ITD: Mr. Wallner, large companies in particular usually use a large number of different software solutions. How can the cloud maturity level of the company’s own system landscape be adequately checked?
Alexander Waller: In addition to choosing the “right” cloud or clouds (in a hybrid or multi-cloud setup) for your own company, the focus should first be on the cloud readiness check: It is worth carrying out a comprehensive assessment of the existing IT infrastructure, which is ideally carried out with the help of external experts. Basically, on the one hand, this is about the question of which data and processes should be kept or operated in the cloud.
On the other hand, it must be evaluated to what extent the company’s own employees have the appropriate know-how to be able to manage not only the cloud itself, but also the corresponding applications in the cloud. Because the advantages of the cloud – above all performance and scaling – can only be fully exploited if the right IT capacities and the necessary know-how are available. Especially with the clouds of hyperscalers, the comprehensive service portfolio is often accompanied by a corresponding complexity. Anyone who does not have dedicated experts for the hyperscaler cloud of choice should consult an external partner.
ITD: How can a very complex software landscape be lifted into the cloud in the shortest possible time?
Wallner: Here, we recommend our customers to first pursue a hybrid cloud strategy. This approach is the “more compatible” option, especially for large companies with complex software landscapes, in order to optimally prepare their own infrastructure for the cloud. In addition, this takes into account the reality that most companies in Germany are not “cloud born”, but have a corresponding legacy. can continue to be used and, if necessary, operated in parallel with new cloud-native applications.
ITD: What stumbling blocks should decision-makers keep in mind that could stand in the way of a successful migration to the cloud?
Wallner: From our experience, the main reason for a failed migration is that the target scenario is not defined according to future needs. In such scenarios, cloud migration is promoted for the sake of migration, without any pitfalls being addressed beforehand or without consideration as to whether the migration of certain areas is necessary as a first step or – as described above – only as a second step. If future processes, for example with a view to the deployment of new applications or services, the costs that will arise and realistic schedules for the go-live are not defined beforehand, there is often a risk of a rude awakening. The same applies to the customer’s cloud journey: is it enough with a single cloud or is the ultimate goal a multi-cloud setup? The answer to this question can have significant implications for migration. Another question that is best asked at the beginning is about the data: What data should and may be in the cloud? This question is particularly important because it defines from the start which data is parked with the hyperscalers and which data requires the guaranteed protection of the GDPR. We recommend our customers to set up a data strategy to clarify these questions.
ITD: How can the scope of a migration project be correctly estimated in advance?
Wallner: It may sound trivial, but planning is key. At Plusserver, we start every cloud migration project by evaluating the cost, benefit and feasibility. Only when this is done do our tried and tested tools and services for a successful cloud migration come into play.
ITD: According to the IDG research study “Cloud Migration 2021”, around two-thirds of the companies surveyed gave a migration project in whole or in part to an external service provider. Under what conditions should a service provider be commissioned to carry out such a project?
Wallner: In addition to cost efficiency, the most obvious reason is probably the lack of internal expertise or the corresponding capacities. Especially with a view to the hyperscaler offerings, it is advisable to consult experts for dedicated cloud infrastructure, because the providers provide powerful and attractive solutions, but offer little support for the migration and ongoing management of projects in their cloud -Environments. Since very few companies are able to maintain a pool of GCP, Azure, or AWS experts, hiring external partners makes sense here. In addition, the investment in a migration project is not insignificant and there is often a lot at stake. If there is little or no experience in the area of cloud migration within the company, external commissioning reduces the risk considerably. And last but not least, bringing in a partner has a decisive advantage: Cloud migration projects always offer the opportunity to tackle existing IT problems and address open challenges. The external view of the structures and processes can be very helpful here.
ITD: More and more companies are opting for a hybrid cloud approach that uses a multi-cloud strategy. What are the biggest advantages and disadvantages of hybrid and multi-cloud?
Wallner: I see more and more hybrid clouds being used by our customers – and aspects such as data protection, control of access rights and the issue of data sovereignty in general certainly play a decisive role here. But the issue of legacy is also taken into account with a hybrid cloud. Nevertheless, I believe that hybrid cloud is only an intermediate step on the way to a multi-cloud scenario. The latter, i.e. the combination of solutions from hyperscalers and local cloud offerings such as that from Plusserver, will dominate the market in a few years. They offer customers the best of performance, scalability and – when combined with local cloud solutions from Germany – security. When set up correctly, a multi-cloud setup also allows maximum flexibility: Customers can then always move their data and applications to where they achieve the best results. Basically, the multi-cloud gives companies data sovereignty.
ITD: When are hybrid cloud solutions the best choice for a company?
Wallner: Hybrid solutions are a flexible and secure entry into the cloud and are suitable for companies that are still at the beginning of their digital transformation. But we also recommend the hybrid cloud to those companies that have to rely on dedicated hardware for business reasons and at the same time want to benefit from the advantages of the cloud. In order to bring both worlds together, Plusserver offers a flexible environment with the Hybrid Connector in which our customers retain full control over costs, data and processes and can gradually integrate the cloud into their infrastructure.
ITD: 46 percent of the companies surveyed in the “Cloud Monitor 2021” by KPMG and Bitkom fear unauthorized access to sensitive company data. How secure is the data?
Wallner: This question contains two different aspects: security and sovereignty. While the former has to do with how well data is protected against malicious access, the latter revolves around the issue of control. Basically, all established cloud providers offer a good level of cybersecurity – with more and more investment being made here to protect customers against threats from cybercriminals. When it comes to sovereignty, on the other hand, there is still some catching up to do, including raising awareness of the issue. A differentiated consideration of the question of who we grant access to data, how and to what extent, comes into focus – and not just since the debate about the Cloud Act or the GDPR. With cloud offers that are operated in German data centers, there are already answers and solutions to this debate. This also helps ensure that sensitive company data stays on site and is protected.
ITD: In an emergency, the cloud can help ensure that business-critical applications remain available to the company even in the event of power failures, cyber attacks or natural disasters. What options does the cloud offer for optimizing data security with regard to business continuation in the event of a crisis (“business continuity”)?
Wallner: Basically, you can probably differentiate between two approaches, which are often used in parallel: On the one hand, there is the topic of geo-redundancy: With Plusserver, for example, you can have your infrastructure operated in two or more fully functional data centers that are geographically far apart (The Federal Office for security in information technology recommends a distance of around 200 kilometers). This protects data and applications against natural disasters or force majeure.
But the far more important issue is disaster recovery. This is where the cloud again shows its strengths in terms of performance and scalability: With Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS) and Backup-as-a-Service (BaaS), you no longer have to worry about hard drives and their safe storage . The backup is regularly stored in remote secure cloud storage and can be used quickly in the event of a crisis to ensure business continuity.
Image source: Plusserver