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Exclusive: Why cloud lives up to the hype

Recently IT brief had the opportunity to get in touch with VMware’s Cloud Platform CTO Kit Colbert to discuss all things cloud.

To start off with can you tell me a bit more about yourself and your experience in the industry? 

Since studying Computer Science at University, I’ve embarked on a lot of different roles in my career – developer, architect, CTO, and GM – but one consistent theme has been my passion for solving hard technical problems while bringing new, innovative products to market.

As VP & CTO of the Cloud Platform BU at VMware, my focus is on driving technical strategy and innovation for the vSphere, VMware Cloud on AWS, and Project Dimension product lines. I regularly speak at industry conferences and VMware events such as VMworld, covering everything cloud from Cloud-Native, End-User Computing, and Cloud Management trends. 

Cloud, Hybrid-Cloud and Cloud Infrastructure have been buzzwords within the industry for a while now, can you talk me through the reality of cloud, hype aside? 

Since its advent, the cloud has come an incredibly long way - in the past 10 years, we’ve seen massive adoption, new cost optimisation, new levels of efficiency, and an evolution of decades of IT models.  Cloud is at the heart of digital transformation. Businesses who want to scale, be agile, bust siloes and have a platform for innovation are moving to the cloud to do so.

DXC and Telsyte say an organisation-wide approach to digital transformation is high on the agenda for NZ organisations, with 90 per cent of business unit-based businesses looking to transition to a holistic strategy. This is significant for competition and disruption in the market. 

So, when we look at the state of the cloud today as we enter its second decade, it will be an era defined by accelerated adoption and a maturing strategy aligned to clear architectural directions. 

With this, we are seeing enterprises move through the three stages of cloud adoption - paranoia, pollyanna, and pragmatism, as outlined below

1. Paranoia - Initially, enterprise IT decision makers had concerns about security, so there was a general paranoia toward the cloud’s ability to resist data breaches.

2. Pollyanna - Then, the rose-tinted glasses of pollyanna preached a utopia where everything lived in the cloud simply, safely and securely.

3. Pragmatism - Finally, we reach pragmatism, the phase where enterprise IT is today. This sees IT leaders experiment with both hybrid and native public clouds, using a combination of different cloud providers including VMware, Azure, Google, AWS and VMware Cloud on AWS.

It’s in this third stage of pragmatism that many enterprises are finding themselves sitting today. They can see the hybrid and multi-cloud world, and the possibilities and opportunities it can bring, but need to establish how best to manage the mix. What should be on-premise, what should be in cloud, which clouds should be deployed, and how can it all be secure and controlled? This is where VMware can help because we’re cloud-agnostic. We can work with any cloud provider to deliver consistency for customers across all of their environments. 

Why do you think so many businesses are looking towards the cloud to update their processes?

We are finding that organisations across all industries and geographies have a mandate from the CIO, CFO, or CTO to move to the cloud, which is creating huge demand across the business. However, after spending decades in rigid on-premise environments, this has slowed down migration to cloud and overall cloud strategies. Businesses want to move faster than the tech allows them to, but the beauty of hybrid cloud, for example, is that it not only overcomes these barriers but acts as an accelerator for business objectives, driving consistency on an infrastructure layer and operational layer.
 
For example, enterprises moving to cloud have a huge opportunity when it comes to freeing up the time of the IT professionals, which they can then valuably spend on tasks that drive innovation and differentiate the business.  

Businesses can spend a lot of time and resources on upgrading, fixing and monitoring IT infrastructure – however, although it keeps the cogs turning it doesn’t ultimately differentiate the business. Through cloud and the right partners, IT expertise and capabilities can be shifted to more strategic work and higher value projects.

When It comes to NZ what are some of the key trends you see here? 

Because New Zealand is such a digitally mature market, we are seeing New Zealand businesses consider the impact of not migrating to the cloud and focusing more on how they can leverage it to gain and maintain a strong competitive advantage. 

With this progression, we are seeing a shift from businesses opting to use cloud for operational and system optimisation, to using it as an enabler to drive innovation with emerging technology such as IoT and AI. As with the phases of cloud adoption I outlined earlier, the biggest opportunity for NZ businesses will be to move from pollyanna to pragmatism – to think about cloud not as a place, but a model - bringing all the benefits of the public cloud to the on-premises data centre or wherever workloads exist. 

What are some of the risks companies might face as they embark on their cloud journey?  

We have seen businesses drive tremendous agility and enable amazing innovation through the cloud, however, due to a variety of reasons, we are still seeing some workloads stay on premises (either in the data centre or at the edge). This can be due to a variety of reasons, such as tighter regulations facing some industries, security concerns over sensitive or critical data, or the worry of losing control through moving off premises.

These concerns can, of course, be understandable, however now, through models I explained above, we are seeing the possibility to get the best of both worlds: the agility, the cost efficiency and the simplicity of the cloud in addition to the control, security and compliance of on-premises infrastructure.