SaaS vendors sell cloud services as if they are the one-stop solution to meet business and IT needs. But for mid-sized enterprises, cloud isn't always a scalable, thrifty, miracle service.
With mid-sized businesses, "the team's resources are finite, specialization is the exception, not the rule, and dedicated resources are often difficult to come by," said Mike Cisek, research director at Gartner, during the Gartner IT Infrastructure, Operations & Cloud Strategies Conference Monday. The cloud lift brings new challenges — and benefits.
Mid-sized organizations have 24/7 support responsibilities but often lack manpower, according to Cisek. Working in conjunction with an outsourced cloud provider can help, but mid-sized businesses may not have the IT in place to take that on.
"The application architectures are quite dated," said Cisek. "We're talking about architectures that are not necessarily close to cloud native or cloud ready."
The drivers and deterrents to cloud look different for mid-sized companies because of resource constraints and legacy IT. Cisek provided considerations for those companies to weigh when deciding to make the shift.
Increases in operating expenses
Vendors constantly tell customers that cloud is the cheaper alternative to storage and business needs, but that's not a guarantee for many mid-sized organizations.
At size and scale, cloud represents additive costs for most mid-sized organizations because the workloads aren't cloud-ready, according to Cisek.
"You could move 100% of your workloads and odds are the staffing, headcount numbers and things are going to remain static," Cisek said. "That's a big part of the cost savings that a lot of vendors tout."
Organizations should perform a full cost analysis of moving to the cloud to understand how it will change operating expenses, not just cloud's effects on capital expenditures, to weigh what's best for their bottom line. Many mid-sized companies end up with models showing cloud will be five to 10 times more expensive than current structures after a full analysis, according to Cisek.
Eliminate time spent on hardware
Operational expenditures could hold mid-sized companies back from making the cloud transition, but there can be efficiency and cost benefits to eliminating hardware.
Mid-sized companies want to stop spending time on hardware, a low value and labor intensive activity, according to Cisek. "It's consuming a lot of time just to keep existing production workloads alive."
To be successful in the transition, mid-sized businesses will have to accurately depict the cost of moving each workload, according to Cisek. It may not be beneficial to do a complete overhaul, but moving just a few to the cloud should free up resources for transformation initiatives.
"We're not talking about application modernization along the way, we're simply talking about getting out of the hardware abstraction underlying infrastructure management business," said Cisek.
Mid-sized organizations frequently face resource constraints leading to a lack of dedicated security teams and small budgets to support existing security measures. Therefore, it takes a long time to develop security postures that are compliant and effective, according to Cisek.
For example, mid-sized organizations may lack dedicated cloud architect and security leadership, so it takes more time to get security up to snuff in the transition. Existing leadership must understand the tools and modification necessary before making the switch, according to Cisek.
"The object is to make sure that compliance is maintained," Cisek said. "Make sure that the posture is strengthened, not weakened, and hopefully you can do a lot in terms of consolidation and optimization along the way."
The conventional approaches to disaster recovery have never been cost effective for mid-sized businesses, according to Cisek. Today, cloud services may provide a better alternative.
Finding the right one starts with weighing all options to discover which "is most aligned to your operational preferences," Cisek said. The services should align with the capabilities of the organization and the vendor should deliver services in the most effective way.
"From midsize company to midsize company, that's where it's going to vary the most," Cisek said.
Business and IT training
While there is some concern over getting the IT department trained on cloud, the main consideration is getting business units trained on the new tech, according to Cisek.
"You have to make sure that ... there's a willingness to change, but you can also provide the resources to make that change happen," Cisek said. Business units tend to underestimate the time, effort and resources behind the culture change to transition to the cloud model.
There may even be a "cultural resistance" to the shift. While IT departments work on getting the technical transition in place, business unit leaders will have to train their teams to adapt to the culture change.
Business and IT operations gains
Mid-sized companies see operational gains stemming from the cloud and are asking IT leadership to look for those savings in business and IT through cloud adoption.
"This is really all about mid-market IT leaders having responsibility that goes well beyond the realm of IT," Cisek said. Cloud merges IT leadership with other business units.
"Mid-market IT organizations are really the folks that have to put the infrastructure, the data together and get that into the hands of the people who can make decisions that are going to impact those business outcomes," said Cisek.
IT departments can realize these benefits by considering solutions that they have the internal capabilities to maintain, according to Cisek.