“Today’s business environment is all about opportunity; and the only way to enjoy opportunities is to embrace change.” So says Dr Mariana Carroll, head of the Cloud Computing Centre of Excellence at Deloitte. “By embracing the cloud, enterprises are enabled to transform the way they deal with employee and customer interaction, collaboration and innovation.”
New research into local cloud adoption from World Wide Worx focusing specifically on the SME market shows that 22% of small and medium business in South Africa use some form of cloud service. According to the report, factors keeping SMEs from cloud adoption are similar to those cited by larger enterprises and include a lack of understanding of the cloud, no perceived value and a fear of failure.
Dr Carroll, who advises large corporates on cloud adoption and integration strategies, disagrees. “CIOs at large enterprises were previously nervous of cloud adoption due to heavy investment in expensive legacy systems and a lack of understanding of what cloud really is. There was a fear that it was just a fly-by-night trend. Today the value of cloud adoption is undeniable; the market has matured to the point where issues such as security, integration and vendor management have become the main concerns for enterprises.”
The challenge of integration
Carroll says the main integration challenge for CIOs is to make sure there are good standards and strong enterprise architecture in place. “Practically, we are looking at issues such as cloud-to-cloud integration involving integration of various cloud services, and cloud-to-core, which speaks to how new cloud services fit into legacy systems. The key to success is proper Service Oriented Architecture principles: if you don’t have a well-defined system architecture, integration of cloud services becomes prohibitively complex.”
Stephan Pienaar, COO of software development company Exclr8, echoes her sentiments. “Successful integration largely depends on the legacy systems that are in place. We evaluate whether we can adopt cloud wholesale, or whether we integrate some of the client’s on-site infrastructure with additional cloud services. We’re a cloud-first organisation and generally prefer to move our clients into a pure cloud environment where we can.”
Pienaar leads a team of developers in deploying cloud-based business process automation solutions using Microsoft’s Windows Azure platform. He says they typically aim to outsource as much of the responsibility as possible to the cloud provider. “The more we retain legacy systems the more strain there is on the client’s team and ours. The beauty of cloud is that the big vendors have access to the best tech skills on the market. This gives us peace of mind that our systems are well looked after, and leaves us – and our clients – to focus on our core business.”
Accountability and vision
While cloud service adoption largely removes the need for a legion of server room technicians, new skills are needed to ensure enterprise cloud services run smoothly and with minimum interruption to the business. “Security is the number one concern of all companies we speak to. In this regard, vendor contract management becomes critical. It is the only thing that states clearly where responsibility for security lies, and it’s the means of ensuring accountability,” explains Carroll.
Pienaar says that, while they don’t do hand-on vendor contract management on behalf of clients, they do have a very important role to play. “Typically our clients would have their own SLAs with Azure. However, part of the responsibility lies with us, because we need to implement our software in such a way that it meets the requirements of our clients’ SLAs with the cloud services provider. Our role is to ensure the terms of the guarantee that the provider makes are met and remains valid.”