Sam Routledge, CTO at Softcat
In theory, technology should be the great enabler, but how many businesses feel truly unleashed by their IT, and not slightly restricted? Granted, there will always be a gap between the tangible limits of innovation and the limitlessness of the imagination, but for many organisations technology is perceived as much a cost on the business as it is a value-add.
Wouldn’t it be great if any organisation could get their technology out of the way of their business? It could be literally, by physically removing hardware and free up that space to be put to use as floor space or warehousing for a retailer, or as wards or treatment rooms for a hospital. Or it could be in a broader business sense, with organisations using the power of technology to deliver next generation services to their customers, and not getting caught up in the complexity of IT.
As more organisations become digital businesses, the stark reality of the limits of their existing IT infrastructure is being laid bare. What they have currently isn’t up to scratch – so does that mean they invest more, adding more to their stack and requiring more investment, diverting resource away from core business services? At Softcat, we’re increasingly seeing our customers wanting to know what digital means and how they get ready for it; for many, that means some harsh truths about what they can and cannot achieve with their current estate.
There is, of course, light at the end of the tunnel. With most realising that digitisation is really becoming the new business norm, not an option, so the need to evolve their infrastructure to support their business requirements is becoming clearer. Cloud has long been identified as a key enabler of digital transformation, and with the maturity of cloud infrastructure demonstrated by the likes of Forrester stating that more than 50% of global enterprises will rely on at least one public cloud platform, enterprises have more possibilities than ever to build platforms that deliver what they and, by extension their applications, require.
The future is bright, but the reality now is slightly different. Shadow IT and entrenched thinking, as well as applications needing different supporting environments, has resulted in many enterprises using a variety of clouds without a cohesive way of managing this sprawling infrastructure.
It’s resulted in a term that you often hear referred to as “managing the stitches”. It refers to a phenomenon where businesses increase their use of cloud computing and use multiple cloud providers, they naturally experience increased complexity and risk associated with diverse infrastructures, management tools, and processes. As these solutions are weaved together, the challenge of managing across the “stitches” that hold them in place arises, and users run into issues with compatibility, interoperability, and security.
In anticipation of avoiding this we see customers wanting to use a variety of clouds, but with security, consistency, and control front of mind. True multi cloud environments allow the deployment, positioning and transferring of applications and workloads as required, without restriction. It means being able to develop and test applications in one place, such as a public cloud, scaling rapidly, before transferring to a secure private cloud, or on premise, if it goes into production.
In this way, investment is used effectively – paying up front for a resource hungry app which needs to be tested first is not cost effective, but neither is leaving said app on a public cloud unchecked. By being clear on how each environment is used, organisations can deploy as required to support their application estate.
That’s why a partnership such as VMware and Amazon Web Services is so important – with VMware Cloud on AWS, the leaders in private and public cloud are coming together to deliver a true hybrid cloud. It’s indicative of where the industry is heading, and how people are viewing cloud computing as a whole – no longer a case of private or public or on-premise, but of taking the best of everything to meet your requirements.
For businesses like Softcat, being able to offer our customers the best of both worlds, where we have experience with both vendors, is hugely valuable – we’re able to guide customers in the best implementation using our deep understanding of how both VMware and AWS work.
Customers need the best solution and implementation, but don’t have the time or resource to deliver it themselves. By understanding and building the infrastructure needed, we allow IT to focus on using technology to support the organisation’s core needs, rather than getting bogged down in servicing the foundations that support them.
Multi cloud environments are here to stay, and everyone, from vendors to the channel and customers themselves, need to realise that to truly enable digitalisation, being able to make sense of the infrastructure you need, and deliver it cohesively, is critical. Many organisations find themselves unintentionally with a hybrid set-up – the challenge is to knit it all together so that each part, whether on-premise, private or public, is being used to deliver the relevant applications effectively. In doing so, enterprises can keep technology out of the way as they deliver their core services and realise their business objectives.