Grab the Cloud now

by Mark Turner, Claranet

As I meet with CIO’s and IT Directors across different industries and sectors, there’s a common theme regarding our shared topic of interest: cloud isn’t a question of “should we” – it’s nearly only ever a question of “when?” and “how?”. 

It makes my role at Claranet really enjoyable – the direction of travel is almost exclusively one way and we are famous for helping our customers deal with these two challenging questions; and to ensure they get the most out of the opportunities cloud presents.  

Don’t get me wrong – there are good reasons to not be pursuing the cloud as your target infrastructure for the future. But they diminish year on year and for most enterprises – I believe – there is a strong case that cloud can be a positive contributor to the future.  

I’m not going to go into my reasons for that belief in great detail, but my general view is that adopting public cloud will give you more security, flexibility, and agility within your IT estate. It will open a doorway to more rapidly developing capabilities based on cloud technologies and will move your overall IT strategy up through the gears in terms of speed and evolution.  

Through all of this, cloud will make a strong return in terms of your total cost of ownership. Don’t mistake that as me saying cloud is cheaper – but I’m absolutely confident the overall business case can and should be significantly positive.  

Covid-19 has shaken the world like nothing before and has disrupted plans in both our personal and business lives. The purpose of this opinion piece though, is to share the daily dialogue I am having with a lot of customers: “Don’t stop or pause – you are missing a golden opportunity that should be part of your preparation for an uncertain future.”

Your cloud journey should be viewed as more than just part of the regular capital cycle and a change of underlying infrastructure. It really is much more than that. Cloud is, and should be, a jumpstart of your innovation – a disruptive play to make your business more competitive end-to-end and better prepared to face this uncertain future. 

Part of my job is to help customers see and value that potential. As turbulent economic disruption is potentially with us for the mid or even long term, the best way to prepare your business is to accelerate innovation and set the groundwork for it through cloud. Consider this from recent article in the Harvard Business Review:  

  • Jumpstarting innovation is a critical business imperative. Executives realise that radical change is needed but do not feel equipped to make such change.  
  • Disruptions in the business environment allow new entrants or forward-thinking established players to introduce innovations that transform the way companies do business and consumers behave.    
  • Disruptive changes that might serve as the source of innovation include technology shifts, new business models, industry dynamics, global opportunities, and regulatory changes.   

Perhaps your cloud journey has only just started – or even not at all – but deep down you feel the future opportunity lies in how you manage, understand, and derive value from your data. You may also feel any disruptive move your business should be making in the future will rely on artificial intelligence to help you understand your customers better. In both cases, you need to move to the cloud – and now. In the next part of this blog, we’ll look at why. 

We’re now entering the era of the “Cloud Wars” with all three hyper-scalers – the largest balance sheets on earth – fighting furiously for your business. They’ve built the most incredible global IT infrastructures, the likes of which we’ve never seen before. They have also turned infrastructure provision on its head, adopting the “build it and they will come” philosophy as opposed to the “order it and we’ll get back to you in three months” approach of the last 30 years.  

For me, three fundamental opportunities arise from this, which are the main reasons why now is the time to grab the cloud:  

One: Competition 

The hyper-scalers (Amazon, Microsoft, Google) are competing furiously for your business. Short term, they will even pay you to move onto their platforms. They are more than aware of the barriers to entry, the concerns around the costs of change, and they’ve put huge global funding programmes together. They will literally pay for the effort to analyse, prepare, plan, and migrate your services into the cloud. It could save you an enormous amount of money.  

Two: Capability 

All the hyper-scalers are well aware of concerns around capability and skills. That is why they have each developed a rich eco-system of partners to help their customers use their products and services. This is where companies like Claranet and people like I come in – we’re focused entirely on helping businesses to move to public cloud. We do migrations day-in, day-out.

We look at IT estates as varied as financial services to construction companies, fashion houses to logistics companies and everything in-between. We’ve helped customers in these industries to plan financially, plan operationally, execute migrations, and help them move into a cloud-focused world and embrace cloud native technologies.  

Three: Agility 

The full potential of cloud is still to come. As part of the “Cloud War”, feature development runs at a pace unheard of compared to the internal IT function. New capabilities and services come out constantly, all aimed at helping customers on cloud platforms to get more and more value – making that specific platform more attractive than any other. More than one executive in each of the three hyper-scalers has talked to me about the incoming “Data War”, and the focus on how they can help customers realise the benefits of data in the future is intense.  

So this is my first basic premise: we live in uncertain times and the road could get more economically challenging. Every business should be looking to be disruptive in their own market, if only to make sure they are ready and able to compete against somebody else. Disruption comes from innovation, and every business is now an IT business.  

The ability to embrace new technologies and offerings, your time to execute and the time to market needs to decrease rapidly to cope with such a turbulent environment. Being on the cloud in a year is going to be a major differentiator – not being anywhere near it is going to be a major inhibitor. So grab the cloud, make sure you are taking advantage of the funding the hyper-scalers will put your way, take their money, and make your cost of change minimal. In other words, get yourself in the best position possible to take advantage of what’s in the future.  

That leads to my second basic premise: lift and shift. There – I’ve said it. I don’t hold with the almost uniform negativity around lift and shift. Too many of my customers have previously got stuck in an eternal “cloud transformation” much akin to the “transformational outsourcing” deals of the noughties. This is the very thing that gave outsourcing such a bad reputation: three-year projects that eventually turn into ten-year projects, costs that spiral out of control, deliveries that never happen. Engineers wanting to do things the best way possible.

My view is that the best way to adopt the cloud is nearly always to get there as fast as you can, without major change introducing business risk. Just do it with a plan of your next steps when you are in the cloud. Yes, you need to modernise. You should absolutely optimise. You should be long-term planning to transform and start the journey to being “Cloud Native”. But our experience at Claranet is you will be far more successful doing that “on the cloud” as all the portfolio of services and skills are there on tap.  

And my final comment: find a good partner. A partner who can help you do the whole journey. Someone rich in that cloud future you’re aiming for in the years to come. A partner who can access the funding and support of your hyper-scaler of choice. Someone experienced and proven at planning, preparing, and executing migrations – at building that business case and TCO view for the cloud that shows how much it will cost, what steps you will need to take to manage that and what the overall return is. And someone who can be your partner throughout the whole journey, helping you take advantage of all the existing services and all the new services yet to come out. To help you innovate. To help you disrupt.   

The riskiest decision in these uncertain times would be to wait and see. I assure you your competitors will not wait. Now is the time to get ahead and prepare. I’d love to be able to help. Drop me a line on