Migrating to the public cloud has not necessarily been a successful move for everyone, writes Ryan Skipp, Portfolio & Solution Design at T-Systems South Africa. According to IDC research, 80% of companies surveyed repatriated workloads in 2018. That means they moved workloads from the public cloud back into other architectures.

On average, companies expect to move half their workloads back from public cloud. Why is this happening? Is public cloud not what it promised to be?

To put your mind at ease, the public cloud market is still a viable option for business. Public cloud itself remains a boon as it enables companies to track costs with revenue much more closely. You can also access a vast number of services and functions that you don’t have to develop or maintain yourself. And if the fit is poor, you can simply drop what doesn’t work or change quickly if you realise you are on the wrong track.

But you can’t do those things if you entered the public cloud incorrectly with a misaligned strategy. Public cloud offers many benefits, but you won’t access them if you keep operating the way you always did. To leverage public cloud, your operations model must be updated. If not, repatriation is often the result.

Cloud more than often fails as governance is not in place to support it. This is why planning ahead and defining your compliance and control requirements for your various business environments is recommended. Once done, providers must be matched with those requirements. The use of multiple cloud providers then becomes optimal – each one has its own merits and they should provide the approved services to the business, based on acceptable compliance and integration.

Utilising public cloud is only partly about the technology and more overwhelmingly about translating business needs into a new paradigm. This is not just another technology for admins to learn. If people understand what needs to be done and how to use processes to get it done, then the technology can perform its defined function, minimising service pauses and risks.

But where resources are not trained and do not follow processes, they may get to the end result more quickly, yet not sustainably. The end result is a ‘big ball of string’ that is almost impossible to untangle. Problems such as weak security exposure and opaque rising costs naturally appear in this chaos. It’s also a debt on the company’s future: if everyone uses different methods and standards, later integration and development become much more costly.

Where to start

The recommended route is to start with updated governance, and update policies regarding use and security. Classify your business applications and assign responsibility – the business owners are responsible for the data created in their business processes – and contract IT to manage it for them. Pre-contract with each public cloud vendor, based on compliance and user requirements.

Also, create blueprints, define interfaces for integration to access data, , and query existing internal systems. Finally, migrate a portion of your IT capacity towards a consulting role to work with and educate the rest of the business, and give them an understanding of security and protection requirements

Repatriation rates confirm how often companies try to shoehorn public cloud into preconceived operations. Yet there are many examples of how to do cloud migrations the right way and reap the benefits. Public cloud providers offer processes and security that most corporations can’t do themselves. But you need to understand the service transition point and your responsibilities from there.

It takes a lot of learning for IT to move from their old comfort zone to the new one, while business just jumps there directly. If you can maintain the harmony in that transition through thoughtful planning, the public cloud can be your oyster.

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