The need for enterprise data in the cloud continues to increase, but many associated challenges remain.

That was one of the key takeaways from a recent CanadianCIO Roundtable sponsored by Next Pathway and produced by ITWC.

Choosing a strategic service providers, getting your cloud migration right, and extracting value from data in the cloud are some of the most significant hurdles facing Canadian enterprises.

To overcome these challenges, enterprises need to think long-term when it comes to the cloud. They also need to seriously consider the kind of strategic partnerships that will ensure digital transformation success.

Choosing the right managed service provider is paramount

While everyone at the CIO roundtable agreed on the importance of choosing your cloud service provider (CSP), many firmly believe that it is more important to choose the right managed service provider (MSP). “The average company will use six cloud providers, but often only a single MSP to coordinate all of them,” explained Jim Love, CIO, ITWC. “Your CSP is neither available at a moment’s notice nor overly familiar with your data and workloads. You need a partner that has the knowledge to help you and the pull with the CSPs to get things done. For these reasons, the right MSP can make or break your cloud deployment.”

Several attendees offered strategies for choosing an effective MSP. One executive suggested that your choice of vendor should not be based on what the vendor offers, but on what you hope to achieve.

“I tell them what it is I am trying to do, and that I won’t move forward if they don’t feel they can make that happen. This ensures I will get the result I want.” The executive always asks a vendor not just how to get into the cloud effectively, but how to get out.

“If they can’t answer, move on. And if they have a good answer ready, know that you’ve found a valuable potential partner.”

Getting your cloud migration right means playing the long game

It’s tempting to view the cloud as something that is already entrenched as a crucial part of modern businesses – and in many ways, this is the case. But according to Dave Johnston, Chief Product Officer, Next Pathway, when it comes to the cloud journey, both CSPs and their customers are just getting started.

“Hyperscale CSPs like to talk about how many customers they have and the millions in revenue they generate per month,” said Johnston. “But what they fail to mention is that very few of their customers have migrated even half their data to the cloud. And the workloads that are migrated are usually less-critical. For most Canadian organizations, it will be five to ten years before the economics of the cloud improve to the point where it is viable for the majority of enterprise data. Until then, most companies will continue to leverage a hybrid cloud model.”

Until the cloud becomes the default for all data, companies need a system for determining what gets migrated, what stays on-premises, and what gets removed entirely. “Determining cloud-worthiness is critical to long-term success,” said one IT professional. “This begins by stopping your team from migrating every last piece of data, and instead thinking seriously about what might be best purged completely. Despite the importance of this kind of “cloud filter,” none of our vendors offer this – as has been exposed in contract negotiations.”

The economics aren’t the only reason companies aren’t going “full cloud” just yet. A sentiment shared by one executive and echoed by many others was that there is a significant skill gap for most cloud-related IT roles.

Is data the new oil?

“Whoever has the best data will win,” said Johnston. “This is true for every company. But it’s not just about having data; it’s about the ability to use that data.”

This can be problematic, especially given that data is often trapped inside to an application.

“Data wants to be tightly coupled to apps, and vendors want this data,” Johnston said. Thankfully, this is beginning to change. When choosing a vendor, look for ones who can provide you with access to your raw data. This can also be used as a negotiating tactic when renewing vendor contracts.”

Regardless of the best way to gather and use data, all attendees agreed on its value. For modern organizations, data really is the new oil. You just need to find a way to extract it.



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