Waste not, want not: How enterprises can avoid an idle cloud estate

Alex Guillen is technology strategist at Insight.

The cloud lies at the heart of digital transformation. In the 2019 European Insight Intelligent Technology Index (ITI), 42% of IT decision makers deemed it one of the most critical technologies for their digital innovation initiatives. As a result, organisations are investing heavily in the cloud to drive their projects forward, spending an average of £29.48m per year.

However, it’s clear that businesses are investing without a solid strategy in place; 30% of that spend goes on services that are not utilised, resulting in £8.8m wasted each year. So the question is, why do enterprises end up with so much cloud waste, and how can they prevent it?

Failing to plan is planning to fail

The seeds of idle cloud estates are often planted in the planning stage. In fact, 39% of ITI respondents say at least some of their under-utilisation stems from issues around planning and allocating budgets for cloud consumption, while 44% place part of the blame on trying to determine whether public, private or hybrid cloud is the best place to host applications and workloads. Without a clear view of what they want to achieve, and what resources they need to do so, organisations will ultimately be setting themselves up to fail.

To avoid this, the business needs to understand exactly what it wants to achieve from moving to the cloud – whether that is agility, scalability or cost reduction. This means acknowledging the ways in which the cloud can help to transform the business and meet its goals, and knowing exactly what services are needed to support the business’s goals.

With this understanding in place, the organisation can choose cloud services appropriately. For instance, a service bundle might seemingly offer better value for money than buying services individually. Yet if a large proportion of that bundle isn’t used, buying a smaller number of individual services might still be the more cost-effective option.

Losing control

Even if it plans perfectly, the enterprise still needs to have full visibility and control over its cloud environments. According to the ITI, 36% of enterprises said a lack of visibility into used services was leading to cloud waste. Without the right tools, organisations risk losing the visibility, and control they require.

In order to minimise waste, organisations need to be able to manage these dynamic cloud environments, where applications and infrastructure can be spun up, spun down or moved quickly and easily. This also has to stretch to the new approaches and technologies the cloud allows, such as microservices, containers, serverless computing and DevOps.

Understanding the exact demands of cloud architecture, and how well existing tools can meet them, is an essential element to remaining in control. If legacy tools don’t provide the level of support a new cloud environment demands, the business can easily find itself continually playing catch-up as it attempts to plug holes in its capabilities – inevitably adding extra costs and missing opportunities to economise. Understanding legacy limitations, and having the right tools in place in the beginning, can help prevent a great amount of waste.

It’s also about the people

Having the right skills in place is also a critical element of reducing wasted spending in the cloud. This doesn’t just mean being able to use the tools needed to manage cloud environments. It also means having employees who understand exactly how the cloud differs from legacy environments, and won’t make costly assumptions in procurement and management. At the same time, with legacy technology still fulfilling a crucial role in most organisations, the business can’t simply focus on acquiring cloud skills at the expense of its existing experience. Otherwise any reduced waste in the cloud could easily be cancelled out by losses elsewhere.

The first step for any organisation looking to control its skills should be auditing existing skills to understand precisely what its current teams are capable of. It can then understand where there are gaps, and plan to train or hire employees to ensure they have all the capabilities the business needs.

A solid cloud strategy is key

For organisations to truly drive enterprise-wide agility, innovate faster, and modernise the way they work, they need to rethink their approach to cloud and treat it like any other IT project. This means planning and allocating budget, having end-to-end visibility, and putting the right skills in place. Most importantly, it means knowing exactly what the business wants to achieve from the cloud and how it will meet their business goals – as this will give the ultimate judgement of whether any investment is wasted.

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