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Do hybrid cloud services deliver real value to Canadian businesses?

Published: September 16th, 2016 By: Mark Burdon

Hewlett Packard Enterprise

The opportunities of hybrid cloud services have been heralded by global computing leaders for several years now. CIOs and IT leaders across Canada are constantly approached by software, infrastructure and platform as a service vendors to move their data and business processes to the cloud. Several of Canada’s leading CIOs met with IT World Canada, and CIO Roundtable sponsor, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) in Toronto recently.

The perspectives on the reality of hybrid cloud services were remarkably common. Some of the executives at the event said they were experiencing some “cloud fatigue” as far as hearing about it, but understood it is the direction information management is heading.

Concerns about security and, data privacy were common among all of the executives in the meeting, especially those in the healthcare and social services fields. The availability (or lack thereof) of secure, compliant digital platforms for storing and transmitting digital health records has been a hot topic in Canada for many years. Compliance requirements such as PIPEDA, PHIPPA and ISO 27001 were also broadly discussed.

Authentication platforms across in-house servers and cloud applications were brought up by the CIO of a leading Canadian construction company. He mentioned it would be great to have a secure, scalable way to build and configure environments on-premises and on a private cloud server simultaneously. His counterpart from a large commercial building management organization expressed the importance of dual and multi-factor authentication for systems that manage sensitive documents — especially in the cloud, where a password is the first line of defense against data loss.  

Many of the roundtable attendees expressed frustration at the complexity of cloud pricing models. An insurance industry CIO said he was often baffled by his monthly invoices. The construction CIO mentioned he experimented with putting a cloud service on his corporate credit card, and had to call the vendor to explain his billing on a regular basis.

Services like data management virtualization and containerization offer Canadian companies opportunities for data services acceleration, provided information management executives have the support of their organization’s key stakeholders and users to make hybrid cloud services successful.

John Moore, the chief technologist at HPE’s software division said “CIOs need to make strategic decisions about what makes sense when to moving to public or private cloud environments, and what to keep on their premises. Hybrid cloud services offer great opportunities for scalable service delivery, even if a company only has a few significant spikes in demand in a year. It is also a great opportunity for application developers to build and test in the cloud, before moving a system into production.”

Many of the executives at the event agreed with their Canadian peers that a leading reason they adopt cloud services is to allow them to spend less time, focus and resources maintaining, fixing and upgrading technology, and more on strategic, high-value information management initiatives. The construction industry CIO was first to voice this topic, and his peers from the hospitality insurance industries strongly agreed.

Jim Love, ITWC’s CIO and chief digital officer, noted “a recent study we did of worldwide IT executives indicated most of the respondents contracted outsourcing and cloud services for the financial savings opportunities. It’s interesting that Canadian executives, both in our survey and here today are more interested in the strategic opportunity of the cloud to free time and resources for high-value initiatives.”

Jim also mentioned that some of the hesitation about hybrid cloud adoption is blamed on technology, but the technology has matured. He mentioned he read that the limitations of the cloud are more that of the imagination of those who fail to make the best of it. He said just because a cloud app has a REST API, doesn’t mean it will integrate with your existing systems.

The IT director from a provincial social services organization at the roundtable, and the vice president of clinical programs from an Ontario hospital mentioned there is a lot of disparity in cloud and mobile application adoption between older doctors and nurses, and their younger counterparts. The IT director said the cloud application ecosystem has become much like on- premises software inventories — you either integrated one too many, or many too many, but it’s easier said than done.  

Medical and case management professionals are highly pragmatic about any technology, and prefer paper and ink, while the younger staff expects powerful applications for tablets and smartphones, integrated with a centralized management system.

Depending on a company’s technology environment, their hybrid cloud environment may entail a combination of public cloud, private cloud and on-premises computing assets and delivery models. The executives we spoke to agreed that before contracting with any cloud vendor, it’s important to do your due diligence into:

  • Service level agreement terms and conditions
  • Their pricing model, including any potential hidden add-ons
  • The contractual and technical ease of moving your data out of the X as a service (XaaS) vendor’s data centre
  • Whether the provider is certified for industry standards like ISO 27001 SOC3, PCI-DSS or other compliance requirements you are required to meet

As hybrid cloud services evolve as a useful utility for Canadian businesses, so do the expectations, of employees, customers, and partners for the speed, security and availability of their data on their fixed or mobile device of choice. The workplace of today and tomorrow has evolved a great deal from the traditional office space, and businesses extend beyond the confines of their buildings in part from necessity, and mostly because of the opportunities which hybrid cloud environments deliver.