We talk to Eric Boussier, Senior Global BT Partner Development Manager from Microsoft, and Tom Ray, General Manager of the Azure Practice from Cloudreach, about what’s happening in the cloud market for customers at the moment and how they can make the most of the opportunity cloud offers.
What challenges are customers facing at the moment?
Eric: I find customers are talking about what to put into the cloud and why. They want to get the business benefits of the cloud, without spending huge amounts of money. While CIOs are often addressing their organisation’s strategic goals from a unique starting point, we see consistency in the biggest issue they face: how to move to the cloud at the right pace for them in the face of rapid change and a race to digital transformation. Understanding where to start and what benefits can be obtained in near and long term is the first challenge.
Tom: To Eric’s point, business benefits are the critical and often overlooked driver to cloud, and that usually starts at the application level where massive impacts can be made to improve business results. Most customers don’t understand the portfolio of applications they own and where they should be moved to. We need to help them to understand what they have, where it should go, how long that will take and the cost to migrate and run, helping them accurately budget.
How are you helping customers address those challenges?
Tom: Our customers have new requirements for connectivity particularly around hybrid (using a mix of public cloud and private datacentres), 5G and edge, and BT, Microsoft and Cloudreach together can leverage each other’s strengths to reduce the friction and unlock business value down the line for customers.
Eric: The benefits of the cloud are now a given, so together with BT and Cloudreach we start with the customer’s end-goals in mind and engage with heads of lines of business to help them prioritise business transformation drivers, elevating the discussion beyond the scope of IT.. The adaptability and productivity of the Azure cloud was designed with hybrid in mind, so it’s not all or nothing. We work with organisations to determine how they can benefit from new capabilities like intelligent cloud or edge. These could help deliver new ways of doing business and offer business benefits.
What changes are you seeing in the way organisations are using cloud?
Eric: AI and edge computing are two key technologies on CIOs’ minds. Most companies are working out how they can leverage AI, because if they don’t, they risk losing the intelligence battle against their competitors. And edge changes the cloud as organisations work out how to unlock and understand data and intelligence at the edge. For example, how can they make the most of IoT in a way that’s useful for their business? The answer can be the cloud.
Tom: I agree with Eric, but it also comes back to the business working out how they want to get to this often mythical land of AI and IoT. Cloud is not about infrastructure any more thanks to the likes of Microsoft and BT, it’s about a portfolio of apps. The question becomes how do I get more value? What business problem do I want to unlock? How can you use data analytics from the edge to come to life for your customers?
Do you think hybrid is a transient state or as good as some customers will achieve?
Eric: We believe that the world is a mixture of on premise and cloud. Hybrid is here to stay and is the way we’ve designed our platforms to maximize flexibility and scalability of the cloud. It’s not a case of it being either a transient state or just good enough, but realising the cloud is a journey. What matters is what you do with your estate and the impact it has on your business – whether that’s on premise, cloud or hybrid.
Tom: For me it comes down to terminology. Hybrid has historically meant legacy. But it’s so much more than that. Looking to the future, hybrid can help us unlock the potential of current and next generation applications.
What should customers consider when moving to the cloud?
Eric: The main thing we hear is where to start. Customers need to understand that this is a journey. Sometimes that starts with infrastructure, but keep your eyes on the prize of applications and data. Make those your focus from your very first approach.
In heavily regulated industries, cloud use may be less advanced. We talk to customers all the time, and we find the best approach is not to go all in but to create early wins from projects. That’s why Azure is so successful, because customers are joining at different points in their cloud journey. But it is a journey, we’re all learning all the time.
We’re entering an exciting new phase with BT as a partner that can unlock some of the connectivity issues that customers first approach with. BT, Microsoft and Cloudreach can be a real solution for customers.
Tom: My advice to customers is to think about people and culture as well as technology. Cloud fundamentally changes your business. Your organisation will be different in the future. Organisations are now looking to insource application knowledge, not outsource it because they realise that no one understands their business better than they do. Make the shift, but bring your organisation with you to avoid missing the opportunities.
Who you engage with is important too. You need someone who understands the capabilities and breadth of cloud to help you maximise cloud capabilities for your business. For example, at Cloudreach, we’ve created a team that really understands and leverages Azure’s app, data and AI capabilities to help you transform with speed and confidence, working closely with BT.
Who do you think is doing this well?
Eric: I think there are a lot of multinational organisations with mind-blowing success stories, but I really like the example of a rail transportation company in South America. They are using drones and edge technology to rethink how they maintain their rail network. They are flying drones over thousands of miles of track and analysing in real time the condition of the rails and where maintenance needs to be done. Using cloud and AI they are transforming the way they operate. It’s particularly interesting because it’s a more traditional industry that’s grabbing the best capabilities of cloud technology by the horns.