VUCA. It’s an oft-used phrase that applies now more than ever. Volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous are certainly not overstatements in today’s swiftly changing economy. Yet, despite declines in global IT spending, investment in cloud services is surging, as companies shift more business applications online to cope with extended COVID-19 lockdowns, social distancing, and other restrictions. Companies worldwide spent a record $34.6 billion on cloud services in the second quarter this year, up roughly 11% from the previous quarter and 30% from the same period last year, according to research firm Canalys.
What is the certainty that the cloud provides these organizations and how is it helping them navigate the rapidly shifting tides of today’s marketplace? We sat down with Aater Suleman, Ph.D., Flux7 co-founder and vice president of Cloud Transformation at NTT DATA Services, to answer this question and more.
Q: Despite a vast amount of market uncertainty, companies seem very certain about their cloud investment. Why is that the case?
A: Cloud computing is unique in its ability to address a large cross-section of concerns businesses have today, optimizing operations to maximize productivity and gain the visibility to manage costs. For example, cloud computing helps businesses address cost management by moving from an Opex to Capex model. Once there, cloud providers offer a host of services and features to help optimize costs as well as governance for right-sized provisioning and automation to retire instances. Open source tools, spot instances, and autoscaling also all come to mind.
Autoscaling is another example of how automation can help organizations optimize for productivity. Automating IT processes frees teams from repetitive tasks, allowing them to focus on more strategic work. For example, within two months of deploying its property management system in AWS, G6 Hospitality was able to reduce reservation synchronization errors by more than 50%, which in turn reduced the need for manual corrections. This saved the company 40 man-hours per week, which directly translates into 40 additional hours that can be applied to strategic efforts.
Q: How can cloud modernization provide business continuity and help steady the boat during times of turmoil?
A: Cloud has the ability to help firms optimize their processes, infrastructure performance, and service reliability while fueling knowledge vital to decision making. It can create a virtuous cycle, for example, where the ability to collect and analyze vast amounts of data fuels business decision making. When paired with DevOps processes, this enables teams to iterate on innovation faster, growing productivity while more quickly addressing customer needs. It does all this while optimizing service delivery, ensuring scalability and system availability, which translates into productive employees who are able to conduct business-as-usual. Even more to the point, the cloud can enable self-service that allows employees to remain productive. For example, Toyota Research Institute created an on-demand self-service portal for its data scientists, which allows them to create and process data sets quickly and securely, without waiting in queue for IT to provision the resources.
Q: What do you see as the next transformational technology?
A: Low code has the opportunity to transform business by giving companies a tool to swiftly explore new business models. For example, in collaboration with NTT DATA, the City of Austin, TX launched in a mere two weeks a Coronavirus application where citizens could answer a short survey and based on their responses, schedule a test electronically and get results with a QR code. The app also created heat map data for the city for resource planning purposes. Other technologies that have the potential to truly transform business, creating new models of operating, are machine learning/artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT), and robotics. Cloud transformation makes business transformation possible with its ability to automate layers of management, in turn freeing time and resources to focus on strategic, business-impacting initiatives.
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