Q&A: Cloud-enabled infrastructure – doing it the customer’s way

When it comes to cloud computing, most of the talk has centered on public environments – how are they evolving, which is best and who will achieve market domination. Control of a dominant platform might be great for a provider, but what is right for the customer?

In a previous post, we looked at how going “all in” with a big public cloud can make sense for some organizations, but not all. Global organizations want to use the cloud services they choose, from the provider best positioned to deliver, and deploy applications on the best suited platforms, be they public or private.

To understand more, I sat down for a conversation with Bernd Issler, Vice President – Cloud and Enterprise Services at Atos Canopy, to take a look at how one global organization is approaching cloud deployment.

A global industrial powerhouse and the Cloud

BERND ISSLER: One of our customers is a leading, international group based in Europe, with a portfolio of industrial businesses stepping up to the challenges of digital transformation. We are working with the customer’s IT department to deploy a worldwide cloud-enabled infrastructure, support business innovation and achieve cost efficiencies.

MARK NOURIS: Overall, how does the customer approach the Cloud?
BI:  With a combination of strategic vision and pragmatic execution. It sees the cloud as a fundamental IT paradigm shift and a digital enabler for its businesses. It wants to make IT move faster and unleash creativity with user self-service, whilst significantly moving down the IT cost curve. Easier said than done, but it knows that rigorous execution will make it happen.

The customer’s cloud agenda

MN: What’s on the customer’s 2017 agenda?
BI: A proactive, “cloud first” approach with a network of dozens of large private clouds in some of its most important markets.
All the services delivered by the new infrastructure are accessed through an IT portal, designed by the customer’s team for a one-stop-shop experience. Behind the portal, we’ve integrated a variety of technologies and tools delivered as-a-service. We do this with well-defined APIs, facilitating the integration of new technologies as needed with no interruption in the quality of the user experience.
While this infrastructure will welcome new cloud native applications, the customer has also chosen to on-board thousands of servers with existing applications.

On-boarding existing applications

MN: Typically, large on-boarding projects require an automated approach, both in terms of tools and processes. What’s your experience?
BI: The first step is a formal qualification and decision process, working with the business owners. We look at factors such as the application footprint, how it works with other applications, whether it can run in the cloud and security requirements. After that, actual on-boarding is mostly automated. The monthly and annual conversion rates are quite high, due to efficient and automated processes.
Most applications are being deployed to private clouds, but some go to AWS or Azure. The choice of two providers is in line with the customer’s sourcing strategy: no single vendor for anything strategic.

MN: Many companies leave existing applications on existing infrastructure. Why on-board?
BI:  It’s a legitimate debate, with no one right answer. That said, a recent report from 451 Research, commissioned by Atos and VMware, found that only 18% of enterprises in Europe and US hadn’t migrated applications from a public cloud to another environment (though 4% had migrated to non-cloud environments). For me, there are three points to consider:

  • Automation: traditional hosting usually involves manual operation and administration. Clouds provide a higher level of automation, saving time and money.
  • Elasticity: an application correctly on-boarded can benefit from elasticity, with better performance in peak periods (for example, the month-end processing of many applications) and less resource consumption the rest of the time.
  • Massification: cloud cost-effectiveness requires economies of scale. Depending on the situation, on-boarding large numbers of servers can improve the cost equation.

On-boarding can also be an occasion to identify some resource intensive applications that, with a few adjustments, are less costly to run in the new environment.

Private and public clouds

MN: How does the customer decide whether the application can be deployed on a public cloud or should stay behind its firewall?
BI: Security and compliance are, of course, big factors, and private clouds still have an edge in security. This customer is headquartered in a European country with strict data protection laws, and many countries are adopting laws that require local storage of data.
In some cases, applications may need the extreme elasticity of a hyperscale public cloud, but this is rare.
Comparative costs are not currently an issue. Big private clouds can achieve important scale economies; when you add up what is needed in a public cloud to run business critical applications, there’s not much difference. This could change and, over time, this group might see greater use of public clouds.

IT governance in a multi-cloud world

MN: What about governance? How does IT keep things optimized and under control while still giving the business lines a flexible choice?
BI: I see a unified service catalogue as the keystone of governance in a multi-cloud environment. In this project, the central services catalogue is a major piece of what we integrated behind the customer’s IT portal.
All services are vetted by the IT department, but the internal customers can choose what they need. The central services catalogue is key not just for governance but for IT to better serve the business lines, as they move forward in the digital world.
MN: Thanks for sharing, Bernd.

If you’re interested in hearing more from Atos’ cloud experts, and those of some of our partners such as VMware, take a look at this recorded webinar. Hosted by 451 Research, and with contributions from Atos’ Nick Law and VMware’s Ken Audette, it looks at the next set of market trends in cloud computing. Next time, we’ll be looking at how a multi-cloud approach can work for customers.

Atos Contributor

Bernd Issler is the head of the Atos Strategic Program for Siemens MindSphere Services. Bernd re-joined Atos in this capacity in November 2015 and now oversees all cross-division activities. He previously led the Cloud Services team at Atos Canopy focusing on the Siemens partner and customer business for three years, following a 14 year career at Siemens during which he held various leadership roles in Europe and North America. Bernd holds a degree in Computer Science and Business Administration from the University of Applied Science in Stuttgart.

About Mark Nouris

Mark Nouris is currently the Global head of the Atos Canopy Orchestrated hybrid cloud business. Before this, he headed up the Infrastructure, Data Management’s Manufacturing, Retail and Transport sectors in Atos for the Benelux & The Nordics. At the same time, he successfully managed the Philips Account from June 2013 until the end of 2016. He joined Atos in this capacity in May 2011, coming from a ten year career at HP where he held a multitude of leadership roles in Sales, Pre Sales and Business management roles. His last role was the Global Head of the Managed Services Business of HP Services. Prior to that he held several IT roles in the Healthcare and Oil & Gas industry. Mark graduated in electronic engineering and Business IT.