How cloud IT is evolving to meet business — and customer — demands
Illustraton: Rosbif
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How cloud IT is evolving to meet business — and customer — demands

Maxine-Laurie Marshall – May 2017
Mark Phillips, head of cloud and hybrid IT in EMEIA at Fujitsu, outlines the evolution of cloud from its ‘simple’ beginnings to its strategic role as an enabler of digital transformation.

Over the past five years, business technology has changed dramatically — and cloud computing has played a big part in that evolution as the service model has deepened and matured. Initially used in standalone, low-risk areas such as website hosting, application testing and CRM, with the primary aim of reducing costs, it has now overcome many of early security concerns to become an indispensable component of every IT portfolio.

Mark Phillips, head of cloud and hybrid IT at Fujitsu in the EMEIA region, has been a keen observer of those technology trends and changing attitudes. “What we’ve seen in the past 18 months in particular is much more mission critical systems being deployed in the cloud. At Fujitsu, we’re now working on cloud projects with organizations in financial services, the pharmaceutical sector, manufacturing, even defense. Businesses in those industries wouldn’t have even considered a cloud-based agenda two years ago. So we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the types of workloads that are moving into the cloud. A lot of the traditional barriers of adoption are being broken down.”

Digitalization’s impact on cloud adoption means its future is firmly wedded to business strategy, increasing its relevance and importance. As Phillips says: “Customers have now moved from cloud being something that helps them maintain profit and reduce costs to something they see as part of their strategy to persuade customers that they are the number one supplier. In other words, it’s driving the top line rather than preserving the bottom line.”

Smarter cloud decisions

Particularly as cloud has moved into its latest phase of digitalization, its always-on, scalable characteristics have become essential to delivering great customer experience, to the point where Phillips suggests the availability and performance of a cloud platform can determine whether a customer chooses to come back to a retailer. This has moved the priorities for cloud as an internal cost-cutter to cloud as a vital enabler of customer experience. “The reality is that cloud is at the forefront of customer service every day,” says Phillips. “And, as a consequence, cloud providers now have to really step up to that challenge.”

As cloud has evolved — through three stages Phillips describes as simple, mission critical and digital — so too have the attitudes of those implementing it. Businesses are much more informed and are asking vendors more demanding questions. Some of that stems from a concern about being locked into a particular vendor or technology. “The IT buying needs of businesses are maturing. Five years ago all vendors were talking about was how quickly they could get your IT into their cloud; now customers are asking how they get out too. They ask other questions too around how to collaborate between clouds, how open the vendor's cloud systems are and what the roadmap looks like.”

Interoperability imperative

This has prompted vendors such as Fujitsu to focus on ensuring their cloud platforms and applications have high levels of interoperability. “As a cloud standard, OpenStack is growing fast,” says Phillips. “A lot of the concerns about its enterprise scalability have been removed now.” Fujitsu is one of only 16 vendors to pass the core OpenStack interoperability test and the company is “the only commercial product that offers OpenStack across public, private and virtual private clouds,” he says.

Compatibility between different cloud services will become even more fundamental as IoT pushes the number of connected devices past the 20 billion mark around 2020, as analysts at Gartner predict. As Phillips warns: “You don’t want to be a business that bought into a proprietary technology and finds it doesn’t work with a partner’s cloud. So adoption of open systems is really important to ensure you can achieve the full benefits of cloud.”
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