Public Cloud, a Strategic Decision


The adoption of cloud technology has been one of the biggest paradigm shifts in recent years and yet many organisations still approach it in an almost haphazard way. Often an early proof of concept might be a Lift & Shift, which may be tactical, but it certainly isn’t strategic even if it has the merit of dipping a toe in the cloud.

A move to cloud should be the result of reviewing where an organisation currently is, where it wants to be, its supporting infrastructures and both the opportunities and restrictions those current resources create. If the decision is to move to cloud, the next question should be which one? This requires discovery and due diligence by the organisation, perhaps accomplished internally, although it may not have the skills to do so, nor the inclination if their own technologists are entrenched in current or legacy tech. Alternatively organisations should seek advice from independent consultancies; however, this can be where they find themselves on a path which is aligned with a vendor rather than a solution.

Presentations by independent advisors can sometimes advocate a single vendor solution without considering the alternative players available in the cloud sphere. The key is to find the independent consultants who prefer a discussion in general functional terms rather than one which identifies one single vendor as the de-facto route to cloud. Often the suggested vendor is Microsoft Azure especially within professional services industries whose technology teams already identify themselves as a “Microsoft House”. Azure is a good platform, but it’s not the only one. The mind set of ‘Azure exclusivity’ because an organisation is steeped in Microsoft technology is too limiting.

AWS Named as Cloud Leader for the 10th Consecutive Year in Gartner’s Infrastructure & Platform Services Magic Quadrant

In this common scenario the elephant in the room is, or at least should be Amazon Web Services. This is a strange phenomenon given AWS dominance in global market share, 32% compared to Azure at 18/19%, and hosting twice as many Windows servers as Azure. Gartner has year on year identified AWS as the clear leader in innovation and delivering mature enterprise cloud solutions. AWS figures for their research and development exceed $17 billion per annum. No other commercial organisation (including Microsoft) comes close to matching this investment in technology. So why do we still see Azure presented as the first and often only cloud solution vendor? There are probably many reasons for this, it’s viewed as an easier sell by MSPs, or the customer may simply be unaware of alternatives, or there may be a view that the customer’s existing licensing may achieve favourable discounts, although the latter can often be achieved in AWS when architecting a migration solution.

In very broad terms the top three, AWS, Azure and Google all provide comparable functionality in compute, storage, networking, security and identity management but there will be differences that will dictate customer selection. Other points to consider are multi cloud and hybrid cloud functionality. For example, Azure may previously have had an edge in hybrid environments, but this has been addressed by AWS with services like Storage Gateways which can extend the life of existing on -premise systems, and AWS Outpost, a fully managed AWS rack in your data centre delivering the same AWS infrastructure and AWS services; ideal for low latency access to on-premises systems, data residency considerations, and applications with local system dependencies.

2020 Gartner places AWS Highest in Ability to Execute  and Furthest in Completeness of Vision

For organisations about to begin a transition to cloud, bear in mind that you don’t know what you don’t know. A good consultant’s role is to bridge that knowledge gap, first at a strategic (and therefore agnostic) level and then assist with the development of requirements and identifying solution providers.

This doesn’t just mean a selection of MSPs or consultants able to implement a solution, it also means ensuring that the client is aware of and is presented with solutions based on more than one platform.