Journey to cloud transformation at scale

The foundations of IT built on cloud fundamentals are constructed on a different set of principles than the way IT was traditionally built; transforming at enterprise scale requires highly specialised expertise

Enterprises have faced a bumpy journey learning about the intricacies of cloud deployment. In spite years of cloud mania, there have been many naysayers around enterprise adoption. Pre-coronavirus the prevailing view was to experiment with cloud adoption, build a hybrid private cloud, with private and public clouds co-existing, and take baby steps as you transform enterprise IT to adopt to a cloud future.

Now that clients increasingly take an “all-in-cloud” and a zero-datacentre approach to cloud migration, gone are the baby steps and the balance between private and public cloud. The significant dependence on IT to support remote, distributed teams during the coronavirus pandemic, along with business pressure to rapidly become more digital, has driven a huge increase in ambition from companies to majorly shift how they adopt the cloud.

Cloud enables businesses to reach a level of agility and experimentation that they could never have achieved in the past

The best cloud transformation programmes require partners which have many years of enterprise transformation experience, coupled with the specific skills of each cloud provider. When this has happened at scale, versus experiments and proofs of concept, the value of agility, flexibility, cost economics, security and compliance has shown to be hugely powerful and transformative for clients HCL Technologies works with.

“Cloud enables businesses to reach a level of agility and experimentation that they could never have achieved in the past,” says Ashish Kumar Gupta, senior corporate vice president and head of Europe, Middle East and Africa for diversified industries at HCL Technologies, whose portfolio of IT products and solutions helps enterprises reimagine their business for the digital age. “We’ve seen this in the context of startups, which can go live quickly and scale up at a very low cost. The cloud offers those same advantages to enterprises.”

HCL Technologies is a global leader in executing large-scale, complex IT transformation projects. Its Mode 1-2-3 growth strategy encompasses next-generation IT infrastructure services, leveraging automation, artificial intelligence, analytics and the cloud to build service-oriented, future-ready IT infrastructure for large enterprises.

As one of the first players in the enterprise space to start working with companies to transform IT using cloud as a lever, HCL has experienced first hand the evolution of this powerful technology. A few years ago, cloud transformation was nearly always a tiptoe approach, as organisations learnt about public cloud environments by only moving small workloads at a time in a very iterative process.

Among the first cohort of major UK cloud transformations, in 2015 and 2016, was global media company News Corp, which needed its IT to become less fixed, more agile and consumption-based as its digital revenues increased. Supported by HCL, the cloud transformation decreased News Corps operational expenditure from £6 million to £3.4 million a year, while server provisioning time reduced from months down to just days and business became more agile.

In the last few years, approaches to cloud have changed, with growing appetite to transform IT at a much faster pace and for the whole enterprise environment. This also means that rather than choosing one hyperscaler’s cloud environment, as organisations often did in the early days, companies are increasingly favouring a multi-cloud approach, not only for commercial lock-in reasons, but to ensure workloads are placed where they perform best. 

Already, 58 per cent of European enterprise IT decision-makers say they use two or more public cloud vendors in their organizations, according to a survey by Forrester (Adoption Profile: Public Cloud In Europe, Q2 2020, European Public Cloud Innovation Continues, by Paul Miller, May 29, 2020).

“While Amazon, Azure and Google Cloud have scaled at a rapid pace, and accumulated lots of capabilities and functionalities, you have to think about what is fit for purpose for different workloads,” says Gupta. “As an independent authority that has deployed across all the leading cloud providers, we have a very clear point of view on that.”

“We advise our clients on what workloads should go where. Meanwhile, we recognise that enterprises need a single pane of glass when managing a multi-cloud environment. They want less complexity and more simplicity in the way applications are run. We provide that single pane and single orchestration layer, which allows either mobility between different clouds or the ability to manage across multi clouds. Companies get full transparency and the best of what the hyperscalers have to offer.”

More recently, HCL has worked with Cadent Gas, the UK’s largest gas distribution network, to provide integrated public cloud hosting, SAP and application maintenance services, including the migration of a significant applications portfolio to the AWS public cloud to support Cadent’s business operations, which distributes gas to 11 million homes and businesses in the UK.

“IT is mission critical to Cadent as a business, therefore it is essential we have the highest levels of IT support. At the same time, we recognise the need to modernise our IT environment to increase our business efficiency and the overall productivity of our mobile workforce,” says Tina Sands, then-chief information officer at Cadent. “We believe that in HCL we have chosen a partner that has extensive transformational experience and is committed to delivering real business value through the adoption of the latest technologies.”

Through its longevity in supporting numerous cloud transformations over the last decade, HCL has gained enormous experience in delivering cloud at scale for enterprises in ways other IT service providers, including many of the small systems integration partners that hyperscalers recommend, often struggle to execute. Sometimes this means stepping in to rescue transformation programmes. Indeed, when a large consumer goods giant was having troubles with a vendor, HCL was brought in to help.

“We were having a lot of pain with IT speed, and HCL came and rescued us. They solved a challenge for us, otherwise we would have been in big trouble with our existing supplier,” according to the head of enterprise computing at the company. “HCL took the transition in a very amicable way from that exiting vendor. It’s a very customisable relationship; they act like a partner and really want to solve our problems. We are on a journey and HCL is driving that journey for us, with better infrastructure management and cost control as well as cloud adoption.”

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Five foundations of cloud transformation

The cloud undoubtedly provides a flexible foundation that scales elastically. But delivering this on an enterprise scale across multiple businesses and geographies, and in a secure, compliant and cost-efficient way, needs five key sets of specialist expertise.

  1. Managing complex organisational change
    Adoption of cloud changes internal IT organisation structures, how IT and business collaborate, how charging is done, how skills change and how innovation is supported. This change is complex and not to be underestimated.

2. Creating a coherent multi-cloud environment
This needs to leverage the unique advantages the various hyperscalers bring to the table, requiring not just deep technical expertise in each hyperscaler, but also a layer of understanding on how these can be stitched into a coherent whole through multi-cloud automation.

3. Transforming applications and processes that leverage the cloud
This is done in a way that fundamentally transforms how application teams collaborate using a zero-trust and zero-touch approach.

4. Cloud economics
Originally lured by blanket promises of cheaper compute and storage, early adopters were quickly burnt when they racked up bills much higher than they were anticipating. Designing for and managing costs proactively becomes a major competency that enterprises need to learn.

5. Security and resilience
The design of a resilient, always-available service, while being compliant to industry-specific regulations, requires industry compliance maturity coupled with cloud security.

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