Cloud journey: there is no 'one size fits all'. Takeaways from the Beltug N-sight of 2 February 2021

Our world is packed with solutions to digitise and modernise our IT architectures. But having options means making choices… which will be impacted both internally and externally, by market drivers and our own strategy. So in this world of rapid change and constantly evolving technologies, how can we stay true to our vision yet flexibly adapt to our environment?


During this session, we heard from Deloitte about moving the data centre to the cloud. Then we heard two real life user stories, as Picanol shared its experiences with on premise, cloud and hybrid IT architecture, and VUB gave us insight into its future vision.


Presentations and a recording of the event are available for our members below (after login)




Deloitte presentation: Cloud and the ‘zero data centre’ company


Thomas Kessler, Partner - Cloud Engineering at Deloitte took us along the journey of many companies today, towards becoming a 'zero-data centre' organisation. The situation resembles in many ways the invention and application of electricity, he said (slide 2). Economies of scale and distribution are drivers in both stories, and cloud infrastructure, like electricity, is becoming a commodity.


Thomas sees the cloud evolution as: cloud 1.0 (infrastructure), 2.0 (data) and 3.0 (business innovation). There are three elements that drive companies' decision to move to the cloud:


1: Acceleration of business innovation:


2: IT capabilities and focus


3: Infrastructure cost savings


This journey takes organisations about two years (slide 6). It starts with the strategy and the critical foundations. In the first stage of that journey (the migration), go for a quick pay back and quick modernisation wins. The savings from this first wave can then be reinvested in the second wave.


Executive alignment is a key success factor, Thomas emphasises. This is not limited to IT: make sure the Board understands the impact of the journey. For instance: what is the objective of the cloud journey: cost optimisation or business innovation? The approach will differ based on the answer to this question.


Architecture design is another vital success factor (around minute 20 in the recording).


For your migration approach, one size does NOT fit all! The cloud-suitability of all applications needs to be assessed. Applications that are not suitable might be candidates for retirement or remain part of the legacy on-premise infrastructure.


Security is obviously a broad element. The data centre footprint is either hybrid, on-premise or cloud. That means a shared security responsibility between the cloud provider and your organisation. What that looks like depends as well on the type of service: with IaaS for instance, patching is your responsibility; with PaaS it lies with the provider.


Legal and contracting can be just as important, depending on the scenarios and the industries. Take a look at data portability and potential vendor lock-in from the start (slide 8).


The final element is tracking infrastructure cost savings. To realise cost savings, you have to give them dedicated attention (minute 30 in the recording). So is cost savings a key driver for your move to the cloud, you should look at the full data centre and see if you can completely decommission it.



Picanol presentation: User story: Do's and don’ts for architecture strategy


Marc Colman, IT Infra Manager at Picanol explained the group's cloud strategy, which includes a maximum of work flows in the cloud, preferably in a SaaS set up but otherwise in PaaS or IaaS. The only applications that remain on premise, are those for which latency is critical and whose production is independent from the internet connection.


Cloud is a playground for IT, Marc pointed out. And it lets the IT department respond seamlessly to the requirements of the business.


A classical data centre is over-dimensioned at the start and at the end of the journey, and often lacks capacity. Cloud can be an answer in that challenge, yet the IT mindset needs to shift (slide 10). Don't underestimate that switch, Marc emphasised, and guide your staff. ‘Daily maintenance’ really does mean daily.


SaaS, PaaS and IaaS will all be present in your architecture. They each have their place and their priority in Picanol's vision. IaaS, for instance, can be a simple solution, offering an easy 'lift and shift'. Yet that is only on the short term - and 'short term' can't be your vision. So be careful of when you take on IaaS solutions, and when not.


The success of cloud depends on more than just infrastructure technology, Marc explained (minute 47 in the recording).


So is SaaS the perfect solution? Yes and no, Marc said. Depending on your needs, it might have the right predictive cost and growth model. But there are pitfalls:


The final goal of Picanol's journey is 'DevOps services': development and operations working closely together (slide 16). To achieve that, the organisation is moving to a collaborative managed model. The business needs to be in line with the destination; the lines between IT and business are increasingly fading.


While Picanol is not yet at the end of the journey, they already see many advantages (slide 19).



VUB presentation: User story: The VUB ICT landscape: challenges & strategy for the future


Joachim Verschelden, Head of Department ICT Infrastructure & Operations at VUB took us through the final user story of the afternoon. With 4,000+ employees and over 19,000 students, VUB is a 25,000 people organisation - which creates challenges for IT operations and infrastructure (slide 5).


Flexibility is a big one: the ability to change (and change fast) became a true KPI at VUB. But it has to be balanced with the stability students, researchers and administration need. Security enters the mix, as does performance, with systems offering with growing computing power.


VUB has adopted Gartner's bimodal IT approach (minute 1:05:00 in the recording).


But in this environment, servers may be underneath a desk or (even worse) in a broom closet, USB drives are left around, a NAS disk can get unplugged ‘somewhere’, etc. And then IT is called to the rescue. Joachim explained why the ICT team aims at being the service provider for the entire organisation: not only to avoid shadow IT, but also from a security angle.


A while ago, VUB started moving toward an Academic Private Cloud (slide 10).  Based on the requirements, the Huawei Cloud stack was chosen (based on OpenStack).


Take the time needed to finalise your design, Joachim emphasised: it is better to take a few weeks extra than lose time correcting things in your infrastructure afterwards. And keep in mind the learning curve is steep - invest time for your team to experiment and to learn.


VUB's ICT team is limited, so Joachim shared a few 'people' tips to cope with all these changes:


Joachim finished with a recap of VUB's strategy and challenges (slide 15).



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