had to repatriate them back. This may be due to the immaturity of the cloud service and the limitations of network bandwidth than a failure of the cloud architecture model. Ultimately we see cloud centric architectures remove complexity and cost out of the enterprise and create an accountable and consumption based, utility supply model. Enterprises must retain overall architecture control. This frees the organization from the tyranny of endless IT upgrades and the high cost of infrastructure management and support. And it frees the organization from some of the security and risk elements that have made organizations vulnerable in the past.
Fundamentally, the value of IT resides not in the infrastructure but in key applications and data. Getting to cloud will not be easy. So, start now. Get your head above the clouds, plan your enterprise transformation, find the right people to lead the charge and then iteratively and agilely take flight.
Simon Morris is a Digital Transformation leader at KPMG. When his head’s not in the clouds, he is riding his bike, carving turns on his snowboard, or helping his son build water cooled computers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org