InsightaaS collaborated with global conference organizer DatacenterDynamics to deliver a major IT/cloud trade show event in Toronto last week. Our contributions to the Cloud/App conference stream were based on the articulation of best practices in cloud adoption developed by the Toronto Cloud Business Coalition, a group of more than 40 leading Canadian cloud experts that is managed by InsightaaS.
The DCD-Canada 2015 event, which included the inaugural TCBC Cloud Symposium, attracted 40 exhibitors and well over 500 attendees to the Allstream Centre. InsightaaS principals Mary Allen and Michael O’Neil moderated nine of the 24 sessions, including:
- Five sessions based on the best practices developed by TCBC working groups, in the areas of enterprise cloud planning, delivering cloud via public, private and hybrid environments, cloud business models, metrics and imperatives (positioning cloud for non-IT executives), adoption and enablement of advanced cloud applications, and governance, risk and compliance (GRC) in the cloud.
- Two sessions – on IoT and analytics – that combined expert panelist input with discussion of the results from an InsightaaS survey of 402 Canadian businesses, conducted last month by global research firm Techaisle.
- The opening and closing plenary sessions. The opening session was a panel discussion including Seneca College CIO Roy Hart, PwC’s Matt Ambrose, TeraGo Networks CEO Stewart Lyons and Canadian internet executive AJ Byers, and the closing “fireside chat” featured a discussion with Rogers SVP Terry Canning.
The event was a tremendous success on several fronts: it provided exposure for the best practices work being done in 10 key areas by TCBC members, and it acted as the launch for two new community initiatives (IoT Coalition of Canada and Canadian Analytics Business Coalition), and attracted dozens of new subscribers to the InsightaaS Insighter enewsletter.
InsightaaS would like to thank DCD for organizing this event, and would like to recognize the work of Stephen Symonds, Nancy Mendoza and Doug Adams in engaging with hundreds of event delegates in the InsightaaS sessions and at our booth.
IT journalist and frequent contributor to InsightaaS, Denise Deveau also attended the event. Her observations on key points in several of the sessions are offered below. (ed.)
This year’s DatacenterDynamics Converged Canada Conference in Toronto drew a record audience eager to hear panels of industry experts share their views on everything from security and process change to data centre design and infrastructure.
At the Cloud Symposium – which was a significant draw for the event – one would naturally expect a considerable amount of debate on the technological underpinnings of data centre and cloud deployments. Yet the prevailing topics skewed more towards issues such as key cloud adoption drivers, migration processes, management buy-in, cloud economics, staff training and culture change.
A thought that resonated throughout the day was best articulated by Joel Steacy, software defined enterprise strategist for VMware, who said that the technology aspect of cloud is the easiest one to tackle. “You have to get over the people and process hurdles first. If you can get those two areas squared away, technology will align with what you want to achieve.”
This was not an isolated perspective by any means. A majority of panelists throughout the day stressed the need to focus on the execution rather than the mechanics as they walked the various audiences through a range of cloud adoption best practice discussions.
Getting started in cloud
The first session, Canadian Cloud, 2015 and Beyond – Orchestrating Success, provided an ideal launching point for the day’s agenda. Moderator Michael O’Neil kicked off the session by asking panelists about the primary issues around cloud adoption and use, focusing on the factors that are propelling cloud into the IT mainstream. He presented new InsightaaS research showing that cloud will advance from representing less than 15% of Canadian back-office enterprise technology spending in 2015 to nearly 50% in 2020.
AJ Byers, president of JEDTech Group, summarized key adoption drivers by noting three factors that are motivating Canadian enterprises to develop and deliver on cloud strategy: speed, risk and financials.
Roy Hart, CIO for Seneca College, offered his perspective by saying: “business benefits are incredibly important,” adding that self-service capabilities and automation played integral roles in the college’s cloud momentum. “You also need to be able to automatically provision your infrastructure.”
Stewart Lyons, CEO TeraGo Networks, followed by explaining that successful onboarding is very much contingent upon understanding the solution being provided to customers. “Ninety-nine-per-cent of enterprise customers have a variety of infrastructures and applications. It’s not as easy as just going to Amazon. You need customized solutions.”
He also noted that disaster recovery, backup and storage were “great entry points to cloud. Once you get your heads wrapped around it, it’s a good way to keep them going.”
It’s essential that clients understand requirements and the capabilities that add value before striking strategic vendor partnerships to fill the gaps, added Matt Ambrose, technology advisory leader, PCS for PwC. “You need those key points of alignment to build successfully…Managing change and being ready for [cloud culturally] is critical.”
Balancing out the session was a discussion around obstacles to using cloud as business infrastructure. Culture change was targeted as a significant hurdle. As Hart noted, “Infrastructure guys have been with us for many years, so it’s really difficult for them to change from hands-on installing software to being able to write code to build out your infrastructure. Also, software-defined networking requires a completely different skillset from the networking team. Moving from a factory approach to the build out of competencies by reaching out to external providers requires a shift from managing servers to managing relationships.”
Byers stressed that CEO buy-in also ranks as a significant obstacle in cloud adoption. “Traditional CEOs want to know two things: will it drive revenue for my business, and will it save me money? They have to understand what cloud does for the revenue and cost lines. Can they grow faster, sell faster, or bring product to market faster? IT has to bring [the discussion] back to basic business principles.”
The Enterprise Cloud Design and Strategy session continued this business theme but explored different aspects of infrastructure transformation, such as investment cycles. You have to spend money to realize the benefits more quickly, argued Matt Starkie, world wide data center, center of excellence for Microsoft. “Even though cost savings have been identified as a primary driver, when you move to cloud-based consumption, you have to spend money in order to achieve faster revenue growth and lower labour costs.”
Robert Offley, president and CEO of CentriLogic offered his thoughts on changes in roles and service delivery functions in the optimization of cloud deployments, noting that in its early stages cloud was viewed by IT as a threat. But “with cloud [today], IT is no longer expected to manage the nuts and bolts to keep the lights on. It’s less hands on infrastructure management and more about processes, managing relationships and securing infrastructure.”
Another key element was the issue of data stewardship in cloud environments. As Joe Belinsky, VP, technology infrastructure services at Moneris Solutions, noted, the need for policies around data retention, destruction, compliance and risk involves a much broader audience than IT alone. “Data governance and risk are not necessarily an IT function. You need to have discussions around rules, priorities and responsibilities. That’s a prerequisite.”
Another often overlooked strategic component in cloud planning is a clearly defined exit strategy. Any contract with a cloud provider has a lifecycle, Belinsky said. “As with a marriage, things change. If you don’t have a backup plan, you should not be implementing cloud. In some cases, an organization that is born-in-the-cloud – such as Netflix – may not be able to live elsewhere. You can’t un-codify and move it. If you are moving an app to the cloud, it should be fluid from one provider to another or it should be possible to bring the app back in-house. Any good plan has an exit strategy.”
The Big Data question
No cloud symposium would be complete without a discussion around Big Data and analytics. The analytics session at DCD was particularly timely, offering InsightaaS a good forum for announcing launch of the CABC (Canadian Analytics Business Coalition) in February 2016.
According to InsightaaS research, analytics and Big Data are evolving from the early adopter to early mass market stage, from tracking website hits to the holy grail of prescriptive analytics. Statistics show that for the most part, companies remain in the earlier stages of that progression – the vast majority of survey respondents lingered at the descriptive or diagnostic phases of analytics use.
This could be attributed to the fact that that the biggest challenge around Big Data/analytics is change management. Jerrard Gaertner, adjunct professor of computer science at Ryerson University pointed to the need for a socialization and “culturalization” process. “It’s one thing to focus on choosing projects that are deliverable over the short or medium term. But you have to start slow and have some successes so you can get more people to champion it and build on that basis. You can start with one data silo, then move to a second and connect that, and so on. And you have to provide the appropriate incentives for various divisions [within the organization] because normally they compete.”
Offering a first-hand view of analytics initiatives within Rogers Communications, director of customer intelligence Chris Dingle admitted they were in the early stages. He did, however, stress that breaking down departmental barriers was key. “Providing a path to the democratization of analytics is much more of a team sport. Change management around analytics and Big Data is where the challenge lies. The technology part is already solved.”
The key points highlighted by Deveau and attributed to panelists in these three DCD sessions provide a good sense of the depth of knowledge on cloud matters represented in the TCBC. In their variety, these points also attest to the value of a community-based approach to industry research: the broad and diverse experience that TCBC members bring to the cloud discussion support a wide-angle view and comprehensive guidance on adoption principles that is unmatched by other research methodologies. Deveau has drawn insights from three of the DCD sessions – stay tuned for additional cloud wisdom from other DCD panels in the Vitamin Y section of our site!