The rise of the integrator model helps UK businesses make the most of the cloud, says Adapt's Tom Needs
Three quarters of UK businesses are now officially “in the cloud” in one form or another. The universal, horizontal benefits of agility and utility are undeniable and compelling, but businesses still need to be able to translate these into enablement and competitive advantage to really get the most out of their cloud investments.
Not all clouds are created equal, and depending on your drivers, desired outcomes and preferences, some will be a far better fit than others. But in a fragmented, rapidly evolving provider market that features niche startups, traditional infrastructure providers, telcos and a technicolour array of different propositions and services, it is hard to be (and stay) well informed. It’s sometimes difficult to know where to go and how to map your changing requirements to individual provider capabilities.
PROVIDER CAPABILITIES VERSES BUSINESS REQUIREMENTS
A mismatch is evident between what UK businesses need versus what they actually get from their providers. According to research commissioned by Adapt, 75 per cent do not feel that their cloud provider really understands their business and one in four businesses does not expect their cloud provider to be meeting their business needs within the next 12 months.
The survey, conducted by EasyInsites on behalf of Adapt in March 2014, comprised 102 respondents from commercial organisations with 200-plus employees in the UK. It discovered that cloud is currently used to support a wide range of requirements. Some 60 per cent of businesses use it to manage diverse workloads from test and development to business-critical applications, with specific compliance and governance requirements and varying infrastructure demands. With this diversity comes natural specialism – you wouldn’t put your low-priority workloads on an expensive extreme performance platform in the same way you wouldn’t buy a Ferrari to tow a caravan – it’s about fitness for purpose and the most efficient, appropriate solutions for the objectives you need to achieve.
What all businesses agree on is the need to drive maximum return from their existing investments and develop a future strategy that is both relevant and the right-fit. So can one provider do it all? Tellingly, some 62 per cent of businesses are already multi-sourcing and 53 per cent of respondents had learnt from experience that a single provider could not meet all their needs.
Provider specialisms can help businesses achieve more, faster. However, managing a range of providers requires considerable time and effort on the part of in-house teams, forcing investment at both a service management and supplier management level, and potentially missing out on economies of scale. The individual providers meanwhile inevitably have an incomplete view of the customer, so organisations are not aligned to support their overall long-term growth strategy.
BROKERS, AGGREGATORS AND INTEGRATORS
Against this backdrop, the idea of working with a single overall provider that manages these various relationships can be highly appealing. Cloud brokers or aggregators match organisations with providers that can service their needs at a particular point in time, or on a certain cost model. But because the broker/aggregator is a tactical rather than strategic role, their ability to develop long-term relationships that evolve with customer demand is low.
Another option is the cloud integrator. Integrators are the advisory conduit between the business and what the complete provider landscape can deliver. Unlike brokers and aggregators, who simply bundle multi-provider services together to be consumed through one contract, integrators take the long-term partnership view, comparing providers and clouds through the eyes of your business, and evaluating the potential for specific commercial, operational, technical and compliance gain. Cloud integrators are not created overnight – it takes years of real-world experience and significant investment in platforms, people and processes to really deliver results.
But the fundamental difference is that the integrator takes accountability and responsibility for end-to-end service management, bringing together provider, legacy, customer-owned and public hyper-scaler solutions to achieve a set of goals or outcomes. This single pane, comprehensive view reduces complexity, and delivers more meaningful insight and intelligence back to businesses.
The integrator approach empowers organisations to maximise their return on investment, and really capitalise on the breadth of choice and options available, maintaining a permanently optimised blend of services, solutions and providers that represent the best fit for delivering business outcomes for today and tomorrow’s aspirations. This is a marked difference from the traditional outsourcing concept, under which customers tend to be locked into three or five-year cycles with little scope for flex and change along the way.
Crucially, it also releases in-house IT teams from managing those relationships, freeing them to focus on getting new products to market more rapidly and delivering real-world benefit back to the wider business.
According to the research, almost half (48 per cent) of UK businesses expect to make big changes to their cloud platforms in the next 12 months. If you are one of them, take the time to consider your options carefully. Keeping your teams focused on creating business value and outsourcing the effort, worry and uncertainty associated with choosing, migrating to and managing multiple cloud environments might just be the right move for you.
If you’d like to find out more about how a cloud integrator strategy could help your business make the most of the cloud, visit
Integrated cloud in context
“In recent years, financial uncertainty has forced tactical decisions – it’s now all about gearing for growth again. A good case in point was a customer who had been acquired and left with costly out-of-support legacy infrastructure and a requirement to integrate complex core HR and payroll systems.
“Our experience meant we were able to take on management of the legacy and, collaborating with the customer, designed creative transformation plans that exploited a mix of public and private cloud services, while moving towards complete integration with the new parent company’s systems. The result – a faster time to benefit and a sizable cost reduction, putting them in a strong position to grow their combined market share.”
Head of service development
Adapt is an award-winning, end-to-end managed services provider and cloud integrator. We help customers make the transition to highly secure, scalable, enterprise-class IT that delivers real-world advantage, enabling change and innovation.
Adapt services increase agility. Our integrated offering spans the entire IT infrastructure from end-to-end management and cloud services through to colocation, hosting and complex networking solutions. For more information, visit www.adapt.com