Are we getting ahead of our abilities in the headlong rush to cloud? Moving to cloud doesn’t mean the headaches of technology management are also being handed over to a third-party provider — if anything, the rapid push to cloud may be getting ahead of organizations’ ability to keep up.
Thanks to Covid crisis, the year 2020 was a boom year for cloud adoption, and it turns out things got pushed even deeper into the cloud during 2021. There’s no end in sight to the cloud boom, and with it, new challenges to technology teams.
That’s the gist of a recent survey of 300 IT executives by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, underwritten by Splunk, which finds while at this moment, most organizations still have most of their technology systems in house. But get ready to start bidding farewell to on-premises IT. Things are going to shift dramatically, and within the next two years, most enterprises will be mainly running off the cloud.
Over the past year, 67% say their organizations accelerated the adoption or implementation of already planned cloud applications, services, or infrastructure — an increase from the 56% who said their organization had done this as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic in the prior year’s survey.
Cloud will just keep accelerating, the survey shows. The majority (65%) predict that more than 60% of their IT portfolio will reside in the cloud within two years. This represents a 30-percentage point jump from today. A total of 85% say at least 40% will be in the cloud by 2023, a similar 32 percentage points higher than those reporting that much is in the cloud today.
“However, the rapid acceleration and expansion of cloud has brought its own challenges — not only in terms of integration and management, but also with regards to new cybersecurity, data privacy, ROI measurement, and cloud talent concerns,” the study’s authors point out. “With most respondents leveraging cloud in addition to their on-premises systems-and anticipating maintaining such a hybrid cloud infrastructure for the foreseeable future — the difficulties of managing these complex environments effectively are evident.”
For starters, 62% of IT executives say they are having difficulty keeping up with the rapidly evolving technology roles and responsibilities required to manage its increased cloud adoption. Managing data across mixed environments also creates new challenges. “As you add more cloud providers and more applications, your complexity changes a lot,” according to Jay Bhat, information security officer at Franciscan Alliance, quoted in the study. “Every time you add a new environment, it increases the complexity of how you share and protect data and ensures only the appropriate data goes from one environment to another.”
Educating the business is a vital piece of an effective strategy. The Harvard Business Review report describes how Chegg, an educational technology and information publisher, has been rearchitecting its cloud approach over the past year to create smaller, more flexible cloud accounts for use by its engineering teams. “We’ve been in cloud for so long, we’ve learned a lot of what’s working and what isn’t working,” John Heasman, chief information security officer, is quoted in the study. “We ended up in a position where we needed to take a step back and look at our architecture to align with best practices in cloud infrastructure and improve our processes overall.”
Heasman and his team concentrated on educating the company’s leaders on the ways its cloud strategy will result in new services. “It’s not just a case of saying, ‘Here’s a new account. It’s yours,'” Heasman says. “It required a lot of planning to ensure the right level of oversight while still enabling our team to get the full benefit of cloud-native technology.”
It’s notable that hybrid on-premises/cloud environments will be the dominant mode for some to come. Eighty-five percent of respondents say their organization has a hybrid cloud environment today — and 88% of those respondents anticipate that their organization will maintain a hybrid cloud approach for the foreseeable future.
In the unprecedented 2020-21 push to cloud, the dearth of talent to manage hybrid environments became the number-one hot-button issue. Here are the top issues that have arisen:
- Lack of talent required to manage cloud 45%
- Increased cybersecurity/data privacy concerns 44%
- Difficulty integrating cloud services/data 34%
- Lack of end-to-end visibility across the technology environment (in cloud and on-premises) 31%
- Increased costs 24%
- Making rushed choices that create more work later on (e.g., technical debt) 23%
Again, many of these issues will fall to IT teams to address — and cannot be effectively outsourced to cloud providers. The survey finds only 21% of IT executives strongly agree that their cloud vendors provide all the necessary tools and processes to manage and optimize their cloud environments, while 42% somewhat agree. “Cloud vendors will always oversell the value of cloud technology,” according to Bhat — especially when talking to non-tech business leaders. “The technology is just one piece of the puzzle,” he says. “In order to get the value from it, you have to put the right people and processes in place and engage in the process of rolling out new functionality, testing it, and changing your business processes. Without that, you lose all the value of moving to the cloud.”