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08 November 2017

IDC reports that all Asia Pacific enterprises will have either a cloud-first or cloud-also strategy in place by the end of 2017. For enterprises looking to engage a specialist to simplify the management of increasingly complex applications in the cloud, here are some points to note.

Since IDC started tracking the cloud market in Asia Pacific in 2008, the number of cloud-based solutions has exploded – as has the range of deployment options. In theory, a CIO could now build the entire operating environment for their business from cloud services and platforms. But few are lucky enough to have the option of a clean slate when building their cloud strategy. For most, it involves the careful assessment of workloads and then matching them to the most appropriate solution.

IDC has found in our 2017 CloudView Survey that all Asia Pacific enterprises will have either a Cloud First or Cloud Also strategy in place by the end of the year. This means that CIOs, IT managers and LOB managers will be using cloud more than ever.

Most regional enterprises have now started production use of cloud for re-hosting of existing applications and for application development and test work. In both cases, it is the economic efficiency of cloud that influences the choice of the cloud solution. But for the other categories, CIOs are only beginning to understand how and when they should use a cloud solution.

Typical cloud use cases now fall into six categories:

1. Re-hosting or refactoring of existing applications;

2. Application development and testing environments;

3. Edge computing platforms for IoT use;

4. Protection of data assets;

5. Provision of security services; and 6. Compliance monitoring.

With DX strategy development, also high on the CIO to-do list and the new workloads demanding new levels of flexibility and cost efficiency, it's unsurprising that specialized cloud services are now being included in new application architectures. These specialized cloud services and solutions are being frequently offered as managed services, focused on delivering a specific business and technology outcome. While business demand for rapid new application delivery is always a driver for use of managed services, increasingly it is the dearth of specialized skills that will bring a CIO to choose a managed service from a provider. Their chosen provider will be that which focuses on the main issue and retains highly skilled staff to deliver it.

While many initially were averse to the use of cloud because of its often-undeserved reputation for poor reliability and security, cloud-based solutions that are designed for protection of enterprise digital assets are now commonly used. For example, if you need to ensure that corporate or customer personal information is protected to the highest standard, then likely the best way to achieve this is to contract with a specialist.

The same can be said of security; security specialists have become highly sought-after and often priced out of an enterprise IT budget, so a managed security solution – delivered from the cloud – is becoming a very viable choice for many enterprises. Selecting this provider must of course be done with diligence; not all can provide the service levels you may require.

In any audit of an application portfolio aimed at assessment of applications for cloud deployment, it is usual to start by categorization of the applications for both business value and priority before placing them in your timeline for cloud deployment.

However, as Asia Pacific enterprises become more savvy about the capabilities of cloud solutions, the applications which they deploy using cloud services and technology are becoming more complex. With complexity comes new requirements for mission-critical levels of availability and performance, as well as the need for bullet-proof security and optimized costs.

These challenges bring a need for new enterprise IT architectures that meet the demands for optimized costs as well as maintaining and even improving the levels of trust in the IT infrastructure. To do this, the preferred IT architectures are hybrid environments that span on-premises and hosted clouds, with different elements of the workload being deployed in the cloud environment that best meets all the requirements for IT governance, cost, performance and security. When the trust criterion moves to the forefront of decision criteria, CIOs may realise that – if they have the requisite skills and processes in place - an on-premises private solution for core elements of the workload is a necessity. If they haven’t invested in skills or process, then the most cost- and time-effective option is to source that environment from a trusted cloud SP.

Cost-effective operation of a hybrid cloud environment implies high levels of automation and manageability, and high levels of manageability in turn mandates an optimized IT architecture. To achieve this, the ability to use a consistent application deployment platform across public, hosted private and on-premises private clouds is a huge advantage. IDC's research indicates that many enterprises are struggling to move from fragmented, DIY, and ad hoc cloud provisioning strategies toward implementing more consistent governance, configuration, SLAs, and cost control over the increasing number of workloads that are being deployed across public and private cloud resources. DevOps teams are particularly important cloud users that need to remain agile but also need to avoid being burdened with complex cloud infrastructure configuration and management tasks.

IDC expects that as DevOps scales up during 2017 and 2018, over 65% of enterprises will invest in policy-driven self-service automation to power on-demand access and utilization of cloud resources. In addition, IDC predicts that more than 85% of enterprise IT organizations will commit to multicloud architectures by 2018, further driving up the rate and pace of change across infrastructure, middleware, and applications workloads.

The ability for developers to self-provision cloud resources on demand will be an increasingly important DevOps enabler. However, as the scale of DevOps usage expands, most organizations will recognize that there continues to be a vital need for cloud architects and operations specialists who can design and implement consistent self-service multicloud management strategies that facilitate development agility while protecting the information assets and business goals of the company.

In Asia Pacific, for most enterprises, this means engaging an IT services specialist. Optimally, that dpecialist will be tightly partnered with the provider of the cloud services. Some key buying considerations to bear in mind are: Look for services vendors with a deep understanding of your business needs, not just technology needs. Cloud is not just a useful new technology delivery model that can cut costs. To meet your business case objectives — and IDC evidence points to around a quarter of organizations are currently failing to meet their business case objective for cloud-based enterprise applications — your implementation partner will need to understand your industry and your specific business needs.

Cloud doesn't just install itself automatically and smoothly, so look for vendors with strong change management capabilities in both business and technology terms. Typically, cloud implementation now is part of a program that may involve — among other things — process redesign, organizational change, and possibly also cultural change. Much of the value derived from cloud-based applications now lies in the adoption of best practices and best-in-class process models and so on that come "out of the box"), and which the organization uses to replace or improve its existing processes and work practices.

Cloud doesn't necessarily update itself automatically and smoothly, so look for vendors with cloud managed services offerings. Cloud is often "sold" as a technology deliver model that delivers automatic updates and upgrades that the organization can automatically accept, simply and easily. But that is not necessarily the reality — absorbing the often substantial technology change that the application provider sends over the internet into its customer's business can be a challenge for some organizations. Clearly, therefore, cloud doesn't just mange itself. Why? Partly because using cloud-based applications (particularly public cloud ERP) means accepting continual change being injected into the organization, with both technology and business consequences. Dealing with this continual change requires both time and expertise, and some clients may want to us an emerging category of "managed public cloud" services that cloud ISVs are starting to offer as a follow-on to their implementation services.

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