Cloud Infrastructure Trends & Insights with Darrell King

Jane Pattinson Blog

Darrell King, Founder & CEO of PolarSeven

PolarSeven is an Australian based Amazon Web Services consultancy that specialises in enabling and accelerating cloud adoption for organisations. PolarSeven offers a range of consulting services and they do it well, with a team of Cloud Infrastructure architects, solution designers and practice managers. PolarSeven helps organisations understand their requirements, planning & migration, training, security, budgeting and finance planning and cloud auditing.

force4change caught up with Darrell King founder and CEO of PolarSeven, last week to gain his insights into cloud infrastructure trends and the year ahead. Thanks to Darrell for being our guest interview blog post this week.

In a recent global survey by PWC, business leaders rated cyber security, the pace of IT change and availability of skills as key risk and opportunity areas for their organisations. What can businesses be doing in regards to cloud infrastructure to address these risks and challenges and take advantages of the pace of IT change?

When it comes to cyber security it’s always a layered approach. The key recommendation for organisations is that it still needs to be handled correctly. People may get caught up in the marketing, and think that its managed by the provider which it is to a certain point, but its still a shared security model, so everyone still needs to do their part. Example you still need to do pen testing on your application stack deployed on AWS.

Thinking about security and the availability of skills, does that mean then organisations need to be currently thinking and planning to further develop skills in cloud infrastructure, either further training for existing staff or hiring staff with expertise in cloud infrastructure and or developing partnerships with providers?

Yes organisation should always be skilling up their staff, now more then ever with a rapidly changing technology landscape.

There are some organisations that have great technical people and they have had to develop their teams and skills in cloud because their businesses have had to, to support a shift to digital products and or services.

However many other organisations may have infrastructure expertise such as VMware, but they have limited experience in cloud infrastructure and it is a big change and also a learning curve. If for example you take a traditional application and drop it into cloud infrastructure without refactoring it to suit the new platform you are not going to see the security or the performance gains from just doing that.

So organisations need to have the capability and expertise or advice in Cloud to support them?

Yes, IT is complex and cloud is no different. Get good advice and get it early before you plough through a ton of cash and don’t achieve very much.

As a consulting firm, how are you partnering with businesses to address these skills gaps and provide your expertise to organisations? What are some examples of the types of initiatives that organisations are undertaking?

It depends on the level of support, expertise and the type of projects that the organisation needs.

We have had some examples of organisations where they have lifted and shifted applications on to cloud and haven’t seen the results and some organisations where there has been a clear event or driver to move rapidly to the cloud and they have done this successfully.

For example we’ve seen organisations that are months into a cloud project, they’ve made large investments and are still not live or seeing results. To make it worse they are now managing and paying for two environments in parallel while they finalise the migration to cloud.

Infrastructure staff jumping into cloud projects without a deep understanding of the cloud platform can turn out to be an expensive lesson. If they had come to us before they started, we could have helped them skill up and guide them on how to do it more efficiently and effectively.

Our experience across a wide range of enterprise clients allows us to identify the quickest path and solution which delivers a results focused outcome.

We are very driven by deliverables, not here just milestones or timelines.

With a deliverable focussed approach we can cut through a lot of the hype and focus on what the client really needs to achieve their ideal solution.

Read more of PolarSeven’s customer success stories here

What type of challenges do organisations face currently with migrating to the cloud?

There is no magic bullet its still a project even if its cloud. You still need to do due diligence and Proof of Concepts (PoC). What often gets overlooked is the transition to operations. It makes sense to involve your operations teams early. IT service teams all have to know how to manage the environment in the future, there is a learning curve for these teams and you need to have the right resources. In an enterprise your Ops, IT security, network teams all have to be across it.

These are very common issues from a change management perspective, and it can be where organisations lose the benefits, experience significant drag on momentum. Effective change management can help plan the operational state and help make a smooth transition, While its key, its not always complicated, but often it is a missing step that can really hamper achieving success and slow projects down. 

Yes we highlight it from the start; we highlight it with our assessment. We need a couple of guys from your team to manage and operate this. I think it’s about having an action plan about the capability development and the transition.

“For cloud infrastructure projects; what is often overlooked is the transition to operations” Darrell King, PolarSeven.

“Effective change management can enable organisations to have a smooth transition and develop “business as usual operations” to realise the benefits from cloud.” Jane Pattinson, force4change.

It looks like small businesses (SMBs) are leading the way in regards to cloud they are well ahead in terms of adoption – are there lessons for enterprise from SMBs cloud adoption success?

Yes SMB’s can be a bit more agile, enterprises can sometime have paralysis by analysis. We often look at apps they want to move which could be easily and quickly migrated to the cloud and would not require significant project and effort, but you need to build the foundation. There is that initial set up cost and steps that are required. Think of it like building the data centre or the shared service piece, think about getting application one done and then you can start zipping across more applications. The problem is often organisations get stuck with the first one and their teams are often busy with Business As Usual activities and there is no transition plan.

There is a kick start program that we run for enterprise, we can advice them, help them think about what the future state could be via a workshop and we work with them to outline this future state, and how you can do it and who needs to be involved.

Are we still seeing mixed perceptions about cloud technology at the C-Suite level? What roles are leaders playing and how are leaders helping their organisations realise the benefits from migrating to the cloud?

Organisations and leaders in particular are definitely thinking about cloud first now and integrating into their existing systems.

The marketing space has been an early adopter and therefore CMOs are definitely at the forefront in their thinking. Marketing lends itself to the elasticity of cloud web based apps and spikey workloads. That’s why it has taken off and can be an entry point for an organisation to skill up. When IT see’s how it can be achieved they then look to how they can apply that to other areas of the business.

CIO’s are looking at their data centres and looking at whether they need this any more and this means that cloud can be enabler for them so they can focus more on delivering to the end user.

In regards, to the C-Suite, it would also depend on how big they are, and how close they are to end-users is a key factor, We see CEO’s who are the biggest advocates in their organisations and other organisations where the champions are Marketing, Sales or Operations. I would say overall it is mixed – If you take Platform As A Service for example – why an application should be moved to a cloud platform you still need to right a report on the why and the benefits and gain commitment across the leadership team; which can be challenging. And the issue for some is that if I start migrating over, the costs may not initially go away, they may still have the cost of their existing provider.

Another company their move to the cloud was decided for them. They had a security breach and the quickest way to fix it was move to the cloud. If there is a driver big enough then it can be done in weeks not months. It would be a hair-raising couple of weeks, but it can definitely be done if the driver is strong enough.

What can Cloud solve for business in 2016 that business leaders may not be thinking about?

We do a lot of proof of concepts for a range of use cases and these are good starting points. We find a lot of PoC’s turn into pilots and then production.

What should be a priority task for organisations today in regards to their plans and progress in migrating to the Cloud?

Organisations need to figure out where they are, and then it is quite easy to make a decision on a path. We use a Cloud Maturity Model to help organisation assess their progress and requirements. It would be great to see a lot more of these assessments and this is where we can see PolarSeven and force4change working together to help organisations.