A viewpoint by Fabrice Granatieri, Senior Consultant at Amaris Consulting.
Many companies are wondering about migrating their applications and/or data to the cloud.
Is it profitable? What are the implications and benefits? Are there only advantages to doing so?
In this article we will explain everything you need to consider before acting.
What is the cloud?
Cloud computing, or just ‘the cloud’, is the distant providing of computer system resources, data storage, computing power or even apps. As such:
- It includes day-to-day server and system requirements as well as upgrade management.
- It usually requires an on-usage monthly billing.
- The service is ordered and configured through a web interface into the service provider’s app.
- There are 3 levels of service:
- Infrastructure only: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
- Infrastructure plus operating system and container platform: Platform as a Service (PaaS)
- All the above plus software: Software as a Service (SaaS).
The main cloud providers by market share are AWS (Amazon), GCP (Google), Azure (Microsoft), OVH (French), Alibaba Cloud, IBM Cloud, Oracle, Salesforce, and SAP. However, within each cloud service offer there are more than hundred fully featured applications as a service.
Some of the most common cloud service options are:
- Storage with OVH cloud and block archive, IBM cloud storage, Azure disk, and blob storage.
- Archiving/backup with Google Cloud Storage, Simple Storage Service, etc.
- Big data analysis with Google Compute Engine, BigQuery, Elastic Compute Cloud, OVH Data analytics.
- Web hosting of a full application with data repository with relational or NoSQL database.
There have been many notable projects within the cloud space in the past few years, such as structuring of the data architecture in retail business (using GCP), GE moving thousands of workloads into the AWS cloud, Airbus’ open data project, and Ravensburger’s migration to the OVH cloud.
The benefits of the cloud
Let’s begin with the main reasons why the cloud might be beneficial for your company:
- Faster project start-up time
Simply select how many servers, the required specifications and desired applications and… click. Fully functional applications are now accessible within hours compared to the previous standard of several weeks.
- No more application updates or lack of storage
You can ask your provider for an application update for a storage space increase, making the management of legacy applications far easier.
- Access data and apps from everywhere
Remote services in the cloud are accessible from any web browser, on a desktop or a laptop computer, a tablet, or a smartphone, freeing your teams to get the information they need, whenever and wherever they need it.
- Seamless on-demand sizing
Adapting subscription services and costs to real needs can lead to cost savings as companies are able to pay for only what they require. Some services even allow the automatic sizing of servers’ power according to actual demand.
- Lower overall costs
As cloud services are usually billed monthly, the initial investment is much lower than with an internal company infrastructure. Billing is also more accurate with the benefit of almost real-time billing information.
- Reliable availability
Service Level Agreements (SLAs) are issued by cloud providers and to precisely define the duration of down time expected for each service over a given year.
- High levels of security
Cloud services usually have several copies of their clients’ data spread across different data centers, with encryption during data creation and during data transfer, along with permanent data replication and automatic archiving. Access is also secure, with data protection standards and tools commonly used to authenticate and authorize users’ access to specific data. European data centers are also bound by European data protection legislation (GDPR), providing a further level of protection.
- An environmental commitment
A business’ overall power consumption can be reduced by promoting the pooling of resources on the same servers and using only the required energy for activities.
Some cloud providers promote the energy efficiency of physical systems as well as the choice of green energy producer, and indeed all cloud providers are efficient on resource usage optimization. Furthermore, cloud providers use many different renewable energy sources to keep server farms cool.
The drawbacks of the cloud
No technology is perfect, and cloud services are no exception:
- The need for internet access
The nature of cloud services means they require both an internet browser and an internet connection to access any data or apps stored there. There are therefore some business cases where cloud usage becomes almost impossible, such as when data or apps must be accessed offline.
- On-demand billing models
Even though cloud services prove cheaper than traditional methods in most cases, companies planning to use cloud services should conduct a thorough estimation of their needs 2-3 years in advance before launching a cloud transition program.
- Security of data stored on providers’ servers
While cloud services have high security standards and encryption techniques, companies are still entrusting their data to someone else’s servers. Businesses must consider the risk of failure within a third party organization that they have no control over and may not be fully aware of. For this reason, most companies do not transfer their most crucial and core business data/apps onto cloud services.
- Provider lock-in
Cloud service providers build their offers in a way that complicates the return of companies’ data back to their own servers, or even to another cloud provider. Data transfer rates are also much slower when extracting data.
- Software versions can be different or non-existent in cloud versions
The open-source software trend brings the promise of free, fully functional applications, but it is common to find that software versions included in a cloud provider’s offer are lacking recent features.
- Specific skills are required
New technologies require new skill sets; moving to the cloud means businesses must ensure they have the talent needed to make the most of cloud features, such as usage skills and billing expertise.
The cloud: good for most, with exceptions
On balance, it’s clear to see why so many organizations are moving to cloud services. The cloud saves money and allows for the outsourcing of skills outwith a company’s core business. The environmental benefits of cloud services are also attractive to companies seeking to lessen their carbon footprint.
However, using a cloud computing solution provider also comes with security and data privacy implications. The significant change of paradigm that moving to the cloud represents requires serious consideration regarding change methodology and management in an organization.
For businesses still unsure if cloud computing is the right decision for them, conducting tests can be a good way of coming to an evidence-based decision. Amaris Consulting can help businesses to evaluate and organize a tailored cloud project for this purpose.
For more information on Amaris’ cloud competencies and our Information Systems & Digital capabilities, visit www.amaris.com