Decisions today made by leading organizations no longer focus on “should we use the cloud?” but rather “how can we use it?”
Cloud is not a single concept any more. Instead, high performers consider the value of the various as-a-service technologies – from Infrastructure-as-Service (IaaS) to Software-as-a-Service (SaaS (News - Alert)) to Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), both public and private cloud – to maximize cloud’s transformational impact across their business. They use them as part of their IT toolbox to help them get to market faster and respond with greater flexibility to opportunities and obstacles. It’s no longer about cloud, but how you leverage cloud for your digital business that differentiates you.
A Changing Landscape
Accenture (News - Alert) estimates that by 2016, enterprises will devote 14 percent of their overall IT products and services spending to cloud (from just five percent in 2011), and 46 percent of new spending will be on cloud-enabled technologies. The “cloud-first” mentality has taken hold, with leading organizations looking at what can be achieved with the different flavors of cloud, rather than reflexively considering in-house development or off-the-shelf solutions.
While SaaS leads cloud adoption, Accenture experts believe that PaaS will eventually become the primary application development and re-platforming approach. After all, it’s hard to ignore the cost savings, flexibility and faster time to market that PaaS provides.
Take the case of a European telecommunications company that used PaaS as the basis for its new travel portal, connecting consumers with partners, social recommendations and other high-quality content. Just 18 weeks after the project began, the company had a fully deployed, flexible and real-time system that offered users a new type of online travel-booking experience.
Cloud services have become drivers for many other technology changes as well – for social media, as an example, and for at least part of the rising popularity of data analytics activities.
Tough Decisions Lay Ahead
How can enterprises deploy different forms of cloud at the same time? What’s the potential for integrating cloud with legacy systems and traditional software to create hybrid capabilities that combine the best of the cloud’s elements? These are the kinds of questions that enterprises must answer.
The hybrid cloud means different things to different people. Whether it involves mixing different forms of cloud or integrating cloud with existing IT, the real challenge is a new flavor of the perennial one: how will you handle the complexities of service and data integration across systems?
At one time, many cloud systems were siloed applications. Today, even in a private cloud environment, it’s less about simple SaaS configuration and more about the complex integration required to weave new SaaS systems into the existing IT environment, around ERP systems or legacy mainframe applications. A hybrid world demands hybrid skills, and the most sought after talent will be the architect who understands the functions and roles of all the pieces and how they work together.
Governance of these solutions will become increasingly critical. The need will be to leverage new tool and skill sets to design and operate a mosaic of best-in-class capabilities that allow the business to take advantage of new opportunities.
The architecture of tomorrow – data, integration, monitoring, security – will look very different from just a few years ago, and enterprises will need to fundamentally revise their thoughts of enterprise architecture.
Choosing the Right Cloud
Private or public? In the near term, most large enterprises will host some IT systems in the public cloud but they’ll maintain control of their mission-critical systems and core applications through private cloud solutions.
As an example, a global copper company, inhibited by its existing infrastructure and ERP environment, launched an extensive ERP transformation initiative using a private cloud architecture. The new cloud-based solution, which it launched in just nine months, simplified operations, accelerated applications and reduced risk.
Eventually, however, in light of the economies of scale that public cloud provides, this will begin to change. Leading organizations will figure out how to take customer data – without personally identifiable information – and partition, protect and integrate it as appropriate, on the basis of technology capability, security standards and their users own level of comfort.
Proof that an enterprise is headed in the right direction is that the term “cloud” will soon fade from the conversation. Instead, its use will be described in ways that relate to its business value.
Cloud can help organizations achieve much of what they need to achieve today. More importantly, it offers the promise of delivering far more in the years to come.
Jack Sepple is global senior managing director of cloud at Accenture.
Edited by Alisen Downey