My opinionated perspective is that the Cloud is not only a game changer, but in fact a necessity for any enterprise looking to transform to the new Digital Economy aka Digital Transformation.
While some argue that the Cloud is just another person's data center or computer, I think that is doing it a big injustice. As a passionate technologist I am here to propose that you start thinking of the Cloud as less about how it works or what services it offers, but rather why it enables business and digital transformation. Stated more controversially, I don't believe you will come up with a brand new business digitally if you don't factor in what's possible with the public cloud!
My first foray into "Cloud" was when I started my career deploying networks and systems for the South African Army in 1994 where I spent many an evening or weekend sitting in a freezing data center somewhere deep underground getting it all to work. I was fortune enough to get the kind of special access to the internet back then that most commercial organizations only started to realize years later. I proudly registered army.mil.za and established the first intranet for the Army that was consumed by nascent browsers; I hacked together some dynamic web pages that queried client/server and mainframe databases using the first flavors of Linux, and had to secure it, scale it and make it ISO9001 compliant by the end of it. This might be called cloud by today's definitions but back then it was just "The Internet", an unknown but very exciting way of connecting systems and people together.
After many years of project go-lives and product launches later in all corners of the world, today I'm a product owner and commercial go-to-market leader but also a certified cloud practitioner and solution architect of more than one public cloud vendor's solutions, so I can honestly state that this kind of cloud from yesteryear still exists today and the ecosystem supporting it has gone through incremental improvements to support the status quo. However it in no way begins to come close to what is being made available at a staggering pace from today's top three public cloud vendors, which are called hyperscalers because of the way they do traditional cloud computing so differently and at such large scale. SaaS solutions and hybrid/private cloud solutions are relevant, but for me they are just part of a strategy. I believe they contribute less overall to digital transformation at the macro business level unless your transformation focus is limited to Line of Business.
Did you know that a modern public cloud from the top three hyperscalers GCP, AWS, Azure is comprised of all the usual IT data center stuff such as storage, compute, and networking, but that these core services actually represent the smallest fraction of the services available? And did you know that all of those are 100% software driven? Did you know that all is this is available over the internet (yes, you need to make it secure)? How about this, did you know that the annual capital investments being made by each of the three top public cloud vendors is more than the GDP of a lot of small countries, never mind everyday corporations?
Would you believe me if I told you that I could spin up two entire data centers on opposite sides of the globe and provision a series of systems, storage, interconnectivity and secure it – all from a simple script on my PC or from a text file, have it all up and running in less than two hours, perform some intense data ingestion, computational modeling using advanced machine learning algorithms and report distribution, then tear it all down again and only get billed by the second for the resources consumed? Absolutely, and this is not even considered that fancy by modern DevOps standards.
I'm not suggesting that the public cloud is the absolute panacea either, it needs to be fit for purpose. It is the transformative potential of this public cloud capability that makes it an invaluable innovation platform for any company contemplating any kind of business transformation.
CIOs pay attention: any CIO or IT Director today who tries to constrain business innovation or transformation by what is currently entrenched in their data center or along the lines of their legacy hardware partners won't be there for much longer. I'm stating what should be obvious in that the CIO is there to serve the business, and what that translates to in this modern age of cloud first businesses, is that every CIO must have at least one public cloud vendor on board as a tier 1 partner from whose portfolio of services they can pick and choose from to meet business demands that might require a cloud native architecture to make it come alive.
I'm not alone in this view; the good news is that research suggests that most enterprises are engaging public cloud providers in 2019. Even stalwart SAP has joined the likes of IBM and other big players in pivoting out of their own clouds and rather finding ways to embrace the hyperscaler public cloud providers, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft . If you can't beat them, join them! Even governments from the likes of USA, Australia and the UK have adopted cloud first strategies as a clear indication that this is no passing fad.
Cost optimization and management is one of the biggest challenges in the public cloud and such is a much needed core competency that most legacy IT organizations are lacking. The top three public cloud vendors have amazing cost transfer, cost displacement business case templates they use to justify things such as data center retirement/migration in order to motivate and get approval for a business case to move to a public cloud, but I think that misses the point.
Don't be fooled into trying to do cost comparisons of yesteryear's IT architecture against that of today's modern public cloud. Public cloud is very different and requires a different approach with regards to pricing and cost management. The discussion needs to be driven by the business through an "art of what's possible" lens and let this incredible cloud technology serve to meet those requirements. The resulting costs can then be viewed in the context of the improved business gains be that in market share, revenue, customer acquisition etc. When it comes to the innovation administration the good news is that public cloud vendors have all snapped up technology expense management or cost analytics companies to meet basic cost management demands so that the CIO and CFO can continue to get along and there are lots of great third-party solutions out there as well.
How can we help?
- If your organization is thinking of a major business transformation, and possibly a massive ERP upgrade such as going from SAP ERP to S/4HANA, then your first checkbox is to simply make sure you do it with at least one of the top three public clouds being a first class citizen so that it serve as your foundational innovation platform - otherwise you're really missing the point and limiting your options drastically in thinking about the art of the possible!
- EPI-USE Labs proudly partners with Microsoft on Azure and has delivered many successful AWS cloud deployments, in addition to running our own global private cloud in Equinix data centers to service our customers' different requirements. We have a global team of certified cloud experts who specialize in data center migration, network security, and SAP migrations and can offer solutions to help you realize your cloud journey. We have automated assessments that can give you some insights into your current as-is on-premise and from that offer options for what that could look like on a public cloud, how much it might cost, how to get there, how to secure it etc.
- We also have a global team that deliver 24x7 cloud managed services from five service hubs for some large partners such as SAP and various global clients. To start doing this we embarked on an intensive journey a few years back to become fully ISO27001 and SOC compliant (we take security seriously) and have happy customers such as Purdue University who we support today after having helped them do an S/4HANA proof of value on AWS and eventually migrated their SAP to our global private cloud which made sense for them.
- On the cloud cost and expense management we have partnered with Nebula and would highly recommend their OneView product that enables multi-cloud cost consolidation and interfacing that back to financial systems to do the internal cost center allocations via journals (e.g. the legal department cost centers spent $567 on AWS, $789 on Azure, $128 on GCP in the month).
- On the SAP side, we specialize in SAP transformation holistically across data management, privacy, security, and platform. Our DSM software gets used every day to enable complex divestitures, to secure the many non-production SAP systems lying around, enable SAP customers to comply with GDPR and related regulations through our Data Privacy Suite.
- Data and the Cloud all go together and our strategic partner, Evolutio, has the best talent in the industry who offer solutions around Splunk and AppDynamics. We are working together on a data streaming solution for SAP that be coming out of stealth mode at the .conf19 Splunk conference next month!
If you're already sold on the cloud but struggling to make the case because of security, and compliance related to SAP and all the sensitive data contained in it as the system for record for many business processes then come chat with us about a free business risk illustration.
- Being a computer science focused company we have an incredible cloud visualization and automation solution called Unified Platform that we've built out over the past seven years to help our teams manage the 200+ internal SAP systems that our R&D team uses every day across our four global development centers, and we use this for our managed services customers as well. This cloud native AWS solution has recently undergone a retrofit to leverage the latest Kubernetes, Prometheus, Grafana cloud native technologies and we are executing a roadmap to extend it to Azure and integrate it with the rest of our automated assessment solutions and other intellectual property, so watch this space!