Evolving cloud environments- change is here

Cogeco Peer 1 CEO, Susan Bowen, looks at trends within the cloud industry for CIOs

This is a contributed article from Susan Bowen, CEO, Cogeco Peer 1

As we move into the second half of 2019, we have seen CIOs face more challenges than ever before to remain competitive, and this is only set to increase as the year continues. The role of the CIO is evolving, and it should be expected that this dynamic will accelerate as pressure increases to deliver IT solutions that meet the growing expectations of customers, partners and employees.

Of course, this is largely driven by digital transformation. Organisations are more than ever looking to technology and strategic partners to solve traditional problems rather than just supporting or enhancing standard solutions. And cloud is increasingly playing a key role.

Surge towards hybrid clouds

Hybrid and multi-clouds will become an increasingly popular solution over the coming months and years. The potential benefits of a combination of public and private clouds are compelling and CIOs  understand this. Key among the benefits, a hybrid cloud environment allows an organisation to reduce on-site capital and operational expenses ensuring rapid deployment, easy reconfiguration and the ability to scale up and down quickly.

Hybrid and multi-cloud adoption rates have been rising every year, with Gartner predicting that by 2020, 70 percent of organisations will have adopted some form of a multi-cloud strategy. In reality, most organisations are already using a form of hybrid or multi-cloud, but that doesn't necessarily equate to a strategy or full understanding its capabilities and benefits. Hence, CIOs should assess the advantages and disadvantages before they can make truly informed decisions.

For instance, while hybrid cloud platforms offer the benefit of fluid data transfer between public and private networks, they also require a complex system architecture. In turn, this requires a good understanding of management and maintenance to avoid technical errors and security mishaps and this is certainly an area CIOs will focus on. In short, hybrid cloud is a complex area, and one that requires an experienced technology partner to build strategy, provide choice, and help design, build and manage services.

Sharper eyes for compatibility

If the proper systems and support aren't in place, the benefits of a hybrid cloud could soon disappear into an infrastructure black hole. Redundancy procedures across multiple cloud services should be built in to reduce risk. This can be a costly venture, but potentially more costly if customers can't access services.

Cloud compatibility will also be a problem for CIOs. A fast-performing on-premise infrastructure may not be able to successfully perform in parallel with a slow performing public infrastructure, resulting in a sluggish performance for the hybrid cloud.

These are some of the challenges that CIOs will contend with over the coming months. They can be tackled by developing and testing on firmly controlled environments and utilising experts and dedicated hybrid cloud resources which is where IT leaders will extend their knowledge.

Implicit within these problems are the need to understand architecture and network connectivity issues. The risks and benefits of different cloud connectivity options have generally not been well-understood by many enterprises, risking poor cloud connectivity choices.

Guaranteed need for speed

It should be expected that this will become less of an issue as CIOs become increasingly aware of how poor connectivity undermines the hybrid cloud benefit of increased data speeds. Rather than greatly improving load times and data transfer speeds, organisations might not see much difference or if connectivity is particularly poor, even slowdown.

We are starting to see CIOs take the necessary steps to ensure they reap the full data speed benefits. But how will this play out in practice? The ever-evolving expectations for the cloud are forcing IT leaders to evaluate new network designs and assess different cloud sourcing options.

It's fair to say that today connectivity is evolving away from traditional hub and spoke topology. New and growing expectations for the cloud are influencing infrastructure change.

Big players become less influential

As a result, CIO's will be making decisions based on next-gen connectivity such as a multi-domain architecture approach or software-defined WANs. In short, they will evaluate new network designs and assess different cloud sourcing options and providers.

This year, Gartner's Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure highlighted how new cloud providers are entering the arena for the top spot against the likes of key leaders such as, AWS and Microsoft Azure. Interestingly, this could mean that the big cloud players will no longer be the natural ‘go-to' choice anymore.

This approach will also be given added impetus as more consumption-based IT services will become increasingly popular as business leaders become more concerned with efficiency, flexibility and scalability.

Within this context and from a strategic perspective, CIOs will begin to view cloud computing as a critical element of their competitiveness, not just as a cost that needs to be carefully managed.

Getting security right

In addition to ensuring a more informed decision-making process around cloud technologies, CIOs will have to balance the newest capabilities while also focusing on security.

Over the years, we have seen data breaches becoming ever more sophisticated, and these breaches are ongoing and show no sign of slowing down. It's hardly surprising that governments are getting involved and clamping down on the way that companies hold and store customer data.

But it's not only commercial organisations being held to task, tech companies that provide hosting and facilitate data transfers are also in the spotlight.

Inevitably, we will also see increased accountability for data privacy. As such, businesses need to rethink security from the perspective of the network edge, the core network and securing the data that runs through the network, in order to protect business critical assets to ensure compliance needs are fulfilled.

As such, companies need to ensure that security and compliance is at the core of business strategy and inherent to everything they do. CIOs should focus on prevention, as well as the identification of data breaches.

Radar focus

Companies will increasingly take stock of their internal regulations and ensure they have accountability in terms of where their data is stored, how it is used and who has access to it. In fact, data security is going to be high on the radars of CIOs when making cloud environment decisions.

They will be looking for an in-depth view on how a cloud provider is actually securing data as it moves between public and private clouds and what sort of network safeguards are in place. Depending on the size and scale of the system, they will increasingly recognise that good knowledge of the security and technical aspects of a system will be essential in order to avoid security mishaps. In turn this will also drive the decision-making process.

The driving need for digital transformation to ensure successful business continuity will see CIOs looking for next-gen cloud modernisation, ranging from hybrid clouds to evolving architecture, and faultless connectivity alongside comprehensive security which is as failsafe as possible.

As CEO of Cogeco Peer 1, Susan Bowen provides leadership and direction for the company globally, with a strong focus on sustaining revenue and growth and driving operational efficiency. With over 20 years' experience in the technology industry, Bowen is a transformational leader with deep expertise in operations, sales and general management.