Shifting to public cloud models: how businesses should be approaching a massive change in infrastructure

IT World Canadas chief information officer (CIO) and chief content officer (CCO), Jim Love, sat down with Peter Near, the Canadian national director of technology for VMware, during ITWC’s Digital Transformation Conference and awards. This fireside chat covered the benefits of transformational cloud infrastructure, and some of the pitfalls organizations are facing during this shift.

Traditionally, Near noted, “old technology” teams are very segmented.

“An infrastructure team that has grown up over the years has naturally organized itself into server teams and storage teams and networking teams,” he said. “It’s very difficult for organizations to break down the way that they’ve been doing that.”

As organizations move more into a public cloud model, however, these siloed teams must dissolve to adapt to a new business structure. Organizations that continue to use private cloud in an “old, structural way,” as Near put it, tend to be less successful than organizations that adapt to the public cloud model. 

Organizations that move to a public cloud are forced to completely reshape their team structures and behaviours. Once complete, the business can move back to a private cloud model if they choose, and still find great success with their team and infrastructure adaptations.

“That forced organizational change has been an overall benefit for innovation here in Canada,” Near said.

The benefits of moving to a public cloud system come in the forms of cost and delivery speed, and many organizations opt for a ‘happy medium,’ where using both public and private cloud platforms meet the needs of the organization as well as their audience.

In part of this rethinking process, Near said the biggest hallmark of great technology infrastructure is flexibility.

“The last few years have taught us as a country that we need to be able to react quickly to things,” he said.

A barrier against businesses’ flexibility is the black and white thinking of legacy systems while attempting a shift to the public cloud model.

“Most Canadian organizations, especially the mid-size organizations, are in this ‘cloud chaos’ mode right now,” Near said. “Where you’re just trying some things out, and you end up with too much of everything that you’re working towards.”

He said the goal is to move to a ‘cloud smart’ mode of operating, where organizations take a more pragmatic approach to what goes to the public cloud versus what remains on-prem or on a private cloud.

Organizations that move everything to the cloud at once tend to drag out goals, instead of circling in and prioritizing specific objectives. Once an organization has identified its objectives with what Near called “high top-line value,” then it can look at its legacy platform and decide what data it should send to the cloud.

“The absolute worst thing you can do is just leave it [data] where it is and use it as an excuse to continue with the old behaviours you’ve had in the past,” Near said.

Finding the organization’s sweet spot, infrastructurally speaking, and ensuring it can be built upon years into the future means finding the emerging middle ground, he explained. For IT and other technology-focused organizations, that middle ground is Kubernetes, an open-source system that automates management, scaling and deployment of containerized applications. 

“All of the clouds have some form of Kubernetes, and our private cloud has some form of Kubernetes as well,” said Near. “That appears to be emerging as the new dial tone for modern infrastructure architecture.”

Near recommends businesses look at Kubernetes from team development and infrastructure perspectives.

He asked the question, “How do I build an infrastructure that can equally support the applications that I have that are on virtual machines and on Kubernetes at the same time, regardless of where they may be?”

With all these elements in mind, it’s no surprise that major structural changes like this come with their challenges. 

“Part of the reason why this is beneficial is because it is a little hard,” Near said. “Getting there requires a rethink of how you do technology, but more importantly, people and processes.”

He said many organizations learn how to restructure their people and processes by learning from peers, attending conferences, or involving others who have been through similar restructurings already.

But the bottom line is simple, Love pointed out, “Get to a cloud structure as early as possible in the game, and that will drive your digital transformation.”

Watch entire fireside chat on YouTube.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Breanna Schnurr
Breanna Schnurr
Breanna Schnurr is a recent journalism graduate of Toronto Metropolitan University. She loves writing about all things data, travel, tech, lifestyle and subculture. You can reach out to Breanna via [email protected].

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