In brief

In brief

  • The end of the traditional data centre has been predicted for almost as long as the cloud emerged as an alternative.
  • However, today there are good reasons for thinking that the on-premises data centre may finally have had its day.

This is because the cloud delivers greater value. We have seen customers adopt one of two approaches to their enterprise IT systems: 1) accelerating into the cloud or 2) focusing on their data centres. The cloud-first businesses that chose option one have seen far more agility and flexibility than those that selected option two.

COVID-19 has done much to accelerate the move to cloud-based capabilities, especially when it comes to collaboration and digital routes to market. The move to working from home in response to the crisis highlighted both the flexibility of cloud applications – most notably through collaboration tools like Google Meet – and the limitations of traditional data centres.

Cloud-first businesses that moved to the cloud early found it much easier at the beginning of the crisis to shift workloads and scale resources to respond to unprecedented fluctuations in demand. They also found it easier to manage costs.

When people moved to working from home, two things happened. First, systems used for in-person operations were running with lower usage while, concurrently, engagement over digital channels accelerated. Companies that operated these digital channels in the cloud were able to manage this growth, leveraging the ability to ‘burst’ traffic between private and public clouds. Flexibility and scalability is built into the DNA of the cloud and is what makes it so well suited to volatile times.

In this dynamic world, routes to market are constantly changing and placing a stress on systems. Businesses that are stuck with legacy systems, or which are weighed down by technical debt, will struggle. Those that use agile, flexible, scalable and cost-effective cloud alternatives will be much better placed to succeed.

Greening the data centre

It’s clear that cloud-based services provide the flexibility and agility needed today. With the cloud, businesses can ‘pay as they scale’ or ‘save while they scale down’ systems, an important feature at a time when budgets are tight. Perhaps more importantly, the cloud provides for flexibility in delivering business value without the constraints associated with legacy technologies.

But if further reason was needed for organisations to move to the cloud, the green agenda provides it. Sustainability is now central to the corporate values of a fast-growing number of businesses. Moving workloads to the cloud is a greener option than on-premise data centres.

Part of this comes from the fact that businesses share hardware and energy consumption, but it also has a lot to do with the cloud operators themselves. To run data centres at scale, cloud providers have to focus on energy efficiency to keep costs low. Additionally, cloud providers have their own ambitious green agendas, which means they’re increasingly focused on using renewable energy sources.

“Sustainability has been a core value for Google since it was founded two decades ago and the company has been carbon neutral since 2007. We announced that by 2030, we will aim for Google’s entire global electricity supply to be carbon-free, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. We are investing in technologies and tools that make it possible for us to source local reliable carbon free energy, around the clock. This will mean every question you ask Google Search, every YouTube video you view, every email you send through Gmail, will be supplied by clean energy, every hour of every day.”

- John Abel, Technical Director, Office of the CTO, Google

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A boardroom issue

COVID-19 and the sustainable business agenda have made the data centre, and enterprise IT infrastructure in general, top boardroom issues. Not only are CIOs and CTOs increasingly being consulted on strategic business decisions, but CEOs and other business leaders are taking it upon themselves to learn more about the cloud in order to make better decisions about their future operating model. What was once a rarity – having a granular conversation on data centre workload migration with CEOs of blue-chip companies – is now a regular occurrence.

The challenge is that all too often businesses start cloud migrations only to find that value is difficult to realise and that disruption to business services causes projects to stall. Given the new imperative to move to the cloud at speed, and the increasing scrutiny around such projects from business leaders, how can these pitfalls be avoided?

The best approach is to take time at the beginning of the project to evaluate cost, efficiency and risk attached to migration models. During this discovery phase, businesses should create test cases and models for migration scenarios, while drawing up practical plans for migration deployment. To be effective, IT needs to work in close partnership with business stakeholders and ensure their buy-in.

“We hear about cases where businesses have not focused rigorously enough on discovery and due diligence. They’ve not connected with app owners within the business nor have they mapped how applications interact with one another. As a result, changes made can have unintended negative consequences and result in lost value and disruption to the project. IT needs to work with the business to map out exactly what needs to change and at what cadence.”

- Simon Stocks, Infrastructure Consulting Cloud Practice Lead at Accenture

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Businesses can also better ensure the success of cloud workload migrations by taking an incremental approach. Technologies like Anthos, which migrates workloads into easily portable containers, mean that firms can move workloads step by step, ensuring value is realised for each before moving on.

The approach also enables firms to port apps between different cloud environments, whether public, private or hybrid. This portability enables firms to meet regulatory requirements, avoid vendor lock-in and deliver the right cloud approach for each individual use case. It also enables agility and resilience, which is one of the key reasons why cloud-first organisations were better able to weather the disruption caused by COVID-19.

Accenture and Google Cloud are helping more organisations with data centre migration through Cloud Design, our new collaborative offering which uses open, agile innovation to build customer-centric businesses. The Data Centre Migration element of Cloud Design enables clients to modernise their data centre workloads, running their apps in a truly hybrid, multi-cloud way through Google Cloud Platform and Anthos.

Recent experience has shown that businesses need to be more flexible than ever. They must be able to respond to unexpected events on the scale of global pandemics. The business case for the cloud has long been clear, but now businesses realise the current crisis has turned cloud from an aspiration to an urgent mandate. By partnering with the right ecosystem of partners and taking a strategic approach to cloud migration, businesses can become cloud-first, innovate faster and create differentiated value in a responsible and sustainable manner.

Simon Stocks

Lead – Infrastructure Consulting Cloud Practice, Accenture

John Abel

Technical Director – Office of the CTO, Google Cloud


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