As cloud settles in as the preferred enterprise infrastructure, optimizing usage can be a challenge, especially for companies that are not cloud native. But specialized teams can let businesses enhance technology frameworks.
“Organizations grow over time, and through whatever they’ve got,” said Jordan LaRose, North American practice director for Infrastructure Services at NCC Group.
That growth often takes place “incrementally and organically, which is how you end up with these lopsided models or places where maybe [an organization] is using three different cloud platforms to all do the same things,” he said.
That’s where platform teams come in. This workgroup helps an organization maximize their cloud capabilities to let developers innovate within set boundaries. Forrester named this cross-functional approach to cloud one of its top 10 cloud trends of 2022.
Enterprise platform teams allow businesses to take a “customer-oriented approach that overcomes the poor reputation of shared IT services teams,” according to the report.
“Users are saying that a list of multiple services is great, but [they] need something that’s more fully formed,” said Forrester Principal Analyst Lee Sustar. Platform teams can help them get there, with cloud specialists creating a reusable, flexible and on-demand portfolio of cloud services.
Support for developers
Cloud is not the newest technology on the block anymore. Some cloud implementations are now old enough to be fraying at the seams, especially if they happened as lift-and-shifts or grew without a centralized guiding hand.
“In the early days of cloud, what you ended up with looked a lot like what you had in a data center,” said Sustar. Sometimes that meant tossing decades-old technology into the cloud and expecting it to run the same there. Those workloads are inefficient and don’t always take advantage of the cloud’s potential.
But platform teams can create a more dynamic and scalable cloud environment as developers combine compute, storage, networking and operating experts. Platform teams can also build standard operating environments, infrastructure blueprints and a governance framework to help developers stretch within appropriate boundaries.
In most cases, platform teams are “a centralized governing organization for all things cloud,” said LaRose. “Developers teams will come to them and defer to them in terms of anything related to cloud.”
Connecting teams and clouds
Platform teams have become a must for organizations that want to clean up their infrastructure, even those who have long been in the cloud.
“A lot of time a singular subject matter expert would drive cloud ops within their teams and do things on an ad hoc basis without considering the wider business impact,” said LaRose. “As cloud becomes a larger and larger piece of these businesses … you need a central organization rather than each individual team running off and doing its own thing.”
Central oversight also contributes to a stronger security stance. Otherwise “you end up with these aberrant cloud structures where there’s security vulnerabilities falling out of everybody’s ears,” LaRose added.
For companies that are not cloud native, that may mean still maintaining a virtual machine environment, gradually sunsetting capabilities and “building anew,” said Sustar. “It might go on for many years because the mainframe didn’t just disappear.”
It’s also a reorganization, which can come with its own growing pains, said LaRose. A platform team takes experts across an organization and funnels them into a dedicated business unit.
“It’s sometimes difficult…to make sure all those different challenges are being solved for all those different groups,” said LaRose.
Both LaRose and Sustar said tech companies and the financial services industry were early adopters of platform teams. These sectors, said Sustar, wanted to avoid being relegated in terms of cloud adoption, as was the case for parts of retail and media.