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The fundamental shift

It is a shift that even the industry itself failed to properly predict. Buyers, accustomed to purchasing based on deep knowledge of the platforms and hardware supporting their applications, became much more interested in focusing on outcomes than the bits and bytes.

Businesses across all industries would in the past have grilled their vendors on very particular details and even insisted on specific hardware configurations. Vendors, as a result, had built huge businesses around selling a vast array of hardware.

Then over the last decade cloud computing dominated IT discussions, inspiring a vision of all compute and storage resources in one place, with users able easily to connect and consume “as they go”.

Initially some market watchers suggested that the world would consume its IT from a small number of large public cloud factories. More recently, however, a more balanced concept has emerged with organisations choosing to implement cloud computing on premises in their own data centres as well as using the public cloud for specific applications.

Buyers and service providers are realising the need to spend time assessing what is the right model for each specific application and workload because each workload requires its own tailored solution.

Matt Foley, Europe, Middle East and Africa cloud presales director at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), explains: “Everything has turned upside down when it comes to purchasing habits. Customers used to look at the exact configurations and even write them into the procurement contracts. They now keep more of an eye on the end-result they want and it is up to us as technology companies to deliver this for them.

“People care much more about having applications that are available, work quickly and provide the experience customers need, so they can deliver the service customers and staff require.”

Some vendors started to promote the public cloud as the answer for everything. But the decision-making process is far more sophisticated. Buyers and service providers are realising the need to spend time assessing what is the right model for each specific application and workload, as each of them requires its own bespoke solution.

The optimal solution for any single company can be a mixture of public cloud and private cloud or an on-premise solution with applications often using a combination of these environments; this is often referred to as a hybrid model.

Customers now keep more of an eye on the end-result they want and it is up to us as technology companies to deliver this for them

Many different industries are exploring this opportunity, says Mr Foley. HPE has noticed a particularly strong shift within the financial sector now some of the private-cloud models can help address the concerns and demands of regulations for strict in-house control of data.

The same applies to other industries as companies realise they can create these “as-a-service” models, using smaller services providers or on-premise solutions, and gain the benefits of flexibility and speed, but also define the location of the data and therefore address the differing data protection regulations on information storage that exist around the world.

A key shift to have occurred in recent years, Mr Foley says, is that smaller companies are increasingly able to derive the same advantages through the cloud as their much larger counterparts. HPE’s own work with its resellers and independent software vendors enables those companies to tailor services specifically to the needs of smaller customers.

This helps address issues such as local language support and helps ensure small firms get the advice they need. “There is a real opportunity for second and third-level service providers to generate recurring revenues and provide a great advisory and technical support capability around using the cloud,” he says.

Faced with the worry of how to achieve the desired business results and at the same time ensure compliance and the right levels of security, businesses need to work out which applications should be kept in their own data centres and which services should be acquired from a local service provider or a big public cloud service provider.

In this situation, customers are typically turning to advisory firms. An attractive proposition is to work with companies such as HPE and its network of partners, providing consulting, management systems, operational support and a catalogue of available services.

Mr Foley says: “Businesses face dilemmas, including having to grapple with questions on how to manage the array of traditional IT systems, in-house private cloud systems and public cloud services, how to monitor them, and how to react every time circumstances change.”

He adds that this can be simplified: “By putting in a single management layer they can speak to the various systems below. Before now, they’ve had to deal with a variety of different infrastructures, from VMware and OpenStack to Amazon, Microsoft and Google. But now we can consolidate all this on to one ‘simple-to-manage’ access layer.”

Looking to the future, Mr Foley is convinced the key to success, when it comes to deploying cloud services, will be to work with a company that spends the time understanding the requirement for a specific application or workload. “I would counsel customers that no single vendor has the right answer for every application,” he says.

For its part, HPE has been expanding the scope of its capabilities through a number of strategic acquisitions, partnering deals, innovations and investments, with the aim of creating a greater degree of harmony across infrastructures deployed by its customers. Its investments include a notable cash injection into fast-growing data-centre startup Mesosphere, which has technology that automatically allocates resources to smart power applications.

With a key ambition for many companies being to deploy applications more easily and without having to worry about the underlying architecture, Mr Foley concludes: “It is a relief for many companies to no longer have to think about how all the technology functions, or whether it is suitable, and simply to have applications that do the job.”

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