You’d think a cloud provider would automatically say the answer is yes to the question in the title, or at least find some way to play down the tried and true traditions of yesterday but not here. There is a clear suitability assessment to be made before starting your journey to the cloud.
Here, at Spearhead Systems, we’re aware of bias in our professional approach to all projects. Of course we’d love nothing more than to move all customers to our own high performance specialized cloud. We did not however build spearhead.cloud just because it is the trendy technology of the past few years. We did the hard work, invested heavily in time and many other resources to study and clearly understand the business model and the underlying technical infrastructure of “cloud computing”.
What follows is down-to-earth, honest advise for you to consider before hopping onto the cloud “bandwagon”: do consider the required skills, pricing, speed of change (of your market and of your company), regulations and compliance (legal issues), time-to-market and operational complexity.
Lack of IT skills is one of the main obstacles you will encounter when migrating to the cloud. Whether you are lifting and shifting workloads from your on-premises to a public cloud or redesigning your applications for the cloud native module, you will most likely require a new skill set, one that is versed in the cloud lingo and able to automate, use scripting and API’s more comfortably.
These skills are not limited to the initial migration or setup. You need to think long term about the fact that you are now paying for what you consume. Knowing before hand is impossible, nobody knows how to calculate the number of GET/PUT/LIST requests, or the number of DNS queries you should budget or CPU cycles, and whether you need to reserve compute or not. It is built such that you need to invest heavily in these beforehand, which honestly nobody but the largest corporations are able to do effectively. So, the cloud business is betting big on the fact that you will initially go a trial and error process, until you potentially find a financial sweet spot where you are actually getting what you require, not paying too much.
Finding the right skill set is also important depending on what types of workloads you are going to move to the cloud: are we talking traditional systems like websites, CRM’s etc. or something more complex? Depending on the workload you will most likely require different skillets that are knowledgeable in both traditional and cloud native workloads.
We will touch upon the skill set again a bit later as it is a huge part of your ongoing operations but suffice it to say, you need an ally. Someone who is knowledgeable technically but also understand the business model. It will make the difference in wasting money to test and toy around. Remember, all cloud vendors are betting big on the fact that you will be experimenting and therefore spending more until you actually find the right services and sizing that fits your unique requirements.
We’ll be the first to say it, the cloud is not cheap, it’s not meant to be cheap, it never was and most likely will never be. As much as we like to talk about “utility computing” and everything as a service, sometimes everything as a service means that you’re going to try to fit a round peg intro a square hole and as you know from childhood, it does not really work. You can of course force it but that is another matter entirely.
Pricing in the cloud is always going to be more expensive comparing to on-premise but there are hidden costs in running on-premise as much as there are hidden costs in running in the cloud.
Depending on the complexity of your systems and services, your teams skill set will play a major role: are you able to manage them directly or do you need professional third-party support services? If so, then you may be better of using traditional hosting and collocation services or a one of the alternative public cloud. It is also worthwhile to remember that hardware vendors did not stop making hardware just because the cloud came about. They are actually working harder than ever to bring more power and stability, so a modern server is going to perform better and for a longer period of time than at any previous time. Today’s servers are much better and more resilient so you can trust that your infrastructure, whether in a cloud, your own data-center or some data-room will do its job just fine.
The cloud is great at delivering agility, time-to-market, new features that take less time to deploy than on traditional systems so there is benefit however it highly depends on your unique requirements. The economies of scale that have been touted so much have never materialized, there have been no reductions in pricing for compute and some would say that they are well overdue.
Speed of change
The speed at which modern business move is getting faster. Well, is it really? As with most saying of this kind, it depends. It depends on your market, regions and specific requirements. There are plenty of traditional businesses doing just fine moving at their own speed, having a very low digitization ratio and there are entire markets that have yet to even adapt cloud technologies.
If you are in the technology business, then maybe this may be of benefit to you but honestly there are not that many companies that need to release new software features multiple times per day or require being on the bleeding edge of technology to advance. Those companies that need these are already there, they do may benefit from using cloud services, but if your business requirements do not ask that you do complex, multiple software releases per day, then why would you opt for a platform that was built specifically for that? This is an example of an inefficient use of the public cloud.
Normal companies are nowhere near the required velocity to release so early and often and their requirements are definitely not for the bleeding edge or the newest and coolest trends. At Spearhead we actually believe the opposite is true, you need stability above all else, innovation that is fast and breaks things is not in most business interest. Most business value every single and unique customer so you need to make sure you do things right the first time. Staying up to date, using the latest and greatest may provide some competitive advantage (highly doubtful however) but the best advantage we have seen by far is that business continue to deliver quality services and products by gradually introducing new technology coupled with comprehensive processes and work-flows: do not throw out what works today for the promises of tomorrow (marketing is well ahead of the actual possibility of modern technology).
What we know is that the more IT you have, the more problems you’ll have so try keeping it simple (simplicity does not mean the absence of complexity rather that someone has gone really deep into understanding the problem and resolving it elegantly).
Regulations and compliance
The cloud may be a great place for your to do many things however depending on your industry you may need to choose carefully. Most laymen make the mistake of thinking that the cloud is secure by design when in actuality that security is often an add-on that you must explicitly ask for and pay. When you get into compliance issues than things get a bit more vague: who owns the data and has access to it, etc. If you work in a specific domain you may be subject to additional regulations and compliance such as HIPPA, SOX and so on.
Because we live in the EU, the GDPR has been the most vocal of the regulations we have had to comply with (amongst others such as ISO27001 and PCI-DSS). It is important to note that if you require specific security, compliance or regulations facilities you must identify these early on and take into consideration potential additional costs to cover these.
It’s very simple to start a server faster, but nothing guarantees that you will move into production sooner by doing that. There are, usually, a lot of unforeseen factors: true, you pay-as-you-go for services such as storage, networking, and virtualization or containerization, but you can sometimes over or under estimate your needs. And yes, it happens, you consume your entire budget on tests. Cloud platforms are inherently built so that they push money towards the provider. Learning lesson? You need a trusted ally, one that is going to help you identify blind spots before you’re actually running into one.
The cloud is undoubtedly a tool that can help your time-to-market improve but at the same time, you need to know what you want to achieve and more importantly how. This is where skill-set and a trusted ally can go along way.
Ask yourself: will you be able to simplify complexity? All the heavy lifting work is usually thrown away in the arms of cloud ops. On one hand, you have different technology stacks, different approaches, different cloud platforms, performance monitoring, serverless, machine-learning systems and so on. On the other hand, you have limited resources and time. It’s all a giant cry to simplify your strategy. To understand that cloud-based systems partake special necessities and cutting to the core requires special skills you need attention and an excellent technology partner.
Spearhead is in the art of simplicity and the science of technology. We’ve been simplifying infrastructure and systems for some of the most demanding companies around and have a knack for reducing complexity, increasing performance without overloading your wallet.
These are just a few examples of things you need to take into consideration. Having experience and a clear idea of what your requirements are will help you plan and budget your cloud spending costs. If you are at the beginning of this journey it may all seem a bit overwhelming. Spearhead is your trusted adviser and we’re happy share from our experience by providing your honest and sincere guidance, whether you use our cloud, a partners cloud or go traditional and host them yourself, we’re happy to help. Just shoot us an email and we will respond to you shortly.