Fresh questions for businesses that have rushed to the cloud during the pandemic

December 20th, 2021 | by Alfred Siew
Fresh questions for businesses that have rushed to the cloud during the pandemic

As long as you have a credit card, you can start a revolution.

Or, at least fire up a cloud service, whether you need to crunch some numbers in an instant or store data that could not fit on your own servers.

The promise of infinite computing resources on demand still remains a defining strength of public cloud services from the likes of Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services.

However, the picture is a lot more complicated today, especially for businesses that quickly scaled up and expanded on cloud at the start of the pandemic almost two years ago.

If you had opened the floodgates to departments to scale up their own cloud usage, it would be a good time to check how they’ve used those resources.

Are they running instances that are no longer needed and now present potential security loopholes? Or are the resources left unused and unattended because a project has been completed and the people behind it have left?

It is not difficult to have an audit, you’d say, but doing so is just the start of a process of properly managing and organising what should perhaps have been more orderly at the start.

In making these infinite resources available, some businesses may now find themselves needing to rein in departments to pull in the general direction of their transformation efforts.

After all, it is one thing to make all the resources available; another to make sure they are used to good effect.

It is not surprising to find a business starts out trying to “democratise” the availability of technology and data on the cloud, only to find many new silos have developed without coherent management of these efforts.

To be sure, the cloud’s scalability and availability have made life a lot more tolerable during the pandemic. Without the cloud, on-demand services like food delivery and ride hailing would not be responsive or usable as they are now.

That said, businesses also have new questions they have to ask now that they are no longer in awe of the prowess of the cloud. Yes, questions like preventing vendor lock-in.

To prevent this, a great deal is being discussed about a multi-cloud strategy today. Can a business take advantage, say, of the artificial intelligence tools from one public cloud provider but also innovate with the data analytics capabilities of another?

The issue is how these efforts can be integrated well. Some workloads may be separately run on different cloud services but others may be more easily and efficiently run together on one provider.

It is true there are more tools in the market today to move workloads around different clouds, but if you ask any business if they would prefer to do things more simply, they would agree. In other words, using a single provider where possible, given the difficulties in moving data around.

Multi-cloud may be a big topic today but what will also be interesting in the next year or two is the emergence of the distributed cloud. This is especially in the form of 5G-enabled multi-access edge computing (MEC) offerings.

Okay, the cloud is meant to be distributed but in a way, it has centralised things down to a handful of public cloud service providers in recent years.

The emergence of public cloud services that run at the edge will make a big difference for businesses that want the same AI or analytics capabilities with the low latency and fast response of edge computing.

Think of 5G-enabled factories that run cloud-based AI tools but at a location that is close to the action, instead of having to flow the data back to a data centre to do the analytics.

This way, an operator can make use of video analytics to inspect the production process remotely, even making adjustments to improve quality and yield on the fly. Or a drone operator can find building defects while scanning its facade remotely.

So, going on the cloud is going to mean a lot of different things in the months and years ago.

A lot still involves the heavy lifting and shifting of enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems that handle payroll and other core corporate functions. These will be drawn-out but necessary migrations.

At the same time, there is a lot more to think about and do on the cloud, now that we are in the “new normal” of the pandemic.

The digital transformation that once equated to jumping on an infinitely powerful cloud bandwagon has brought new questions today. Businesses need to refocus and refine their efforts.

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