To deliver innovation, organizations are developing a clear cloud strategy

Consider application modernization and a focus on data, analytics and artificial intelligence as you develop your respective cloud strategy.

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The Cloud is now the centerpiece of enterprise IT, even in organizations where the majority of workloads reside in a user data center. But moving to the cloud doesn’t necessarily offer modernization, let alone a platform for innovation. As IT budgets tighten, technology decision-makers need to find ways to save while making way for productivity and innovation. Achieving this goal requires a strategic approach and embracing cloud-native technologies.

Cloud strategy starts with identifying workloads that aren’t cloud-ready — cases where data dominance, security, and latency (and, in some cases, cost) rule out the public cloud in the near-to-medium term. Simply moving the rest of your applications and data to the cloud can lead to greater resiliency, but without modernization, it’s just a change in data centers.

When developing a cloud strategy for their business, technology decision makers should focus on organizational enablement and outcomes. In doing so, there are many considerations to take into account.

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IT modernization is the goal. The cloud is only a means to that end.

The Cloud has created new ways of organizing computing with cloud-native technologies such as Kubernetes and servers. Start with these modern platforms — whether in your data center or in the public cloud — to more efficiently use IT resources with greater dynamism and scale.

Kubernetes provides a flexible platform for building new technologies, from ModelOps for artificial intelligence to deploying edge computing in retail, manufacturing and transportation. Kubernetes also bridges the cloud/on-premises divide with hybrid solutions from public cloud providers and multicloud development platforms to orchestrate containerized applications.

Application modernization is central to the cloud strategy.

The task of putting a data center application in the cloud is usually simple, but it is often just a sidestep. Containerize existing applications where possible to enable them to run on Kubernetes platforms. If applications are monolithic and highly customized, you can move functionality such as user interfaces to new containerized applications that can incorporate new features. Development of new applications based on containers and a modern development toolchain can be more easily aligned with business or organizational goals and focused on new products or services.

Data, analytics and AI/ML are now the strategic focus.

Cloud infrastructure is commercialized through open source efforts like Kubernetes and a price war between the big cloud players, in addition to differentiators like custom silicon or 5G capabilities. Cloud providers are fighting it out to be a data and analytics platform and to infuse AI wherever they can into cloud services.

While the AI-enabled search wars are getting attention, businesses should put data, analytics and AI at the heart of their cloud strategy with a focus on business intelligence. Stakeholders in every large business or government entity call on IT leaders for guidance. Success depends heavily on systematic delivery and avoiding service-to-service sprawl amid an effort to implement the latest AI technology.

Developer activation is not an add-on.

Application teams sniffed the early versions of cloud provider development platforms — but not anymore. Operating as a service has given developers the appetite to build directly on cloud infrastructure. Now, serverless containers, edge development platforms, and integrated developer toolchains are attractive to entire classes of applications.

Sometimes the resulting dependencies on cloud providers’ infrastructure are worth it — sometimes they’re not. The answer depends on your cloud strategy. If faster time to market is a priority, a proprietary cloud service may be the best approach. If portability is your primary goal, look elsewhere. Increasingly, this is an application-to-application choice in a cloud environment. To help developers innovate, put the right application development environment in the right cloud.

Modern IT strategy looks at multicloud, hybrid and edge.

Enterprises can be single-cloud users today and in the near term. However, effective cloud strategy means adopting a vendor-neutral approach that can integrate multiple clouds.

For example, a cloud customer may consider Amazon Web Services or Google Cloud Platform as the primary cloud provider. But if they sign up for Microsoft 365, they’ll get a free Azure Active Directory account. If they enable Azure AD pay-only features, they suddenly become Azure users.

When a developer chooses to build an app on a content developer network, that customer also becomes an end user. If a cloud provider’s Kubernetes cluster manager controls a few clusters running in the data center, it’s hybrid. Making these deployments on an incremental basis can lead to unnecessary costs without further benefits. A deliberate, strategic approach creates a platform for innovation.

Cloud security and governance need not hinder innovation.

The notion that security and governance hinder IT innovation has always been overblown. In the age of the cloud, it’s irrelevant. A cloud center of excellence that integrates all stakeholders — from risk management to auditors to supplier management, as well as business units or department teams — helps align IT with overall organizational goals. Adopting a cloud service that cannot pass the oversight teams is a waste of time, money and resources. Internal alignment is a prerequisite to allow sufficient resources for developers to innovate.

By taking this more expansive approach to cloud strategy, organizations can lay the groundwork for innovation on multiple fronts by automating operations, empowering developers, and putting data, analytics, and actionable AI in the hands of business users .

To access further Forrester information on how businesses can modernize their technology faster with the cloud, visit here.

Lee Shustar.
Image: Lee Sustar

Lee Sustar is a principal analyst at Forrester, focusing on public cloud, containers, modernization, and the broader transition to cloud-native computing and practices. Key markets covered by Lee include multi-cloud container deployment platforms, public cloud enterprise container platforms, and public cloud infrastructure and deployment platforms. A graduate of Northwestern University, Lee has more than two decades of experience in information, cyber security and cyber risk management.

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