Top 3 cloud trends that will affect you in 2018

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Published 25-Jan-2018 16:58:55

Welcome to a world where great data management and agile development are the new normal

Depending which analyst you read, you may find in 2018 that spending on private clouds is going to increase, or that multi-cloud strategies will become the definitive way forward. Security and privacy will naturally be ever more important, and so will the need to store data generated by the expansion of IoT devices.

While all this is great news for vendors wanting to sell you stuff, it’s a traditional technology-based viewpoint. In the ten years or so that cloud has developed into mainstream computing practice, much of the focus has been on creating software and infrastructures that either allow you to do the same things as before (albeit with less cost, more reliability and more flexibility) or to add brand spanking new services that cut cost or add revenue.

But arguably less has been written on what changes you need to make from within. We’ve spotted three trends that are less to do with technology than the way your organisation will harness and work with cloud in 2018:

  • Data modernisation will become essential.
  • IT departments will accelerate their own transformation.
  • DevOps will be adopted en masse.

With cloud technology itself now so mature, we think this is the year many organisations will be getting their internal houses in order. Is yours among them?

1. Data modernisation will become essential

For years IT teams been adding more storage to existing storage or more servers to existing servers without any real concern for total capacity, because everything’s been so (relatively) cheap. Moving to cloud has provided a fresh opportunity to look at that strategy.

Although GDPR is a pain in the business, so to speak, it’s a key reason why 2018 is the year all those firms that haven’t already done so will be looking to modernise their data. Although cloud storage is not phenomenally expensive per se, complying with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation provides an opportunity to straighten out ancient file structures, cull redundant data and abolish unnecessary duplication.

Apart from reducing storage cost, you don’t want to migrate more data than you need to because – even with the fastest internet connections – it can take a very long time; perhaps weeks or even months for very large businesses. All the time that data is in transit it needs to be kept synchronisable with ‘live’ data until the point when you switch over to your public cloud.

Most organisations will have experienced this process when migrating to Exchange Online. If they were really ruthless they’ll be in pretty good shape for GDPR. If, on the other hand, they neglected to streamline their data at the outset it’s probably time to face that hurdle.

Now is the time to lose multiple copies of the same files, ditch 7, 10 or 15 year old data (according to your rules and relevant legislation governing retention), and archive any email accounts for staff who left many moons ago. Why keep or move these leftovers into the cloud when you can modernise a file structure perhaps conceived 20 years ago to something more suited to more collaborative and flexible ways of working?

If you’re using services like Azure, EM+S or SharePoint in Office 365, for example, the tools you need to organise your data effectively are already there.

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2. IT departments will accelerate their own transformation

In a digital world where feedback can make or break a business (think TripAdvisor, Check A Trade, Trustpilot), many IT teams are realising that the success of their digital transformation projects doesn’t lie under the technical ‘bonnet’, but at the desk where users are expected to manage data like never before.

Arguably now is the time when this reality is starting to sink in. On top of your GDPR and compliance data management imperatives, there are new cloud-based ways of assimilating and using data for the benefit of the business. Taking full advantage of cloud services (be they AWS, Azure, Google Cloud or something else) therefore requires significant re-engineering of the IT environment.

If you’re going to need to reconcile large volumes of user comment, classify the content of every email for easy identification and retrieval, access systems in totally different ways from new platforms and devices, and make sure everyone adheres more rigidly to IT policies, you need to factor in the people element. Success or failure is just as likely to be found within your project communication and training strategies as in traditional metrics like how little downtime there was or how under budget the project was.

There’s a metric called the ‘Lost User-Productivity’ calculation, for example, that’s used as a way of measuring the financial value of IT user support. It’s obvious that if users are less productive then the corporation makes less money, so now’s the time to examine including automation or artificial intelligence approaches to help manage workloads; such tools are readily available as cloud services.

Taking a holistic viewpoint is not very new or radical; it comes from well-established management thinking. We simply need to rediscover these basics and put them to work for us. Consider the ADKAR (awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, reinforcement) change management model, for instance. Or study the famous work of W Edwards Deming, the architect of Japan’s post-World War II industrial transformation. His ‘System of Profound Knowledge’ is a way for people and organisations to continually improve.

Cloud provides continued new opportunities for transformation of the IT function; it’s a trend we’ve recognised among our clients, and more and more businesses are finally catching on.

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3. DevOps will be adopted en masse

We think that soon companies won’t be talking about cloud trends; instead they will be talking about moving to a DevOps or continuous delivery model, and that cloud will be part of that. At the end of the day cloud is just another way of using software, after all.

Over the last five years the collaboration between development and operations – DevOps – has steadily been gaining a foothold. DevOps practices enable businesses to respond rapidly to new challenges, changing conditions and customer demands through the creation of automated self-service, self-healing, and largely self-provisioning systems.

The cloud is all about being agile, flexible and elastic. Through the implementation of DevOps, companies are finding they can respond faster to market pressures whilst delivering higher quality outputs with fewer issues affecting infrastructure. DevOps is closely related to the point above about re-engineering the IT department, and also to the modernisation of data. And it’s not a million miles away from the established ‘Kanban’ software development process that in turn evolved from Toyota’s original ‘just in time’ production process. Management theories have a habit of reappearing in new forms!

With the theoretically limitless boundaries of cloud and its massive uptake already, second-generation cloud requirements are now being identified by businesses – and they are going to struggle with more traditional delivery methods.

2018 is going to be the year DevOps begins to be adopted by the masses.

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