How to leverage cloud technologies

A decades-old buzzword promising unrivalled opportunities to scale and speed up operations, the cloud has now proved itself as an essential business enabler and is considered the norm by many IT leaders.

According to the latest figures released by research group Gartner, the public cloud services market is expected to grow 18% this year alone, to reach a total $246.8 billion1. The findings also suggest that cloud adoption strategies will influence over half of all IT outsourcing deals by 2020.

Research in the field further highlights that an increased use of various public cloud providers, along with strong growth in private cloud services, will create a multi-cloud environment in most businesses, driving demand for coordinated hybrid models.

While it is evident from the statistics that companies are aware of the critical value of the cloud, many are far from decided on the route they should take, unsure of how the technology fits into their overall IT strategies.

True, cloud solutions serve up a wealth of new opportunities to maintain uptime and boost agility, but business leaders need to ensure that their level of adoption is appropriate to their needs and isn’t distracting from wider business goals and growth priorities.

‘Businesses should not settle for a ‘one-size fits all’ approach to the cloud. Instead, the platforms and technology they opt for should always reflect their particular needs… Although they are highly important to get right, the complexities of setting up cloud infrastructure can take the focus away from what is key for a business,’ warns Darren Norfolk, UK Managing Director at Rackspace.

For many organisations, a hybrid cloud model is a preferred approach in terms of being able to achieve agility while maintaining control over mission-critical and sensitive data. Hybrid has also shown itself to be an effective cloud strategy for those businesses migrating from traditional infrastructure.

It is this resistance linked to legacy systems that has led to a significant difference in cloud adoption rates between industries. While today’s cloud-native start-ups, along with digital banking and e-commerce businesses are leading the way, according to a recent study from The Economist2, many sectors including manufacturing and healthcare have fallen behind, facing particular complexities in integrating the cloud into more traditional architecture.

Extensive investment and aggressive innovation strategies around emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), have however sparked a cloud penetration boom in these late adopter segments.

Having recently rolled-out an innovative cloud strategy alongside Salesforce, UK car manufacturer Aston Martin notes how the technology has enabled a closer relationship with both its dealers and customers. Andy Palmer, President and CEO, explains how the company had originally managed various disconnected systems and datasets, with no single view of a customer. He suggests that the cloud has allowed the firm to streamline its IT operations and discover new insights into customer behaviour and the brand, which are helping to accelerate growth across the business.

Joseph Salvo, manager of Complex Systems Engineering at GE Global Research, also sees the huge potential of accessing new knowledge in the cloud. ‘Every day I can hardly wait to get up to work in this space,’ he says. ‘This is a once in a lifetime moment in history where we are literally connecting all the machines and minds of the world and we are going to improve our environment and our ability to deliver value to everyone that’s connected to the network.’

Whatever the industry or style of adoption, the cloud is creating enormous potential to affect change and attain valuable efficiencies. It is now up to the entire ecosystem; business leaders, the developer community and customers alike, to work together to ensure that these transformational changes come faster.

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1 Gartner Forecast: Public Cloud Services, Worldwide, 2014-2020, 4Q16 Update

2 Ascending cloud: The adoption of cloud computing in five industries, The Economist Intelligence Unit