The cloud computing market has surged since the outbreak of the pandemic which saw years of digital transformation efforts compressed into months, and in some cases even weeks, as the world moved online.
As business confidence in the UK hits a five year high and economies start to reopen, this growth shows no sign of slowing down. Gartner predicts that the public cloud computing market will be worth $397 billion by 2022 and could be as high as nearly $700 billion by 2025.
Behind this huge figure is a vast ecosystem of potential partners, with a variety of solutions and services. Of these providers, the hyperscale cloud providers – such as Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud – all have the scale, expertise and cutting-edge innovation capabilities to ensure businesses can take advantage of all that the cloud has to offer. But, with so many options and a unique solution for every single company, it can be a difficult decision to navigate.
Not your typical procurement exercise
The first step is to shift your mindset towards your cloud provider and remember that this isn’t a one-way street. The hyperscale providers are betting on growth from their customers too. Organisations should therefore try not to see their cloud provider as a typical supplier, but rather a business partner. This means the relationship should be elevated right up to the C-suite.
These partnerships are likely to last for years, so businesses need to have a clear strategy and do their research to find out what fits their requirements. Asking several key questions upfront can help crystallise this strategy:
What are your unique needs?
The majority of your fundamental requirements can likely be met by each major player, so you need to think carefully about what unique needs your business has. Some providers are well-established in particular industries, offering out-of-the-box solutions you can get up and running quickly and cheaply. Others might have more advanced analytics and artificial intelligence offerings that could give you a leg-up over the competition in the long-run. Look at the roadmap of each provider over the next 12-18 months and evaluate which best matches your own vision.
Your current technology environment will also guide your decision and is unique to every business. The same goes for data sovereignty, depending on the regions you operate in, as well as other regulatory factors you need to adhere to, such as GDPR requirements.
How far do you go in on the platform?
Do you plan to use hyperscaler platform services (PaaS) or build your own applications on its infrastructure (IaaS)? Do you plan to adopt a hybrid-cloud model and still maintain some data on-premise? This decision must carefully consider the skills, capabilities, and time available to your team to ensure you can get the most out of your investment.
What incentives are being offered?
Nearly all hyperscalers will consider financial incentives to smooth initial costs and accelerate the transition, such as cash offers, asset purchase and service credits. It’s often the case that the more workloads you give to a provider the cheaper the cost will be per workload, which may also impact your decision.
How do I avoid getting locked-in to one partner?
By far one of the most common concerns is being locked-in to working with just one cloud partner. But, while this can happen, most businesses use hybrid solutions to choose from a marketplace of providers. In fact, recent Accenture research shows 67% of enterprises use two or more public cloud providers. With a clear strategy and vision of each business need you can take a targeted approach that gets the best services from multiple providers.
There are also technical measures you can put in place to vendor avoid lock-in, such as using open standards. For example, you could use openSQL or PostgreSQL rather than a proprietary database. Containerisation, such as Kubernetes, also means you can switch between architectures smoothly.
More isn’t always merrier
There can also be disadvantages in trying to spread across too many providers. More partners mean greater complexity when trying to join up data and applications across the business, which may end up setting you back. It also means your team must take significant time and resources gaining the skills necessary to operate across every platform.
For most organisations, the best solution is to select one or two primary hyperscalers for the majority of critical workloads, then work with secondary providers on a case by case basis where the specific needs of the business require specialised capabilities. This approach means that you are still in a strong position to take advantage of many offerings and have greater business continuity, whilst keeping training requirements to a manageable level.
Work in progress
Having your core cloud partnerships in place is not the end of the process. Hyperscale providers are always innovating and developing new services in areas such as IoT, AI and more. Organisations should constantly check in with the provider to see how their new services, tools and capabilities can enable their business to operate differently.
What’s more, if your needs change, having a strong relationship may place you in an advantageous position and save you having to switch. Providers are often willing to invest in developing unique capabilities for loyal customers. This is particularly the case if there’s a good partnership at the C-suite level or if they’re looking to catch up with a competitor that’s dominant in a certain area.
Cloud is a journey, not a destination
With nearly every company now undertaking some form of cloud journey, simply being ‘in the cloud’ is no longer the differentiator it used to be against the competition. But collaborating in partnership with the right hyperscaler for your business needs can take your company to the next level.
While choosing the right provider is vital though, ultimately the ongoing responsibility of managing the IT environment and getting the most out of it comes down to the business and its IT leaders. The final article in this series will explore how IT leaders can get the most value from cloud by using it to reinvent how the entire organisation works.
Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of articles by Accenture. You can read the first here.
Want to find out more about topics like this from industry thought leaders? The Cloud Transformation Congress, taking place on 13 July 2021, is a virtual event and conference focusing on how to enable digital transformation with the power of cloud.