We’ve now got to get our sh*t in the cloud, but our data’s still crap...

September 07, 2021 | Phil Fersht

So what's our new cloud guru Joel Martin, saying about the frantic rush to the cloud these past few months?  Let's just hear it from the horse's mouth...

Phil Fersht, CEO and Chief Analyst, HFS Research: Hey, Joel. So how should we be thinking about cloud today? What do you think has changed in the last couple of years, and how should we think about the market as it starts to evolve?

Joel Martin, Research Leader, Cloud Strategies, HFS Research: The cloud is the architecture people are building their businesses on. As we move to these virtualized economies, virtualized businesses, and virtualized experiences, inside and outside the organization, the cloud is the only way companies can scale up and scale down their ability to reach those customers and deliver services. They can’t do that within their private data centers. And that’s the biggest differentiation of using hybrid or public cloud, is that scale versus continuing to invest in in-house IT talent, resources, and tools.

The thing that has changed Phil, is the speed of the network. With fiber, 5G, and gigabit speeds working in the cloud feels like you are working on a device on a local network. The pure speed at which we can create, collaborate, and innovate with others, with systems, and with a growing number of AI solutions is truly mind-blowing. And it’s become so simple to use. People don’t have to be technology literate to create solutions others can benefit from ease-of-use at scale is really what we are benefiting from these days.

Phil: Okay. So tell me about the flow of workloads in the cloud. We hear about private cloud, we hear about public cloud, and then we hear about hybrid cloud. What do you think is going to be the ultimate outcome with these workflows, and how are people going to engage with the cloud in the future?

Joel: There are two things I’ll focus on. First, looking at HFS’s recent Pulse survey data, and which workloads are moving to those different cloud models paints a very interesting picture. As you look at that data, and it looks like a black hole. There’s no clear direction of how firms are preferring to deploy, develop, or adopt workloads. Instead, companies are moving their workloads to the Cloud because they have to move; remaining complacent is not an option. Honestly, we see less of a clear strategy and more of a tactical plan to get things into the cloud because their executives, employees, and customers demand it. What I see is rapid tactical execution without a long-term, conscious strategy for sustaining the current momentum. This is true across private, public, and hybrid cloud initiatives in many cases.

Second, as we move to native cloud workloads, what we’re going to see is a much more real-time access to the data across those workloads, for people to make decisions – and by people, I mean people at the executive level, and all the way down in the field level, those closest to the customer. The challenge is these, often like the applications they are moving, are the existing workloads. Too often, the drivers for these are cost-related rather than outcome or value-driven. Shortly companies are going to realize many of these workloads don’t reflect how people work now and how people engage with the markets and customers they deal with.

Regardless of cloud type, we need to change the discussion from applications and workloads to data and architecture. Once we understand the data we need to run our business, where it comes from, where it resides, and how people want to use it, then real innovation can happen. I feel we’ll realize the value of domain-centric, hybrid clouds with a whole lot of AI, and tools like Low Code will let teams and individuals create the next generation of workloads. As such, the two things CIOs and CEOs need to be focused on are data and governance. The “what and how” of composing, consuming, and curating digital experiences driven by data securely to their teams and customers.

Phil: Right. So how do you see the competition between Google, AWS, Microsoft Azure, as we look at that battle for who’s managing the datacenters in the cloud, Joel? What is driving adoption, and who do you think is winning the medium-term battle here?

Joel: Who’s won the medium-term battle out of the gates? You know, Microsoft’s done a great job at catching up to AWS, but I continue to talk to the services providers and the enterprises, and AWS is still the one they think of first. While it might not be the one they choose, AWS is still extremely strong with their ecosystem, the different solutions they’re offering for everything, from customer experience, with Amazon Connect all the way through to their big data tools and their Fargate solutions. So, you know, Amazon is still the big guy in the room, and how they’ve invested in talent across the ecosystem, at the customer level, and at the integration level, that’s what’s keeping them there right now. Meanwhile, Google is going to be a dark horse, and I think, at the end of the day, the vast majority of customers will have an Azure cloud, and then one other, and this is where Google and AWS, to me, will continue to battle for customer mindshare.

Phil: Interesting. You mentioned earlier, Joel, that we’ve now got to get our shit in the cloud, but our data’s still crap. Can you build on that a bit? I mean, how much of that is genuinely true, versus are companies now adopting a realization that they need to transform their data before they make the shift? How is that evolving?

Joel: Right now, data is moving with the applications, rather than people figuring out their data and then realizing what applications are critical to get to their data. Again, people have moved their applications quickly to the cloud because that’s been their mandate, driven by executives, and the market factors. But if you look at where we’re going with cloud-native architectures and solutions, how data is going to need to be managed, organized, and delivered is very different from the way applications or the pure database vendors built their solutions. Whether you take microservices, which requires a direct call to data to manage it, so parsing your data and securing that data is delivered completely different than a large open database, you’re also seeing a lot of native cloud database solutions, whether it’s Mongo or PostgreSQL, those things are also becoming very popular with companies, typically in smaller workloads, or smaller solutions, but they’re going to grow, and that’s going to be the data repository. And, honestly, that scares the hell out of most of the application vendors, because the application vendors are really differentiated on how they manage data and then how they integrate that data with other databases, which is really a bane for CIOs.

I’ll give you an example, I was talking to the Chief Technical Officer at a global food company, he was talking about how the marketing team will come to him and want to buy a new SaaS application because they can’t get the data they need out of SAP. Not a big surprise there. And he looks to a low-code provider that can help him extract the information out of SAP more effectively and deliver it, without using a packaged app at all; they’re able to quickly customize and build things that have strong survivability with their core systems. That’s less an application play, and more a mining the data and then presenting the data.

To me, the second half of this decade is going to be all about fixing your data. And that’ll also be driven by the amount of IoT data that’s coming into the marketplace. And this is, again, where companies are really struggling right now. I mean, you take all the IoT, say, in a manufacturing facility, where you have sensors collecting data on a device’s noise, visualization, thermodynamics, and all this data can help them prioritize how they service, replace, and maintain very expensive physical assets. That’s all important data, but it lives outside the traditional data domain. So all that needs to come together because it’ll be critical for their hyperconnected supply chains, their partners that do the servicing, and also how they manage inventory and replace the machines.

Phil: So the final question I have, Joel, is how is the role of the technical architect, the senior-level IT manager, going to change, as a result of this, and the way they interact with the rest of the business? When this becomes more and more about data, is this really less about technology, at some point, and more about just getting clean about the data we need? How do we access it? How do we get it? How do we make it ubiquitously available? How do you think this is going to change the roles of business and IT executives?

Joel: Companies will struggle to keep up with change, Phil. They are going to need to work with partners who can bring automation tools, data modernization practices, and domain-centric planning and governance. A lot of our conversation has been about moving to the cloud. Those companies that feel they can go straight to the cloud vendors (Microsoft, AWS, Google, etc.) may struggle with building and sustaining these core elements of the Cloud.

 We expect to see technical people with a lot more domain expertise, so you’re not going to have business owning the domain expertise and technology owning the platform and technology acumen; we’re going to see a much more digitally fluent company that people understand, fundamentally, what their customers are paying them to do.

And, you know, at the end of the day, that’s what I look for. It’s like, what are you doing… what are you investing in that brings value to that customer engagement? Because they don’t pay you for your ERP solution. You know? They don’t pay you to have Salesforce or CRM; they pay you to answer questions and deliver services. And, you know, those are the applications that we’ll see the IT organization and the business work closer on, on developing, and all the things that take care of traditional back-office are going to be the ones they’re going to be either partnering or looking to simplify as much as possible.

Phil: So what can we expect to see, just briefly, from you, coming up in the next few months, in terms of the research that you’re driving?

Joel: The three biggest things you’re going to see from us coming out in the next few months, Phil… we have a big study on app modernization, outlining what are the opportunities to refactor, renew, replace, recode traditional on-premise software solutions and data solutions into the cloud. That’s coming out in October. We’re also going to be talking a lot more about low-code, and really drilling into how low-code and Agile methodologies are coming together to do something that we haven’t been able to do before, which is to see co-innovation between the business and the end-users, where they collaborate. They can build and sustain the momentum of being able to react to changes in the market faster than before. Another thing that you’re going to see us talking about is that mix of domain and data expertise; this will come to market as a Data Modernization research study. We’ll delve into the kind of data needed in banking and financials versus manufacturing versus healthcare and life sciences. I’m going to be working with our team that focuses on those domain areas and really drawing that out. I think that’s going to allow us to start that data conversation that will become more and more important to our customers over the coming years.

Phil: Excellent. Thanks, Joel. It’s been great seeing your research over the last few months; look forward to what’s coming up in the future. Awesome Joel!

Posted in: Cloud ComputingDigital TransformationIT Outsourcing / IT Services

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