The fact The Studio @ Home had to host three separate roundtables on the future of cloud technology shows this solution is having a serious resurgence. Whereas before the feelings towards cloud computing conformed around impatience—why am I not seeing the gains in inefficiency as quickly as I thought I would?—cost—is it really necessary to move all my projects to the cloud?—and complexity—does my business require on-prem, public or hybrid cloud models and how can I test the feasibility of each?—the pandemic has funnelled technology leaders into a doe or die approach, regardless of those queries. Cloud computing was a must have in 2020.
A spotless sky?
What of its future then? In the third debate from the event, Eileen Jennings-Brown, Head of Technology, Wellcome Trust; Rob Tribe, Regional SE Director, Western Europe, Nutanix; Nick Reeks, Director IT, Tata Steel; and Julie Pierce, Director Openness Data & Digital, Food Standards Authority, came together to predict next year’s cloud stories.
“I consider us fortunate we started in the cloud a while ago,” reflected Eileen Jennings-Brown. “The new way of working has allowed us to expedite fully to the cloud, however, and as such we’ve now built a data center in the cloud with technology that wasn’t available last year. It’s really been a big leap,” she added.
The Wellcome Trust’s Head of Technology capitalized on the remote working ‘experiment’ as it’s been coined to adjust her team’s approach to innovation. Jennings-Brown asked them to behave as if “they’re never going back to the office”, designing new toolkits and solutions to better help them in this new normal. And if we do go back to the office? “Then it’s a bonus,” she quipped.
Tata Steel operates quite differently, as Nick Reek explained.
“We outsource a lot of our technical output but being on the cloud wasn’t a driver of that. We segmented with Azure or AWS strategies to replace our data center collaboration suites in 2012 and integrated Office 365 from on premise. We have that balance of collaboration over the eight-year period and therefore the foundation in place to meet a tremendous percentage growth of the use of [Microsoft] Teams as a result of COVID-19.”
Steel is a technically intensive product from a manufacturing perspective. That means Reeks is bound by certain legacy infrastructure other technology leaders would turn their backs on. Indeed, some legacy infrastructure is around 40 years old, and because of its complexity, or the expense at putting it on the cloud, it doesn’t make financial sense to move wholly to the cloud, like Wellcome Trust.
Instead, Reeks and his team “break the cloud journey into pieces that suit us.” Where he needs large amounts of data to support long term maintenance programs, for example, he stores in the Azure cloud. Looking to the future, he’s considering the Internet of Things and edge computing combined with cloud and how those solutions can help within certain segments of his cloud technology stack.
Personalizing cloud journeys
Into the British Government and the Foods Standards Agency and Julie Pearce agreed that one’s cloud journey can and should be personalized. As different teams are forced to consider new ways of working the “mental model has been turned on their heads” and it’s encouraging to see businesses using cloud in new ways.
“The technology was already there,” Pearce clarified, “it’s just that now people are able to reflect their new working context into a new method of work.”
And for Nutanix and Rob Tribe, the vendor in the roundtable, these experiences are just one of many in a rich tapestry of cloud journeys.
“The number of brands who have managed to go 100 percent public cloud is still quite low—but it’s still the aim of many,” he said. “What’s happened in 2020 is that cloud journeys have been accelerated where they can be accelerated, as Nick [Reeks} intimated, and left where the fundamentals of your business, like core legacy infrastructure, has to be left alone for now.”
The roundtable continued to pick apart at the nuances of what could be cloud-ready and what wasn’t yet. The long term trend is that most elements of a business will digitized, but only once the business is satisfied it makes financial sense to move and that it is secure inline with the most up to date procedures. Until then, the future of cloud computing will be much like Tata Steel’s—up to the discretion of its technology lead and the wider industry context of the time.