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Overcoming the five barriers to cloud adoption

Almost four-fifths (79%) of global IT leaders believe Hybrid is the inevitable future of IT, according to research carried out by the Hybrid Hive earlier this year.

But despite such promising statistics, many organisations are still struggling to make the jump between the ways of old and new.

It’s what Azure CTO Mark Russinovich referred to as the ‘last mile’ barriers to cloud adoption in his keynote talk at this year’s IP Expo in London.

Here’s his take on what those barriers are and how you can overcome them.

  1. Culture and skillset

When you think about it, shifting from legacy IT systems to cloud-based infrastructure is no small ask. Those legacy systems and processes may have been in place for decades, and with any major change you’re always going to come up against some resistance.

But you’re also asking for whole new skillsets, so training in conjunction with a culture shift is critical.

Traditional IT is risk-averse by nature, Russinovich argued. But in the modern world IT is a business-critical unit in itself. It has to become a consultative business partner rather than waiting for the business to dictate needs.

As for skillsets, IT needs to become more infrastructure-oriented. The days of dealing with single firewalls are behind us and it’s time to learn cloud and hybrid architectures.

The most important skill in the new IT world? Networking. But a new kind of networking, one that focusses on keeping data secure.

The IT department also needs to take a dev-ops approach, Russinovich argued, actually developing code that goes into business platforms.

  1. Migration strategy

What should you keep on premise and what should you put in the cloud? Getting this balance right is at the heart of a successful IT strategy.

Russinovich suggested the best place to start is not with business-critical apps but by first migrating those which can live on the cloud in a completely self-contained way. This way you avoid having to dive into a lot of potentially messy data migration early on.

Some apps won’t be ready for the cloud and will have to stay on-premise. But that doesn’t mean they’re not ready for the new IT world. In a world where everything is evolving faster than many can keep up, you really need as many mission-critical apps in the cloud as possible.

  1. Cost and governance

Many look at the cost of cloud and come to the conclusion it’s more expensive than on-premise, said Russinovich. But once you truly understand the cloud model, he argued, you can actually reduce costs significantly.

“It is literally cheaper,” he said.

Plus you’re also getting agility benefits in the long run that will inevitably save the business money.

So how do you keep costs down, exactly? Perhaps unsurprisingly it comes down to control, Russinovich said, which is particularly important in the wake of shadow IT’s rise.

Microsoft IT’s approach, for example, is to create a subscription management system whereby people can apply for certain apps.

This gives the IT department visibility of all costs associated with that app and also access to the data. But it also gives them an insight into what’s happening in the cloud around the business, including from a compliance and corporate policy point of view.

They then create templates for common app types, pre-packaged programmes that are compliant but also save costs and time in the long run.

Finally it allows them to keep an eye on utilisation. If they see a certain app hasn’t been used for six months they can investigate and shut it down if necessary.

  1. Security

Traditional IT deals in a single firewall – one perimeter that, if breached, gives the attacker access to everything beyond it.

Now those perimeters are much less clearly defined. People expect access from any device, wherever they are, through a multitude of different apps.

How do you tackle these heightened security risks? Segmentation is the key, said Russinovich.

We shouldn’t just be focussing on keeping the bad guys out now, he said. It’s about having a breach mentality and protecting those apps within the network itself – constantly monitoring and looking for anomalies.

“Treat every app as potentially hostile,” he said.

  1. Hybrid

What kind of cloud platform do you put your apps onto? How do you connect your existing on-premise infrastructure to your public cloud?

These are the kind of questions that keep IT leaders up at night as they battle with the challenges of moving to a Hybrid model.

One huge potential problem is the security risk in joining the two infrastructures together.

Let’s say you have an on-premise app containing highly sensitive customer data. You won’t want an app on the public cloud talking to that on-premise app and risk having that critical data leaking into the wrong hands.

Again, segmentation is important. Forcing traffic through on-premise firewalls is no longer the most efficient way to overcome security fears, Russinovich argued. Instead, take advantage of individual virtual firewalls and place sensitive data behind them.

***

Some interesting food for thought there from a man who’s certainly been there and done it.

I’ll leave you with a somewhat bold quote from the end of Russinovich’s talk:

“If IT doesn’t get on board (with cloud) they put the business at risk. It won’t be as competitive.”

Do you agree?

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