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Standing out in the cloud: How the market is evolving in 2020

Although there had been a few mutterings about “the cloud” sprinkled here and there throughout PCR’s publications beforehand, it was around 2010 that we really started to knuckle down and try to understand this somewhat mysterious concept.

Ten years on, and every man and his dog – within or outside of the tech industry – has at least some concept of what the cloud is. But what does the cloud look like today? How have cloud services evolved in recent years, and what does your business need to know about cloud computing in 2020? PCR does what it does best, and spoke to those in the know to find out.

“Businesses continue to move applications and workloads into the cloud – and who can blame them? Increased flexibility, greater integration with agile ways of working and cost savings are cases for cloud migration we’ve all heard before,” Sascha Giese, head geek at SolarWinds tells PCR.

“This past decade, we might have seen the first wave of ‘born in the cloud’ businesses – but for many organisations today, fully migrating to the cloud isn’t an option. The constraints of legacy systems lead most businesses to rely on hybrid environments made up of on-premises and cloud-based elements.

“Any type of cloud migration shouldn’t distract IT pros from the age-old mantra – monitoring IT environments is essential. They also need to be aware of monitoring in today’s fragmented cloud environments,” says Giese.

“On-prem and cloud-based components have different monitoring requirements – on top of this, it’s commonplace for businesses to incorporate multiple public cloud providers into their IT environments. Any public cloud provider worth their salt will provide monitoring tools for their products – but these tools won’t give IT pros an end-to-end view of their IT environment.”

However, Giese ensures that all hope isn’t lost, because steps can be taken to improve the monitoring of cloud networks.

“For a start, security and operations staff need to be involved in any conversations around proposed changes to IT infrastructure,” he explains. “Onboarding a certain public cloud provider might bring down costs – but it could also weaken the IT team’s ability to secure and monitor the network. Perspective is needed to ensure mistakes aren’t made.

With a forecasted growth of 17% in the public cloud services this year, bringing the value of the market to total $266.4 billion, Jacey Moore, chief marketing officer at Giacom, details to PCR how cloud services now underpin every aspect of IT investment. “From office applications to core business systems and, increasingly, artificial intelligence, a robust cloud service offering is a fundamental component of any MSP business model,” says Moore.

“Software as a Service (SaaS) currently remains as the largest cloud market segment, with Cloud System Infrastructure Services (IaaS) as the second-largest, with a forecast to grow 24% year-on- year – the highest growth rate across all market segments.

“These results clearly demonstrate the demand for productivity tools and general software services. As organisations become more cloud mature, they’re starting to explore how different solutions work together, moving along the cloud maturity scale, expanding to offer multiple, complementary SaaS solutions and on to thinking about IaaS.”

Moore points out that collaborative teams are an important trend in the workplace and it’s not just for large businesses. “The expectation for small businesses is there too, with demand driven by a new generation of digital natives who expect to be able to work anywhere, have full access to things wherever they are and collaborate with people on the move.

“As collaborative ways of working are becoming a more native part of many workforces, we will see an evolution of workplace tools, such as Microsoft Teams, becoming the first window people look at when they’re logging in, rather than Outlook.

“Those who have the skill and training to be able to navigate, use, configure and deploy systems such as Microsoft Azure are and remain a very scarce resource. When we look at how businesses manage their cloud services, these trained engineers will remain in short supply, but challenges will arise during periods of growth to find the time to up-skill more people to meet demand.”

It is forecasted that 60% of organisations are going to be using an MSP or a specialist to delegate IT operations by 2022, which is double the amount in 2018. Moore believes that there is “no doubt” that MSPs will see an increase in competition, demand and expectations from their customers to make them more productive and efficient. “They’ll need a CSP who can support and enable them through this period.”

Speaking of IaaS, Iain Shaw, commercial director at Brigantia Partners points to the distributor’s own Cloud Business IaaS as an example of a “simple, predictable, and inexpensive way for channel partners to put their customers business or development systems in the cloud”.

“What was once at the heart of the SME’s network, the server, is being diluted slowly out of existence. Traditionally server provision has taken the form of supplying a large lump of tin to be installed somewhere in the client’s premises and on this, some form of Windows Server would reside and hopefully behave itself for the most part. These days though, is it really good advice when the old lump of tin looks to be breathing its last, to just replace it with a newer version of the same?

“What does Brigantia’s Cloud Business IaaS bring that selling an actual physical server does not? For one thing it brings a recurring revenue stream. This doesn’t just add predictability to your monthly turnover and profit, it adds realisable value to your business. I mean that at some point you are probably going to want to hang up your spurs and cash-out. Whether you wind up selling to your staff or a third party, the higher value that you can demonstrate in your business then the more you ultimately get to take out,” says Shaw.

“Aside from the money angle, Cloud Business IaaS means building a server is now very easy. In fact, you just spend a few minutes in the Cloud Business IaaS drag-and-drop console putting a design together to generate a quote. When the client decides to proceed then you just press the build button and then it gets spun up, you configure it and you’re good to go. Forget bench testing and having to lug a monolith to the client’s site, this is very straightforward. Just set up the VPNs for access and that is it.

“Your client may also be surprised to discover that remote workers can log into the network just as easily as their office-based colleagues. This opens up all kinds of opportunities for the client business to have various members of staff working effectively form home or even on the road.”

Another issue that affects small businesses as much as large businesses is cyber threats. “One in five small firms experienced a cyber-attack in the two years between 2017 to 2019,” reveals Giacom’s Moore. “Security threats have always existed, but as they continuously rise statistically, the cloud enables security solutions to become advanced and adaptable, which plays an important part in the SaaS landscape.

“As businesses become more data-driven using analytics and leveraging exponential amounts of data, security remains a key trend. By utilising advances such as AI and Machine Learning, which support gathering threat intelligence, well thought out SaaS security solutions can adapt, monitor and protect MSPs and organisations from both targeted attacks and unknown threats. These solutions are leveraging the combined pooled expertise of thousands of world leaders and security experts’ operations collaboratively in a way that simply cannot be achieved elsewhere.

“The growing awareness of the benefits of cloud computing is changing the business outlook. By offering simple solutions which enable businesses to remain productive, people-centric, flexible and data-driven, the cloud offers significant opportunities to extend current business models, adding much needed new revenue streams through informed decisions and scalability.”

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