In this guest post, Dean Gardner, chief technologist for cloud at IT infrastructure provider Softcat, shares his observations on how the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the course of cloud adoption in the enterprise
Before the onset of the Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic, many firms were looking to cloud as a way of accelerating the digital shift but were held back by the change barriers that inevitably come with business technology transformation.
In many cases, change came when there was a compelling event on the horizon, but the perceived risk of accelerating meant a large chunk of time was allocated to understanding the theoretical business impacts and to shape the outcomes accordingly.
The pandemic changed everything. Suddenly, organisations had to pivot in the face of extraordinary pressures and unexpected challenges. It really has been (and continues to be) an event of a lifetime.
Acting as a tipping point, the risk of doing nothing at the start of Covid-19 was greater than the risk of deploying new technologies that in many cases already existed. And ever since, cloud has been mobilised by public and private organisations in ways never thought possible before.
Novel cloud use cases
Over the past five months, the versatility of the technology has been reinforced to the believers and clearly demonstrated to the previously non-converted.
Novel use cases of cloud technologies have sprung up everywhere, in every corner of the UK and across a wide array of industries.
Software-as-a-Service-based (SaaS) collaboration and communication technologies – Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Google Meet and Amazon Chime to name just a few – quickly bridged the gap for businesses and society to stay connected during lockdown.
Google classrooms and Microsoft Teams for Schools have revolutionised e-learning as classrooms stood all but empty, opening up new possibilities for the future of education.
Restaurants were given a lifeline with an opportunity to adapt to delivering food to people’s homes via app-based ordering and payment systems, paving the way for them to diversify their business models.
The switch to remote telemedicine for GPs and consultants has also been heavily facilitated by cloud technology. This is an extraordinary shift away from surgery-based appointments which have been the default way of accessing healthcare.
The delivery of user-centred digital government services was also made possible for the first time. A great example of this is the furlough scheme which has, with relative ease, allowed organisations to claim back the wages of millions of employees on Pay As You Earn (PAYE).
The list goes on and on; a testament to cloud technology and how organisations have been quick off the mark to utilise its power.
The start of a new cloud era
From a technology standpoint, cloud is very much an unsung hero in the fight against Covid-19, as the pandemic marks the start of a new era for the technology’s adoption.
As this emergency situation has shown, the ability for organisations to switch between on-premise and public cloud, scale up and down, and test new solutions in a closed environment, is extremely valuable both from contingency and growth perspective.
Hybrid cloud options tie together the benefits of both private and public cloud and are increasingly being used by organisations of all sizes. Such setups offer the safety of a private network but adjust to usage demands.
Organisations can store their most sensitive data on a secure private network while utilising the size and scale of public cloud to store less sensitive information.
But many organisations are now finding themselves in a multi-cloud world with a more strategic emphasis, driven by different technical or business requirements. This is mainly due to the emergence of SaaS and cloud-based collaboration tooling, which has accelerated during Covid-19.
Shining a light on shadow IT
Thanks to the ease of procuring software and systems via credit cards, Shadow IT has been emerging for a few years now, making it difficult for IT teams to have full control and visibility of their organisation’s IT estate.
But IT teams are now getting to grips with how to manage this shift and incorporate the potential SaaS sprawl that makes up the majority of Shadow IT decisions.
Being able to integrate many of these types of applications into an identity strategy driven by cloud-based authentication allows for security and management to take precedent, as well as cost control. Also, if architected correctly, workload application and data mobility can be realised, which means less risk of vendor lock-in occurring.
Many organisations previously had a hybrid cloud strategy that meant mixing and integrating the on-premises datacentre to a single public cloud. However, we’re now seeing a move towards developing and integrating workloads and data across the multiple hyperscalers, as well as integrating the range of SaaS-based independent software suppliers to meet digital transformation agendas.
This simply means the more places where you run workloads and data, the more cloud services and platforms you have to support. Therefore, many organisations that actually had a hybrid cloud strategy are now realising they have a multi-cloud strategy.