Stephen Lui, Co-owner and Director - IT, HKBN Group
Some may think cloud adoption a straight upgrade from existing platforms for the IT teams. However, it could be the critical tool the business needs to achieve its ambitions, because there is a ceiling with just effort and headcount. To achieve sustained growth, the keys are constant innovation and digital transformation. Cloud adoption is the foundation that supports innovative ideas and digital transformation.
Cloud migration is not a one-off project
Based on our experience in helping enterprises migrating to cloud, the journey toward cloud adoption can usually be divided into three stages. Keep in mind that these stages are just a rule of thumb. Every company should adopt the model that best fits their business needs and continuously review their cloud strategy.
1) Hybrid cloud approach to support sudden demand
If your company’s existing infrastructure is 100 percent on-premise, you may consider starting with a hybrid cloud approach – with some of your public-facing servers on cloud. Start by migrating part of your online webpages and customer portals on cloud, while keeping other business and operation support systems on-premise. With this approach, regular traffic could be handled in-house, and any traffic spikes could be redirected to the public cloud.
Cloud adoption is the backbone of innovation as it shortens experiment duration from months to days. Pilot projects could be fully deployed on cloud relatively quickly, which is especially useful for ad-hoc projects that may not last long or that may make loading unpredictable. If one of these projects performs well, it could then be scaled up easily.
3) Multi-cloud for resilience and adopting best of breed SaaS solutions
Although public cloud features high accessibility, putting all eggs in one basket is not a wise idea. Adopting a multi-cloud solution on different public clouds mitigates that risk by creating resiliency and enabling easier disaster recovery.
Moving to cloud also allows business to choose from the best of breed from world-class Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions. These subscription-based software or platforms are usually ready for use out of the can and some even offer free trial. Unlike traditional software, installation and patch downloads are no longer needed, which significantly reduces down time.
Cloud adoption is the backbone of innovation as it shortens experiment duration from months to days
This means businesses could always enjoy the software’s latest features with minimal maintenance cost.
Thinking thoroughly before the move
Although cloud migration saves time and effort on server management, we need to review the architecture very carefully before the move. Some critical considerations:
• Public Cloud is not a magic solution. It does not replace private cloud or on-premise servers, and it certainly isn’t just a clone of the on-premise architecture. Some of the legacy systems might need to be re-written, and in some cases, that is not even possible. You may need to build different interfaces for legacy systems to integrate with cloud platforms via API.
• Communication is important throughout the migration process. All parties, from developers to business users, need to participate in the discussion. Use requirement management to share common picture to all stakeholders. Ensure both the business and IT sides are aligned throughout the process with regular updates.
• Challenges and mindset changes for business leaders:
• Cloud is subscription-based and may not always lead to OPEX reduction. Extra short-term cost may be incurred if both the legacy and new platform are running in parallel. However, in the process of migration, the business redefines its processes and could become more efficient in long run.
• Best of breed and evergreen SaaS solutions could allow companies to stay competitive, but the business must not make major changes to the solution. Using these solutions as is allows the business to leverage the best practices in the industry with minimal maintenance cost. At HKBN, we adopt the <5 percent customization principle.
• Challenges and mindset changes for IT Talents:
• Relevant training must be provided to related personnel to acquire new technical skills. With the rise of Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) platforms, courses can be taken anywhere and anytime. Most of the online training platforms such as Cloud Academy, Coursera, and edX provide comprehensive cloud trainings with different learning paths for different roles.
• New deployment and project management methods are required. Cloud native development matches very well with agile development and DevSecOps.
• IT and security policies should be actively reviewed to ensure cloud platforms are also covered. Pay attention to security and data compliance laws of different regions such as Europe’s GDPR.
Cloud is the future
Cloud adoption is the future. The sooner you adopt, the earlier you can reap its benefits. We expect more businesses to turn to cloud adoption to enjoy business flexibility and efficiency. Small to medium-sized enterprises will eventually use cloud-based platforms to a certain extent, given that enterprises typically lack dedicated talents in the IT system management. Cloud-based solution would also be a perfect match to support the agility of start-up companies with rapidly changing ideas and product features.
For IT management within medium to large enterprises, the CIO is always looking for chances to step up to the role of Chief Digital Officer or Chief Innovation Officer to provide added value to the business. As cloud adoption is an important step to support digital transformation, it should always be on the IT roadmap to support business innovation and growth.