Maintaining The Competitive Edge In The Era Of Cloud Services

Jerry Crumley

Cloud Operations Manager

11 September 2018

Industrial apps will eventually start to push the limits of traditional IT infrastructures, as plants become more connected and need quick access to digital data points, both in the field and off. A cloud-first digital strategy can future-fit your global business for more intelligent workflows.

An exciting trend is starting to upend the enterprise technology world: systems of intelligence. Defined by cloud-native applications and enabled by the increasing presence of cloud-based IT infrastructures, systems of intelligence will efficiently leverage the organisation’s data streams to drive smart process design.

Digital plants will see more systems of intelligence emerge as critical industrial applications integrate deeper into digital ecosystems and operationalise plant data—all backed by the cloud. Siemens, for instance, was able to scale new business innovation by re-architecting a new Industrial IoT ecosystem in the cloud.

Along with innovative systems of intelligence, cloud-based infrastructures will foster efficiency gains in scalability, IT maintenance and advanced security and reliability.

Enterprise Cloud Trends

To keep driving innovation, more enterprise IT leaders are planning to move their IT infrastructures from on-premise to the cloud, to support intelligent apps. According to the Accenture 2016 Upstream Oil and Gas Digital Trends Survey, 56 percent of the upstream businesses that were surveyed planned to use the cloud for analytics capabilities through 2021.

Last year, the enterprise IT performance monitoring platform LogicMonitor found enterprises would decrease their workloads by 10 percent on on-premise deployments by 2020 and increase their workload presence on public cloud-hosted platforms. LogicMonitor surveyed 195 leading US industry influencers and IT professionals at the 2017 AWS re:Invent Summit.

Respondents preferred a public cloud model, which is monitored and maintained by a third-party cloud service provider, over a private cloud model, which requires the time and effort of in-house IT departments.

Jerry Crumley blog figure 1
Figure 1: Cloud Vision 2020: The Future of the Cloud, LogicMonitor

 

Go Hybrid for Global Operations

Many businesses are starting to “lift and shift” their IT infrastructures into the cloud, choosing to host replicated versions of their current apps in the cloud without re-designing them. But this transition does not need to happen all at once.

A 2015 study in the Journal of Global Information Management found that adopting a hybrid cloud model—with a mix of public and private cloud elements—would best meet the challenges posed by distinct investment, security, privacy and organisational structures across a global enterprise. The authors studied white papers and technical documents that described the cloud computing strategies of several large, multinational enterprises (MNEs).

In an interesting case study, Shell used an evolutionary approach for moving to the cloud. Beginning in 2010, Shell started to a build a hybrid cloud infrastructure that, by 2011, was 60 percent virtual. While legacy applications stayed on in-house servers, new applications were dynamically tested and deployed in production in the cloud. Because of this gradual shift to the cloud, Shell was able to drive business innovation internally to maintain its competitive advantage in the oil and gas sector.

Initial Investments

Industrial multinationals could gradually adopt a similar hybrid cloud model, choosing to manage traditional, relational databases on a private cloud but start to deploy cloud-native apps on a public cloud. These apps would share similar components yet still maintain the traditional database structure.

Initial investments can start with few applications, a set of technological enablers that can pave the way for a gradual cloud transformation—think a smart Identity Access Management product and Docker-based applications. These cloud-native applications can be easily installed within your on-premise infrastructure until you’re ready to deploy to the cloud later.

A 100 percent cloud model—true Software-as-a-Service—would keep all apps and servers up-to-date, all the time, in the cloud. The same apps that once ran on traditional, relational databases would use significantly less storage space when running on cloud-native databases.

Deploy new software updates instantly. Perform acceptance tests directly in the cloud as soon as an application is available, without waiting to complete complex installation schemes.

Resilience and Reliability

Cloud-backed systems are elastic. That means the business’s critical applications will be operational during any usage scenario, scaling up support during peak periods and scaling down when the apps are used less, in near perfect supply and demand—key for ensuring uptime of your global frontline operational software deployments during the most complex and risky situations.

The cloud is also resilient, enabling fail-safe backups of your business’s most critical operational data. Redundant servers in the cloud ensure that your data and applications keep running across global regions and area zones, in line with regulatory limitations. All of this is managed by your cloud provider.

Advanced Security

Along with integrated cloud platforms comes heightened security.

Depending on the business’s preference, virtual private connections or protected, hard-wired fibre links can secure integrations with on-premise applications, including SAP and single-sign on applications.

Let your cloud provider implement full alerting—setting and monitoring the security level on each of the network interfaces of every deployed device, without upsetting your internal IT security settings.

Your critical applications are the backbone of your industrial operations, connecting your business’s regional operations with globally manageable tools. Now is the time to enable new systems of intelligence, with a move the cloud.

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