Future of Cloud: Reimagining Cloud's Value Through Market Uncertainty
“The global public cloud market is about $560 billion.” Join these senior technology leaders as they take us through their cloud journeys and strategies.
From efficiency gains and cost control, to developing new products, achieving faster time-to-market and delivering on ESG goals, the value of cloud has long differed by organisation, industry and technological maturity.
However, cloud’s value has shifted through an unstable 2023. The economic downturn, when combined with environmental pressures and significant skills shortages, is putting CIOs and CTOs under pressure to leverage cloud to drive greater business agility and differentiation…while delivering ROI faster than ever before.
Future of cloud: meet the panellists
With Keme Nzerem moderating, the speakers of this roundtable debate include:
- Nicola Wadham, CIO, Financial Ombudsman Service
- Freddie Quek, CTO, Times Higher Education
- Rich Corbridge, Director General - Digital, Department for Work and Pensions
- Vivek Daga, Managing Director, UK & Ireland, NTT Data
Watch the roundtable highlights for Future of Cloud: Reimagining Cloud's Value Through Market Uncertainty
Future of cloud: key takeaways
- Future of cloud: different perspectives
- AI strategies impacting the cloud journey
- Building a data centre
Future of cloud: different perspectives
Moderator Keme Nzerem kicked off the debate by asking the panellists what stage of the cloud journey they are on.
Technology leaders are taking the cloud for granted. Freddie Quek, CTO at Times Higher Education, highlighted the transition businesses have made over the past decade with a shift towards cloud adoption within their operations. Before it was favoured, convincing businesses to adopt the cloud was “difficult”. As a concept, organisations are favouring the cloud-first approach on the surface, but Freddie believes that there is still a long way to go in practice: “I think we need to delve a little bit more about, you know, what cloud’s value is.”
For seven years the Financial Ombudsman Service has been on a cloud journey, moving their traditional on-premise legacy systems to being fully operational in the cloud. CIO Nicola Wadham argued that this is unique because “we have been able to do that from a legacy company's perspective.” This journey to the cloud has also allowed the organisation to begin their AI and machine learning journey, which in the long run will help organise their unstructured data: “We have an awful lot of unstructured data, the biggest unstructured data store in Europe, according to Microsoft.”
In agreement with Freddie and Nicola, Richard Corbridge,Director General of Digital at the DWP, argued that principles like cloud-first are taken for granted. Using Sainsbury's and Cancer Research UK—previous organisations where he was CIO—as mature examples of cloud adoption, he noted that while some institutions have adapted, others still grapple with methods to oversee their financial investments in this redefined digital landscape. Creating a successful cloud strategy in this day and age requires organisations to understand that this is a holistic transformation, not just a “transfer of capability”, which Nicola stated earlier in the discussion.
“It does bear thinking about the incredible pace of adoption of [the] cloud,” Vivek Daga, Managing Director for UK & Ireland at NTT Data, related to Freddie’s views on the cloud journey–adding a few comments of his own on the “yin and yang” aspect to this. Looking at the data, Vivek informed the panellists that the global public cloud market currently stands at $560 billion. Diving deeper behind the meaning of these statistics, Vivek revealed that while 70 percent of organisations have started their cloud journey, they have transferred just 30 percent of their workload. “It is actually still in its infancy in many respects.”
AI strategies impacting the cloud journey
Acknowledging the transformative effect AI is having on the on the cloud journey discussion, Keme asked the panellists in what way this is being impacted.
Discussing ways to approach incorporating AI into the corporate framework, Nicola argued that technology leaders should be dividing the journey into separate, manageable stages in order to deliver results. “It's like building a set of steps to improvement but each one having a position of value in itself.” Honing in on the AI piece requires having a set of what she calls “pipeline initiatives” centred on AI implementation.
Referencing a point Nicola made earlier on in the debate on the pace of change and focusing on outcomes, Richard pointed out that in his last two companies, he noticed a shift in focus from traditional, long-term projects to shorter, outcome-driven cycles. “One of the implications of any new technology is just that the pace of those cycles becomes even quicker,” meaning that AI and other emerging technologies have changed the mindset among technologists.
“I'm an optimist. So let's talk about the things that technology is really good at doing.” Freddie called attention to the fact that the publishing industry was one of the first to be disrupted–it was faced with an evolve or “perish” situation, of which it chose the latter. By optimising their rich content and data, he argued that these industries can harness AI and ML and further tap into its potential.
Noting the fear of AI tools such as ChatGPT among technologists, Freddie argued that these emerging and cloud technologies can play a pivotal role by lowering the “the entry barrier for businesses to experiment with the data set that you have,” yielding more trustworthy outputs–but this is not always the case. In an example, he recalled the reviewing process for products and how the younger generation use words such as “sick”, which could be misinterpreted as a negative connotation by AI.
Building a data centre
Further on in the roundtable discussion, Keme invited the audience to ask the panellists any questions they had regarding the cloud and the transition into this area. William Hill’s CTO, Georgina Owens, asked: “Are there any instances where it is still okay to build your own data centre?”
“We're all in all in big data centres.” Nicola opened with the downsides of moving to the cloud and the risks associated with this, arguing that if a “super major event” occurs, the main focus would be on recovery, defence and infrastructure.
Adding onto this, Vivek listed the constraints around regulation, data sovereignty and jurisdiction, among others. “The better answer nowadays tends to be a managed private cloud, because that gives you the de-risking and the balancing of the best of both.”
On the other side of the spectrum, Freddie argued that it comes down to the nuances. While there are different cloud providers, he focused particularly on infrastructure as a service (IaaS), which offers resources over the cloud, eliminating the need for businesses to manage or build a data centre. With platform as a service (PaaS), businesses who use this would find it more cost-effective to build their own data centres.
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