By: Steve Rosa, Vice-President Global Business Development and Cloud, Infrastructure and Security at Getronics
Not so long ago, Cloud was still a new, cool thing. Nowadays, it’s becoming increasingly standard. However, it is not a simple and straightforward concept many people think it is.
What is the situation today? How is Cloud evolving, what are the main challenges, and what potential does Cloud hold for the future? A state of affairs with Steve Rosa, Vice-President Global Business Development and Cloud, Infrastructure and Security at Getronics.
Cloud is pretty much everywhere these days. It is no longer a mere tool but has become a genuine platform to leverage and enable a smooth customer experience for clients. The Cloud is crucial and even mandatory for the development of companies, as it is central to all three ‘big questions’ in IT right now: security, data and workplace. This is illustrated by the fact that lately, it’s becoming increasingly rare to have to convince people to operate the switch. If some people still need to be convinced, it’s usually because they do not really understand what Cloud is. In that case, education is paramount: lay out the concept of Cloud and its functioning, run pilots and reassure the stakeholders about security aspects.
Whilst people may think Cloud is something easy, with the entire migration process taking just a few months, this is not true at all: it is, in fact, a very complex phenomenon, because it needs to be extremely reliable and secure, yet at the same time adapt to the ever-growing need for flexibility and mobility, both in terms of devices and access to services. In fact, Cloud is getting more complex by the day due to ongoing innovation and new features being developed on a daily basis. What’s more – and this is sometimes forgotten: Cloud is not a finished product, it’s merely a platform on which apps and solutions are built. Therefore, migrating to Cloud is not an endpoint, but the beginning. As such, Cloud requires skills and know-how that traditional companies usually do not have in-house. The logical choice, in that case, is to call on an external service provider such as Getronics, that can help transition to Cloud and manage it once everything is up and running – what is known as ‘managed services’.
Making the right choices and managing costs
At Getronics, all offerings in some way involve Cloud. Our ambition is to actively accompany and guide companies in their efforts, helping them make the right choices before and during the migration process. Once it has been completed, we keep providing them with continued advice, proposing new features, solutions and innovations in function of their specific needs, while – and this is crucial – managing the costs. It is here that we, as Getronics, can really make a difference for clients through our know-how and expertise: by making something as complex as Cloud look simple and unifying the various Cloud offerings available on the market to end up only with best-in-class solutions. This too takes convincing and education, as it involves multiple levels and processes within the enterprise: IT, governance, security & compliance, billing, reporting, aligning the customer with the end-client, et cetera.
The Managed Cloud acquisition from Colt back in April 2016 was very important in this aspect: it gave us access to know-how and the infrastructure we are currently operating in Europe, while also providing us with a customer base, a skilled workforce and therefore, credibility. You could even say it was a gamechanger for Getronics: we could have done all of these things ourselves, but we would not be finished yet, whereas our course of action allowed for competitiveness in the market straight away. These skills and competencies, coupled with our 19 data centres all over Europe and a new one being built in Chicago, give us a very solid platform to build on. In terms of GDPR too we are confident, as Getronics anticipated this evolution and we were already well underway on our journey. For our clients, our Security Operations Centre is a strong point in this regard as it is based in Europe – we often take clients there for a visit. We are also increasing our regional coverage by adding SOCs in North-America and Asia which should be operational shortly.
The three stages of migration
Generally, migration to Cloud happens in three stages. The first one is the ‘lift and shift’ of existing infrastructure and applications from the traditional IT infrastructures (legacy or on-premise) to Cloud and the adoption of adjacent new services available in Cloud. This is the ‘low-hanging fruit’ that most companies have come around to, allowing for good performance and services whilst bringing immediate cost-benefit and broadening the scope in terms of perspective as well as capabilities and features: AI, big data, IoT, data analytics, … The second stage consists in taking a closer look at the companies’ application landscape: what is the situation and how can they leverage Cloud even more by changing or refactoring applications? This involves modernizing apps so they can use new tools or features offered by the Cloud providers. An obvious one is database services, where the more traditional server systems are replaced by relational (or not) database services or analytics services from public Cloud. Through the third stage, the front-end is reviewed and services offered thanks to applications are changed. This is where companies can really start leveraging new features by developing modules and capabilities in their applications, e.g. data analytics. Depending on the context of the enterprise, the stages can be approached differently, but the essence is there.
Private vs. public Cloud
An important element when migrating to Cloud is the choice between private (hosted by the company itself) and public Cloud (hosted and managed by an external provider). While public Cloud often appears to be the ‘easier’ solution, it is not the answer to everything and comes with certain ‘traps’ which should be kept on the radar. Expert guidance is therefore crucial. In any case, the decision always needs to be made based on the context and a number of specific criteria, varying from cost to overall applications landscape and IT infrastructure, regulation, security needs, …. Currently, we are transforming Getronics into a multi-Cloud provider, just because we want to offer our customers the freedom of choice with a unified, frictionless and simple Cloud experience.
In recent times, we have been witnessing what is known as ‘Cloud repatriation’: companies deciding to go back from public Cloud to privately hosted solutions or even on-premise infrastructures. Generally, this is for cost or security reasons: if you do not manage your affairs properly on public Cloud, you are almost guaranteed to suffer from data breaches, attacks and/or high invoices. This again highlights the importance of a strong and reliable partner. In terms of security, the opposite is equally true: when managed properly, public Cloud is one of the most secure environments for sensitive company data, with different layers of protection added on top of the providers’ security wrapping: two-factor authentication, firewalls, anti-intrusion utilities, … Maintaining these high-security levels is a question of both investment and capabilities.
What does the future hold?
In the near future, Getronics expects first and foremost to see major progress in the applications department. As new features and possibilities emerge and people’s education on Cloud improves, new use cases will enable businesses to operate better and more innovatively. Only then will we start to grasp the true extent of the possibilities the Cloud has to offer. All of this is linked to the three ‘big questions’ in IT right now: security, data and workplace. To each of them, Cloud can be a very good answer.