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3 Reasons to Consider a Hybrid Cloud Strategy

If there’s one thing IT professionals can agree on, it’s that hybrid cloud computing isn’t going away. Developed in response to our growing dependence on data, the hybrid cloud is being embraced by enterprises and providers alike.

What is hybrid cloud computing?

Hybrid cloud computing can be a combination of private cloud, like VMware, and public cloud; or it can be a combination of cloud providers, like AWS, Azure and Google Cloud. Hybrid cloud architecture might include a managed datacenter or a company’s own datacenter. It could also include both on-prem equipment and cloud applications.

Hybrid cloud computing gained popularity alongside the digital transformation we’ve witnessed taking place for years. As applications evolve and become more dev-centric, they can be stored in the cloud. At the same time, there are still legacy apps that can’t be lifted and shifted into the cloud and, therefore, have to remain in a datacenter.

Ten years ago, hybrid and private clouds were used to combat growth, but now we’re seeing widespread adoption from service providers to meet client needs. The strategy has range from on-prem up to the cloud (VMware Cloud (VMC) on AWS), to cloud-down (AWS Outposts), to robust deployment and management frameworks for any endpoint (GCP Anthos).

With that said, for many organizations data may never entirely move to the cloud. A company’s data is their ‘secret sauce,’ and despite the safety of the cloud, not everything lends itself to cloud storage. Depending on what exactly the data is –mainframes, proprietary information, formulas – some businesses don’t feel comfortable with service providers even having access to such business-critical information.

1. Storage

One major reason companies move to the cloud is the large amount of data they are now storing. Some companies might not be able to, or might not want to, build and expand their datacenter as quickly as the business and data requires.

With the option for unlimited storage the cloud provides, it is an easy solution. Rather than having to forecast data growth, prioritize storage, and risk additional costs, a hybrid strategy allows for expansion.

2. Security

The cloud is, in most cases, far more secure than on-prem. However, especially when the cloud first became available, a lot of companies were concerned about who could see their data, potential for leaks, and how to guarantee lockdown. Today, security tools have vastly improved, visibility is much better, and the compliance requirements for cloud providers include a growing number of local and federal authorities. Additionally, third party auditors are used to verify cloud provider practices as well as internal oversight to avoid a potentially fatal data breach. Today, organizations large and small, across industries, and even secret government agencies trust the cloud for secure data storage.

It’s also important to note that the public cloud can be more secure than your own datacenter. For example, if you try to isolate data in your own datacenter or on your own infrastructure, you might find a rogue operator creating shadow IT where you don’t have visibility. With hybrid cloud, you can take advantage of tools like AWS Control Tower, Azure Sentinel, AWS Landing Zone blueprints, and other CSP security tools to ensure control of the system. Similarly, with tooling from VMware and GCP Anthos you can look to create single policy and configuration for environment standardization and security across multiple clouds and on-prem in a single management plane.

3. Cost

Hybrid cloud computing is a great option when it comes to cost. On an application level, the cloud lets you scale up or down, and that versatility and flexibility can save costs. But if you’re running always-on, stagnant applications in a large environment, keeping them in a datacenter can be more cost effective. One can make a strong case for a mixture of applications being placed in the public cloud while internal IP apps remain in the datacenter.

You also need to consider the cost of your on-prem environment. There are some cases, depending on the type and format of storage necessary, where the raw cost of a cloud doesn’t deliver a return on investment (ROI). If your datacenter equipment is running near 80% or above utilization, the cost savings might be in your favor to continue running the workload there. Alternately, you should also consider burst capacity as well as your non-consistent workloads. If you don’t need something running 24/7, the cloud lets you turn it off at night to deliver savings.

Bonus Reason – Consistency of management tooling and staff skills

The smartest way to move forward with your cloud architecture – hybrid or otherwise – is to consult with cloud computing experts. 2nd Watch helps you choose the most efficient strategy for your business, aids in planning and completing migration in an optimized fashion, and secures your data with comprehensive cloud management. Contact Us to take the next step in your cloud journey.

-Dusty Simoni, Sr Product Manager, Hybrid Cloud

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Cloud for Advanced Users – The 5 Most Important Lessons Learned Over a Decade

Being involved in cloud services and working closely with cloud providers over the past 10 years has given us a great deal of insight into the triumphs and pitfalls of cloud consumers. We’ve distilled that vast experience and come up with our list of the 5 most important lessons we’ve learned over the past decade for users that are experienced in the cloud with multiple applications/workloads running.

  1. Governance – Tagging, Tools, and Automation

Many of our customers have hundreds, if not thousands of accounts, and we’ve helped them solve many of their governance challenges. One challenge is ensuring they’re not doing certain things – for example, shadow IT and functioning in siloes. In the cloud, you want everyone to have visibility into best practices and understanding the critical role cloud plays in creating business value.

There are numerous tools and automation methods you can leverage to ensure your governance is in step with the latest innovation. First and foremost, a strong tagging strategy is critical. As with shadow IT, if you don’t tag things correctly, your teams can spin up resources with limited visibility on who owns them, continuously running and accumulating expenses over time. If you don’t start with a tagging strategy from day one, retroactively correcting is a herculean task. Starting with a strong architectural foundation and making sure that foundation stays in place with the proper tools will ensure governance doesn’t become a burden.

Putting the proper guardrails in place for this, such as AWS Config, can help overcome this challenge and make sure everybody’s following the rules. Sometimes governance and moving fast can seem like adversaries, but automation can help satisfy both.

  1. Optimization – It’s not a one-time exercise

Cloud users tend to think of optimization in terms of Reserved Instances (RI), but it reaches far beyond just RIs. Well-defined policies must exist to exhibit control over spend and discipline to go along with policies.

There are many ways to leverage cloud native solutions and products to achieve optimization as well as new classes of service. One key point is leveraging the right resources where appropriate. As new services come out and skills increase within organizations, the opportunity to not only optimize spend but optimize the applications themselves by leveraging more cloud native services will continue to drive down operating cost.

Optimization is not a one-time exercise, either. It’s an ongoing practice that needs to be done on a regular basis. Like cleaning out the garage, you need to maintain it. Who’s responsible for this? Often, it’s your company’s Cloud Center of Excellence, or a partner like 2nd Watch.

  1. Cloud Center of Excellence – Be bold and challenge the norm

We encourage all organizations to form a Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE). Typically lead by an executive, your CCoE should be a multi-stakeholder organization that includes representatives from all areas of the business. With the multi-skilled group, you benefit from subject matter experts across a wide variety of areas within your organization who collectively become subject matter experts in cloud services and solutions. When you break down siloes, you’re able to move rapidly.

Your CCoE should be formed at the beginning of your migration and continue to revisit new capabilities released in the cloud on an ongoing basis, updating the organization’s standards to ensure enforcement.

One of the CCoE’s biggest roles is evangelizing within the organization to ensure people are embracing the cloud and celebrating successes, whether it comes from implementing DevOps with cloud native tools or optimizing and cloud refactoring. The CCoE’s motto should is, ‘Be bold, challenge the norm, look for new ways of doing things, and celebrate BIG.’

  1. Multi-Cloud – Get out of your comfort zone

As an advanced user, you have grown up with AWS and have a solid understanding and background of AWS. You’ve learned all the acronyms for AWS and understand the products and services. But now you’re being asked to integrate another CSP provider you might not be as familiar with. How do you take that basic cloud knowledge and transition to Azure or GCP?

There’s a little bit of a learning curve, so we recommend taking a training course. Some even offer training based upon your knowledge of AWS. For example, GCP offers training for AWS professionals. Training can help you acclimate to the nomenclature and technology differences between CSPs.

We typically see customers go deep with one cloud provider, and that tends to be where most workloads reside. This can be for financial reasons or due to skills and experience. You get a greater discount when you push more things into one CSP. However, some solutions fit better in one CSP over the other. To maximize your cloud strategy, you need to break down walls, get out of your comfort zone, and pursue the best avenue for the business.

  1. Talent – Continuously sharpen the knife’s edge

Talent is in high demand, so it can be challenging to attract the top talent. One way to overcome this is to develop talent internally. All cloud providers offer certifications, and incentivizing employees to go out there and get those certifications goes a long way. With that, success breeds success. Celebrate and evangelize early wins!

The cloud changes fast, so you need to continuously retrain and relearn. And as a bonus – those individuals that are involved in the CCoE have the unique opportunity to learn and grow outside of their area of expertise, so proactively volunteer to be a part of that group.

If you want more detailed information in any of these five areas, we have a wealth of customer examples we’d love to jump into with you. Contact us to start the conversation.

-Ian Willoughby, Chief Architect and Skip Barry, Executive Cloud Enablement Director

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Cloud for New Users – The 4 Most Important Lessons Learned Over a Decade

Over the past ten years we’ve learned quite a bit about cloud migration and achieving success across various platforms. Over that time, a lot has changed, and ongoing innovations continue to provide new opportunities for the enterprise. Here, we’re recapping the four most important lessons we’ve learned for new cloud users.

1. Close the knowledge gap.

With the rate of innovation in the cloud, the knowledge gap is wider than ever, but that innovation has reduced complexity in many ways. To maximize these innovations, businesses must incentivize employees to continue developing new skills.

Certifications and a desire to continue learning and earning credentials are the traits businesses want in their IT employees. Fostering a company culture that encourages experimentation, growth, and embracing new challenges creates an environment that helps employees develop to the next level.

At 2nd Watch, we create a ladder of success that challenges associates to move from intermediate to advanced capabilities. We foster employees’ natural inclinations and curiosities to build on their passions. Exposing people to new opportunities is a great way to invest in their aptitudes and backgrounds to evolve with the company. One way to do this is by setting up a Cloud Center of Excellence (CCOE), a multi-stakeholder group that includes subject matter experts from various areas of the business. With the multi-skilled group, the collective become the subject matter experts in cloud services and solutions. By setting up a CCOE, silos are eliminated and teams work together in an iterative fashion to promote the cloud as a transformative tool.

2. Assemble the right solutions.

Cloud is not always cheaper. If you migrate to the cloud without mapping to the right solutions, you risk increasing cost. For example, if you come from a monolithic architectural environment, it can be tempting to try and recreate that architecture in the cloud.

But, different than your traditional on-prem environment, many resources in the cloud do not require a persistent state. You have the freedom to allow jobs like big data and ETL (extract, transform and load) to run just once a day, rather than 24 hours a day. If you need it for an hour, spin it up for the hour, access your data in your cloud provider’s storage area, then turn it off to minimize usage and costs.

You can also perform simple tweaks to your architecture to improve performance. We recommend exploring containerization and serverless models to implement automation where possible. New cloud users should adapt to the new environment to allow for future use cases, provision resources for future states, and use assets based on scalability. Cloud allows you to map solutions to scale. Partners like 2nd Watch help create a roadmap based on forecasting from current usage.

3. Combine services based on desired outcomes.

There is a plethora of cloud service options available, and the way you use them should be driven by the outcomes you want. Are you looking to upgrade? Lift and shift? Advance the business forward? Once you have a clear outcome defined, you can begin your cloud journey with that goal in mind and start planning how best to use each cloud service.

4. Take an active role in the shared responsibility model.

In traditional IT environments, security falls solely on the company, but as a cloud user, the model is significantly different. Many cloud service providers utilize a shared security responsibility model where both the cloud provider and the user take ownership over different areas of security.

Often times, cloud providers can offer more security than your traditional datacenter environment ever could. For example, you are not even permitted to see your cloud provider’s data center. Their locations are not known to the public, nor is where your customer data resides known to the datacenter employees.

Although your cloud provider handles much of the heavy lifting, it’s your responsibility to architect your applications correctly. You need to ensure your data is being put into the appropriate areas with the proper roles and responsibilities for access.

Are you ready to explore your options in the cloud? Contact 2nd Watch to learn more about migration, cloud enabled automation, and our multi-layered approach to security.

-Ian Willoughby, Chief Architect and Skip Barry, Executive Cloud Enablement Director

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Seven Tactical IT Initiatives to Enable Your Corporate Business Objectives

In my last article, Five strategic enterprise IT business drivers CXOs are now contemplating, I explored the considerations CXO’s need to take right now. Your CXO isn’t responsible for implementation, though, that comes down to you.

In a recent IDG survey, “How are IT leaders Responding to the Pandemic,” we clearly see a shift in priorities by CIOs to address the new normal with more focus on cost control (45%), improving IT operations (38%), and redesigning business process (37%). How is that going to impact you? Let’s explore 7 steps IT can take to satisfy these shifting priorities and enable their corporate business strategy.

Migrate applications to the cloud

If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. That’s the normal response we hear when there’s resistance around moving to the cloud. The reality, though, is that it is broken. The cost, time, and energy expended by your staff to maintain servers, OS, patching, and databases may feel like a sunk cost, but in reality is a drain on both your intellectual and financial capital. A focused plan to migrate applications to the cloud gets you out of the maintenance business and provides the opportunity to deploy human assets to critical and strategic tasks.

Close datacenters

A recent 451 report by William Fellows and Melanie Posey highlighted that, “the C-suite points to cloud as a weapon it will bring to the fight against variables such as uncertainty and rapidly changing market conditions.” They go on further to state, “we expect COVID-19 will likely expedite the evacuation of datacenters and large-scale capex (equipment, real estate) takeout as long-term business disruptions and changes to working practices become permanent ‘new normal’ conditions.” Closing datacenters doesn’t have to be a painful process with significant ramifications to your human capital. Strategically, it can help to ensure business viability, and with a little investment in employee development, your previous workforce won’t have to take a hit.

Reduce cloud spend

Optimized cloud spend is not only achievable but could reduce your total cloud spend by over 20%. Initial savings are found by discovering unused, unattached or idle resources. From there, explore rightsizing your compute resource. Typically, cloud administrators over provision compute instances and never go back to right-size.

Reserved instances and spot instances are another source for cloud spend optimization. They require a higher degree of knowledge and management skills but can significantly reduce the cost of your compute instances.

Reduce risk

Sure ways to divert money away from your strategic programs is to have your applications compromised, your client data offered on the dark web, or your entire production encrypted by ransomware. The upside is you’ll learn more than you ever need to know about bitcoin.

Reduce your risk profile by identifying your critical applications, getting a security audit, and ensuring those applications are recoverable in the event of a disaster. It’s not enough to believe you have it covered, you need to actually test and prove you are protected. Create your own Chaos engineering working team to continuously test the security and recoverability of your critical applications and data.

Enable your remote workforce

In 2017, IBM’s chief marketing officer forced employees to relocate to one of six “strategic” marketing office locations or leave the company. One wonders if the CMO holds the same belief that work can’t be done effectively via a remote workforce. In truth, the world was already changing at that time. The following generation of workers, the ecommerce generation, doesn’t subscribe to the traditional onsite approach. For this group and for many other employees, creativity, productivity, and collaboration occur remotely. Giving them the right tools allows not only your remote workforce to thrive but enables your company to succeed as well.

Employee recruitment / retention

Continuing down the ecommerce employee path, the best and brightest don’t want to be in server management, database administration, or datacenter operations. The new breed of IT is seeking opportunities in developing code for containerized applications, serverless computing, AI development, IoT and cloud – the type of skills that increase the development speed, bring products to market faster, and innovate the corporation technically.

Increase application development speed

From an investment perspective, success is measured by Return On Investment (ROI). In development speak, success is measured in Time to Value (TtV). To achieve TtV in application development, consider implementing a DevOps methodology (or DevSecOps). Implemented correctly, a DevOps methodology is proven to accelerate applications into production faster with less failure.

Final thoughts

Ultimately, IT is only successful when focused on being the catalyst for business success. Whether focused on cost control, improving IT operations, or redesigning business processes, IT is the enabler of the business. If you need help creating a strategy to address your shifting priorities, contact us.

-Michael Elliott, Sr Director, Product Marketing

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DevOps: Getting buy-in

Understanding what DevOps means and brings to the business is critical in order to get buy-in at the beginning of the process, but also to ensure that all teams are fully engaged with an ongoing process that requires the whole organization to be on board.

Getting buy-in for DevOps may be your greatest challenge in the implementation process. There are three key groups of people you need to get buy in from: executives, engineering and operations teams, and middle managers.

Executives:

Executives is the most important group to get on board early – in particular because they can be instrumental in preparing other parts of the business for the DevOps implementation.

To get executive buy-in, lead with data and show (and prove) the waste and inefficiencies in your current processes and how DevOps can solve this.

Alongside this, align the proposed DevOps implementation with the company vision, such as reducing costs or moving to the cloud. Demonstrate how these things require a DevOps mentality to be successful.

You should also align with executives’ visions. Find out what each executive’s concerns, challenges, and goals are and explain how DevOps can help them reach these objectives.

Engineering and Operations Teams:

Identify problems engineering and operations teams are facing and where they’re struggling. Then provide solutions that are actionable and tie in with DevOps practices. It is important to show these teams first-hand experience of DevOps successes and give evidence of where other organizations have succeeded with DevOps.

From here, provide solutions and basic guidance that are actionable and will enable team members to solve the identified problems utilizing DevOps practices. For engineers and IT admins, first-hand experience is critical.

Also, reassure engineering and operations teams that with a DevOps culture their jobs are safe. Change is often associated with staff cuts, so let the teams know that DevOps will not impact job security but will allow them to focus on more valuable work.

Show the engineering team how they will have more features with less rework and will no longer face blockers in the process. DevOps will enable them to do their job.

For IT operations, meanwhile, let them know that they will get more proactive work done, which means fewer alerts and fewer tickets because they will be able to address problems before they arise. There will also be less manual work, with feedback incorporated into the product.

Middle Managers:

These team members are the most difficult to convince and are typically late to adopt, so trying to gain early buy-in may be tricky. Try sharing real results from other teams and exerting some peer pressure from above and sideways. You can also ask this group why they are hesitant, with a number of ‘why?’ questions.

DevOps can bring valuable advantages to your business, but it must be supported organization wide. Getting buy-in for DevOps is just one of the common challenges to the implementation process. True culture change required to successfully implement DevOps is difficult, so understanding the misconceptions and challenges before you begin is critical to your success. Download our ‘Misconceptions & Challenges of DevOps Transformation’ eBook for insight into other common misconceptions and challenges to implementing DevOps and guidelines for how you can overcome them.

-Stefana Muller, Sr Product Manager, DevOps

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Five Strategic IT Business Drivers CXOs are Contemplating Now

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote, “The time for action is now. It’s never to late to do something.” Today, that simple message is being bantered around executive leadership calls with urgency across all enterprises. CXOs are contemplating the best approach to lead their companies into what will become the new normal – life and business after COVID-19.

In speaking and listening to CXO leaders, and taking into consideration experience learned from past challenges, five strategic IT business drivers have emerged that every CXO should contemplate in guiding their companies over the next 18 months. Ultimately, the business driver chosen will be based on the sustained economic impact anticipated to your organization.

Change IT Cost Model

Companies challenged to do with less will explore movement from CapEx to OpEx. From an IT perspective, this ranges from accelerating the movement of applications to the cloud, divesting completely from a hosted data center model, optimizing current cloud spend or migrating management of cloud-based applications to an outsourced provider. Often times, this change cannot be implemented with internal resources alone. A fresh perspective is needed to independently assess current processes and make the hard decisions that impact how IT operates.

Increase Agility

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” – Winston S. Churchill. Business leaders should explore ways to take advantage of the market opportunities that are present, even in this new normal. Explore answers to questions like:

  • Can I bring products to market faster?
  • How do I become more digitally aware?
  • Is my business reacting to change?
  • My customers have changed. Has my company?

Making strategic decision now that align your business to the new normal, the new purchasing model, or just positioning yourself for the growth that will follow provides a strategic advantage that your competitors might not be ready to undertake. To achieve this, accelerate your digital awareness, evolve your development methodology, and look to a partner that can enable you to deliver change across your organization.

Embrace New Technologies

The business landscape is littered with companies that did not embrace new technologies. Blockbuster, Minolta, Palm, and Sun Microsystems are examples of big-name companies that couldn’t, or chose not to, embrace new technologies. Embracing vs maintaining status quo might be the difference between business growth and being included in the list of failed companies.

The path to success is centered on your company’s ability to become “digitally aware.” Technologies like Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and ADT (Application Development Technologies) should be at the top of your list for consideration.

Internet of Things: Conversations (or concerns) around IoT include scalability, interoperability, and security. The only real challenge to your organization is not embracing. The benefits now, and in the future of IoT, when coupled with artificial intelligence and predictive analytics, far outweigh a course of inaction.

Artificial Intelligence: It’s been stated that data is the new oil, and AI is the new electricity. Your company’s future is in the data you most likely already have. It’s up to you to unlock it.

Application Development Technologies: Application development has changed dramatically over the past few years with the advent of containerization, microservices, and serverless architectures. It’s no longer waterfall vs agile. It’s about application portability, divesting the application from the underlying architecture.

These technologies will require tighter management and integration of your data, a challenge that will requiring strategic insight and planning.

Reduce Risk

To take creative liberty from Socrates, “I don’t know what I don’t know, but it scares me.” You have now moved from a centralized workforce to a distributed workforce, and this is highlighting previously unknown or unaccounted for risk. Considerations when exploring how to reduce risk include:

  • Examining your security and compliance posture
  • Ensuring your business continuity in the event of a disaster
  • Exploring the potential talent gap or moving talent to more strategic roles

Your technical staff priorities have shifted. Working in a distributed model that brings cloud more into focus has shifted priorities. New challenges that aren’t focused on the strategic part of your business impede your IT staff or, potentially, are not a part of their current skill set. Partnering with companies that have expertise and specific competencies can enable your staff to return to focusing on strategic initiatives.

Improve Customer Experience

The unintended consequence of this new normal is an acceleration of the changing buying behavior. This demands that businesses differentiate around customer experience. Adapting and improving the customer experience to attract, engage, and delight differentiates you from your competitor. Building your company’s sales and marketing flywheel drives business growth and delights customers. Improving the customer experience is the priority.

Become digitally aware. Exploring new technologies that exist within cloud providers, taking advantage of AI, and thinking like a customer are the keys. Done properly, you’ll differentiate your company and strategically position yourself for future growth.

Conclusion

Cloud providers are well tuned to enable the five strategic initiatives. Implementation is where managed service providers like 2nd Watch can ensure the rapid adaption and acceleration of your plan. 2nd Watch will custom-tailor cloud strategies that address people, process and technology. We leverage scalable processes and tools and apply our unmatched enterprise experience to your challenges to enable you to think strategically. If you’re ready to talk to someone about implementing these strategic initiatives at your business, contact us.

-Michael Elliott – Senior Director, Product Marketing, 2nd Watch

Article originally published in TechHQ, April 24, 2020 https://techhq.com/2020/04/five-strategic-enterprise-it-business-drivers-cxos-are-now-contemplating/ 

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