Exploiting the cloud: doing more with less

The power of cloud computing can be revolutionary for businesses wishing to improve long-term efficiency
Server Room Interior

Businesses are facing a raft of challenges, from inflation and market volatility to talent shortages and climate change. It’s undoubtedly tough out there, and information technology leaders must navigate their way through this environment, prioritising the investments that will drive the most important and meaningful outcomes for their businesses.

Many firms believe migration and modernisation efforts will help enable their digital transformations, with 82% of companies with this kind of strategy saying this is the case, according to research commissioned by Microsoft. And, during a time of uncertainty, the pace of migration is speeding up for some firms – the top reasons for this include driving revenue growth, future proofing their business strategy and reducing overall costs.

Ensono makes revenue of $800m a year, with about half of its revenue coming from cloud computing, putting it in the unique position of understanding how customers with legacy systems, languages and applications can drive velocity to, in terms of migration to ultra-modern public cloud platforms such as Microsoft Azure.

Why migrate?

“The reason that businesses move to public cloud platforms like Microsoft Azure is to take advantage of technology that they just can’t get access to on-premise,” says Gordon McKenna, Ensono’s chief technology officer and vice-president, cloud evangelist and alliances.

“It’s not unusual for us to meet a client that’s moving from an on-premise data centre to the cloud, but it doesn’t have the skills in its team to navigate that,” he adds. 

Having an expert partner on board to help with the migration, and manage it, means clients get the benefits of a cloud platform while focusing on other strategic endeavours. In fact, according to a Forrester Total Economic Impact report, 95% of executives said working with a managed service provider enabled their business to focus on other higher-value or more creative initiatives – in other words, they can get on with the job in hand in the most efficient way possible.

“We really do step up to that challenge of helping them do more with less, either by helping them understand how to better use technology offered by platforms like Azure, or by helping them manage their cloud environment,” says McKenna.

According to Ensono’s recent survey data, 44% of executives said their investment in technology has reduced due to rising costs in their businesses, while 18% said it has greatly reduced. 

“Economic tailwinds have impacted every industry, from finance, manufacturing and retail, all the way through to IT, and they really do need to get more out of what they’ve got. As an expert technology advisor and cloud provider, there’s no time more than now that our clients have needed us,” he adds.

For example, Ensono helped Fortune 500 talent staffing company ManpowerGroup to develop a Microsoft Azure cloud roadmap and business model that enabled it to reduce costs by 30% while future-proofing its business, over a 36-month period. Manpower did this during quieter periods caused by Covid-19 and Ensono was able to rapidly accelerate the company’s cloud migration. 

“All of our clients are trying to navigate a journey to the cloud – they’re trying to understand how they can take advantage of cloud features, while still maintaining their existing systems and applications,” McKenna says.

Getting your cloud strategy right

“The first step in getting a migration right is assessing where you are right now – carrying out dependency mapping, understanding how applications are set up, as well as disaster recovery processes by doing things like making sure a failover system is in place. Then you can create a robust migration plan that minimises business impact. Key throughout is to assess, assess, assess, assess, before you migrate, to make sure you understand how applications are talking to each other and what infrastructure to migrate them too. Assess whilst you are migrating so you can understand whether applications are running correctly and are optimised then assess after you have migrated so you can continue to optimise and make the right workload placement choices.”

A key benefit of the cloud is the ability to increase or decrease the footprint you need, according to McKenna. “As part of our managed service, we continually optimise a customer’s infrastructure,” he says. “Our clients may need to scale up the number of users on an application for example, or scale down in some instances, so it’s important to be able to understand, in these situations, how to architect the application or underlying infrastructure to meet this need as this is one of the true benefits of using a cloud platform.” Also, being able to give guidance on when to apply things like reserved instances and savings plans help clients utilise their cloud spend more efficiently.

One concern clients previously had, in the early years of public cloud adoption, was around the security of public cloud platforms, particularly where large amounts of data were migrated to platforms such as Azure from on-premise data centres – this was often touted as a reason for customers not to migrate or continue on private clouds. 

Microsoft’s focus on trust is second-to-none, says McKenna: “They have really focused hard on making sure they have the most comprehensive set of data centre compliances as well as ensuring that they have a full complement of  enterprise class security tools. As well as super tight physical security such as biometric access, minimum onsite staff and even weighing guests in and out – to check whether they have picked up a disk drive for example – they actually have a great deal of data security like encryption in transit and at rest and sharing across multiple locations. If you ran a truck through a wall and you knocked over a container and stole a disc, you would need to de-encrypt the data first then you may not have all of the data written – and it’s not all stored in one place. I have seen very few on-premise providers reach this level of security.”

Artificial intelligence and innovation

Another benefit of Microsoft and its Azure platform is its market leadership in the area of artificial general intelligence (AGI), which uses modern AI and large language models to assist firms with complex cognitive tasks, and in May the company also announced more around its new ecosystem based around its investment in OpenAI.

“We have everything you need on Azure for making a copilot,” said Kevin Scott, Microsoft’s chief technology officer. “And those things work super well together, so trying your idea and iterating quickly will be easier to do on top of Azure than it will be any other way,” says Scott.

“Copilot will allow people to have a single entity interface into everything in your enterprise from your Windows desktop – and that’s key,” adds McKenna.

So, whatever stage your business is at in its cloud strategy, doing more with less is a mantra that will carry on throughout your journey. “Migrate to innovate,” is how McKenna likes to describe his attitude – and becoming more efficient means companies can invest in the next generation of technology to drive them forward, such as automation or artificial intelligence: “Innovation starts when you move to the cloud. It’s a continuous thing that you do.”