After the developments in technology we have seen for the past 30 years, we shouldn’t be surprised to see history repeating itself. The cloud in itself is new, certainly, but the blind wholesale adoption we’re seeing is not. Whether it was widespread adoption of IBM PCs, LAN, or even email– we are doing it again, and there are no signs of slowing down.
Virtualisation has been adopted in the past two decades, and this has caused a technology revolution. It has let us exploit unused processing power, alongside network resources, in order to lay the foundations for the enterprise to automate white boxes and virtualised machines, whilst introducing agility. For the enterprise this has led to virtualising network functions across their infrastructure, which will eventually lead to a complete migration to a wholly virtualised network. This has led to great reductions in cost for infrastructure operations. How much for example would you estimate Google or Amazon pay Microsoft to operate their infrastructure? If you said “nothing” you would be correct.
Delivering compute, storage, and network capabilities for very little cost has been one of the lynchpins behind virtualisation or cloud solutions. In principle it should be cheaper for companies to run their applications and functions in the Amazon cloud, than in the legacy data centres that they have used until now. But is that really true? Shouldn’t that then mean that it is even less expensive to run them in the public cloud? The answer is hazy.
Behind the scenes
In the run up to this Digital Transformation that we are seeing across the industry, similar conversations to the below are happening:
CEO: “Mr. CIO I want us to move to the cloud.”
CIO: “Yes, and why is that sir?”
CEO: “Because it is cheaper and faster and cooler than what we are doing,”
CIO: “Sir, do you know how much we currently spend or what our current performance levels are?”
CEO: “No. I have no idea, but I am sure they will be better when we get into the Cloud!”
This is slightly dramatized, but very similar to conversations that are taking place across the globe. In a nutshell: “If the big guys like Google, Facebook and Amazon are doing it, then it must be worth it!”
There are, of course, a plethora of benefits in adopting Network Function Virtualisation and Software Defined Networks for companies regardless of industry sector. Alongside this there is a compelling reason to incorporate agility and continuous development and deployment into pre-existing business strategies. There is also a pressing need to digitally transform your company and offerings to keep pace with the market, to innovate new services, and ultimately to gain more customers and increase your bottom line. However there is also a way to do this wrong.
Many companies believe that new technology is merely a new way to do what you have been doing, and have therefore fallen into the trap that Thomas Kuhn called “Confirmation Bias” – this is the wrong way to go about it. What you know, and by extension how you have done things in the past should not necessarily dictate what you do in the future. Doing the same albeit with a new paradigm – the cloud – as opposed to thinking about what you need to do to win and applying those approaches to solve problems, is not the way for operators to go.
Enterprises moving into the digital age
Digital Transformation asks the fundamental question for enterprises of “How can we better serve our existing customers and attract new customers?” Hopefully the answer to this question falls under the answer of innovating, and innovating faster. This brings us back to the cloud. Cost and performance are only two value propositions that the cloud makes. There is also speed and agility, scaling up and perhaps more importantly, scaling down dependent on market needs and customer demand. It means new ideas and services: innovating quickly, vetting performance, and improving or dismissing them as rapidly as they were brought on. Whether these services are public or private-cloud based depends on the business itself.
This then leads on to the question of management. How do we manage the cloud-adoption journey, and how do we deliver more predictable outcomes? The answer is applying intelligence before doing the intelligent – Know Before You Go. Determining if the solution is faster means we need to define what speed is. Is the solution cheaper if we don’t know cost? Is it better if we haven’t defined quality of service and experience? What is needed is an accurate understanding of the environment that already exists before we move it somewhere completely different. Will your system that runs and has been streamlined over decades of hardware still work the same when moved to the cloud? Will it cost the same amount? Will it scale the same?
To find out, enterprises need a constant to apply to the new environment but also, crucially, the existing environment. We need to compare the apples to apples so that our teams can say that performance has been improved, costs have been reduced, and automation and agility, and the quality of experience have all been increased. Management is the key. Measurement and metrics, alongside an approach that works in existing networks and new networks are needed to maintain the constants the enterprises expect to rely upon.
We can all learn from our mistakes. Knowing what needs to be accomplished, what is working today, and what improvements can be made are the bare minimum of the plan needed for cloud adoption and implementation. Taking stock of where we are, and having a clear understanding of the desired outcome is key, and this is where we can all really profit from the cloud.