Cloud independence – freedom to choose and do

Being able to maintain freedom of choice so you get the Cloud solutions you need, when you need them, regardless of where they come from is critical. By Simon Lofthouse, CMO, Flexiion MSP

‘No one ever got fired for buying IBM,’ was a term commonly used to describe the decision to rely on a big supplier to solve all your IT challenges – size and scale equalled peace of mind. And although this exact term is, perhaps, now less relevant, the approach of relying on the ‘big’ supplier for that peace of mind seems to have continued in the Cloud market, which is dominated by a small number of global, big-brand hyper-scalers.

It’s true, big companies like to deal with other big companies. If your organisation is large enough, then you’ll probably have the necessary resources and influence to ensure your big-brand Cloud hyper-scaler responds quickly to your every need. But if your business is smaller with less customer ‘clout’ then getting the Cloud support you need could be more of a challenge.

The one-size-fits-all model that Cloud hyper-scalers promote is clearly very attractive; a one-stop-shop for all your Cloud requirements. But one size rarely fits all, and should you ever require something a bit different or your Cloud requirements are more fluid due, say, to changing business circumstances or evolving customer requirements, then the responsive, flexible support you require from your Cloud hyper-scaler may not be so forthcoming. Possibly, for some businesses, this is when the one-stop-shop model becomes more of a hinderance than a business enabler?

Cloud independence, does it matter?

Rapid, and sometimes, unpredictable change in the business world today is now a reality. As a result, freedom of choice and action are essential for business decision makers, now like never before. Hidden constraints and barriers conspire against the agility and responsiveness that allow successful navigation through the challenges and on towards achieving objectives and ambitions.

Cloud delivery is now unarguably mission critical to most businesses, whether they are pure technology ventures or tech enabled organisations. Cloud is now a fundamental part of business and the way things work, or don’t. So Cloud independence and freedom to choose must be important?

While Cloud is a range of technology services, their central, supporting role means that they rapidly cause issues for the business if things don’t go to plan. Cloud decisions are not simply technology choices because of their capacity to entangle business operations and actions far outside the domain of technology.

There are three business reasons why independence in the Cloud matters for decision makers:

1. Costs and terms can become unacceptable as needs and usage develop

Change may come from the business and usage patterns shift, leading to significantly different costs to those expected. The end of free credits and other incentives may present the business

with significant new costs. A provider may change the costs and terms of service, or even withdraw or change a service that’s become critically important to you.

2. Being locked-in denies freedom of choice and action

From a technical perspective, the ability to easily spin up new services from a Cloud hyper-scale is very attractive, but from a business point of view, the complexity this can add to moving away from a supplier is far less attractive. Technology quirks, differential pricing and other techniques can create hurdles and barriers that constrain free decision making and agile action.

3. No one brand or provider is best at everything

Most big branded hyper-scalers offer a full range of services, but none excels at everything. As needs become more complex and diverse, a more pragmatic approach brings out superior performance and cost dynamics by bringing together the best services from whatever provider is best in each case.

Freedom of choice and action, agility and flexibility are all key to business decision makers as they navigate this bumpy world of opportunity and change. Cloud is a big part of this and independence is crucial for the business. Cloud strategy and choices go beyond the technical specifications to include the needs of the business and the dynamics of change.

What are the pressures driving the need for Cloud independence?

So our use of Cloud has matured and become more sophisticated. Fewer and fewer organisations have simple Cloud infrastructure requirements these days, and the rising tides of application technologies and deployment intricacies are pushing the demands on Cloud further and further.

As hosted Cloud infrastructure grows in importance, and businesses rely on it to respond to evolving customer requirements and market conditions, build competitive advantage, grow and succeed, the richness and functionality needed calls for ever greater performance. At the same time as technology pressures and deployment are increasing, international complexities are growing from localised variations in data regulation and the demand for performance wherever the deployment.

These pressures are driving the direction of Cloud and are fuelling more and more niche services as lively innovation responds to the opportunities. All sorts of new, niche services are emerging in payments, specialist data processing and visualisation, artificial intelligence engines and data sets, storage silos, and compute power. The range of possibilities grows as different teams address different parts of the tech stack and see larger and richer use cases in servicing segments of the performance requirement.

All this presents organisations with a dilemma as they work out where they should be heading and how. Their applications and infrastructure usage need more and more effort and expertise, and so does the business of identifying, building and managing the Cloud services and infrastructure they need to deliver their business models and customer propositions. This is

why freedom of choice and flexibility is so important if the demands of building and running Cloud infrastructure aren’t to strangle the work and creativity needed to use it in the business.

This is where the new category of independent Cloud support partner can contribute real value. Their skills lie in helping Cloud-using, tech-enabled organisations to identify the right mix of Cloud services needed to meet the objectives of the business, and then integrating those as a single infrastructure, delivering and managing it so that the teams in the business can concentrate on the business.

Independence is central to the value and purpose of Cloud integrators so that the customer’s business objectives are the true driver of the solution, and not some personal brand preference or particular commercial terms, as is the case with resellers. The truly independent Cloud support partner opens the full range of Cloud possibilities, enabling choices to be made on suitability and best fit, not the products the reseller has decided to represent, and free from any predetermined technology approaches, brand preferences or sales targets.

While the independent Cloud support partner brings the infrastructure to life and maintains it, the customer’s internal team has the freedom to concentrate on the business and how that infrastructure is used to best effect. The independent Cloud integrator makes the difference, allowing the internal team to raise its game, using the best possible infrastructure, wherever it comes from.

So in an unpredictable business world, full of challenge and opportunity, Cloud will be increasingly relied upon to provide the flexibility required to rapidly introduce change, be it the delivery of new products or services or the operational enhancement of existing ones. Either way, being able to maintain freedom of choice so you get the Cloud solutions you need, when you need them, regardless of where they come from is critical.

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