The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing us to reimagine society, enterprise and governance. It is stretching the social fabric and remolding how businesses think about their future. We don’t know the final impact of COVID-19 on the global economy, but what we know is that businesses that have gone digital stand a better chance of survival than those that haven’t.
While the Internet has been a key enabler for digital, cloud has become the backbone. Cloud is where servers are rendered, data managed and applications run to keep businesses in touch with their customers, their partners and the industry ecosystem.
In the last few weeks, we have seen how enterprises have transformed their ways of working in profound ways. Schools and colleges have adopted digital learning, entertainment companies have stepped up their shows, online grocery retailers are attempting to keep pace, and work from home (WFH) has become a war cry within enterprises.
Covid-19 diagnostic applications, monitoring and people tracing are being enabled via cloud. Salesforce has launched a SaaS offering for healthcare providers to process incoming requests. Likewise, Ali cloud has offered its AI/ML platform for conducting research on COVID-19. IBM, Amazon, Google and Microsoft have partnered with the US government to provide compute resources for COVID-19 research. The high performance cloud-based compute power is allowing the development of treatments at an increased pace.[i]
The shift is massive and it is cloud that is making collaboration and reimagining of businesses on this scale possible. Microsoft said it saw a spike of 775% in the demand for its cloud service only for Teams due to COVID-19.[ii] There are scores of other examples that show how cloud has proven its ability to respond at scale and remain robust.
To combat the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, governments, municipalities and local administrations will race to move their services into cloud. This will lead to faster rollout of their services with the additional advantages of scalability and reliability.
While enterprise IT and their LOBs chart out the plan to meet the demand triggered by COVID-19, they must build several capabilities that allow a great user experience:
- Scale existing services: Expand existing applications hosted on-premise into cloud. Extending the data center via Software Defined Data Center solutions into hyperscalers should be considered to achieve scale and business flexibility.
- De-risk business: Adopt a multi-cloud approach to stay protected against outages, capacity shortages and geo-based business risks.
- Scale and achieve geographical reach: Redeploy applications to cloud in specific geos.
- Develop cloud native solutions: Ensure that new critical applications are developed rapidly on PaaS using a DevOps approach.
- Build the right foundation: The foundation should aim to enable changing work and service consumption patterns and would include optimal network bandwidth, VPN connectivity, bandwidth throttling, consumption-based adoption model, remote VDI as a service and SD-WAN based solutions.
- Tighten security posture: Design cloud solutions based on data classification (criticality, privacy) without compromising applications, infrastructure, access and data security.
- Consider new ways of working: Address medium term and long term needs via a hybrid support model and local onsite vs remote vs offshore support (we may see the distinction between onsite, remote and offshore vanish as WFH becomes a dominant trend.)
The way forward
Enterprises that adopt these capabilities to serve their consumers will race ahead but they must keep a critical eye on costs. How can they reduce the cost of current operations to fund the new cloud-related initiatives? Our belief is that they could “sweat” assets some more and extend the refresh cycles; they should also assess their license inventory and move to a subscription-based pay-per-use model.
The more ambitious enterprises can go further by using cloud credits to fund POCs and their “essential” services initiatives. For example, several banks have containerized their applications to remediate end-of-life issues around OS, improved compute density and rationalized OS licenses for cost savings. Some enterprises may wish to outsource their value streams to increase savings.
COVID-19 will be a catalyst for enterprises to embrace cloud. Once they have set out on the cloud journey, there will be no turning back.
Cloud is in use everywhere, from our cars to our screens; streaming and real-time services are hard realities in everyday life; businesses need to churn vast amounts of data and drive insights if they want to remain competitive. All this, and more, can only be enabled by enterprises if they build the right capabilities to back their cloud strategy.