Cloud providers: who’s the best for you?

With worldwide spending on public cloud services and infrastructure forecast to hit $160 billion in 2018, a 23 percent increase on 2017 investment levels, CIOs in healthcare and other sectors are scrambling to choose the cloud provider that’s best for the

Jeff Rowe | Feb 23, 2018 01:01 pm

As tech writer Mark Samuels recently observed at ZDNet, “while the pace of the move to on-demand IT continues to quicken, CIOs are faced with a bewildering option of providers and services. How should organizations manage this selection process?”

Helpfully, Samuels asked that questions of five prominent IT leaders, who shared how they went about finding the right balance for their business.

For example, Aaron Powell, chief digital officer at the UK’s NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), says he didn't set out to have a single-provider cloud approach. In fact, he embraced choice. "I have an instinctive preference for having more than one cloud provider," says Powell.

Consequently, his organization uses one provider for services such as a portal for blood donors and another provider to take advantage of that company’s analytical technologies.

Perhaps needless to say, CIOs immersed in the cloud provider selection process need to remain flexible to meet new business demands.  To that end, Samuels describes how the Met Office, the UK's national weather service, has been using on-demand provision for the past 24 months.

James Tomkins, chief architect at the Met Office, says cloud is a key element of a broader business transformation project. The organization has embraced a three-pronged strategy, where in-house capability has been reinforced by one provider with support from a third-party specialist.

"Moving to the cloud is all about finding the provider that's right for your organization," says Tomkins. "We conducted a survey and went to market and engaged with all the major providers. Our decision was based around our business requirements, because we do have a unique demand in terms of data volumes.”

One other piece of advice Samuels shares is, once the provider decisions have been made, organizations should seriously consider pushing as much to the cloud as possible.

Brad Dowden, for example, CIO at recruitment specialist Airswift, told Samuels he has implemented a clean break from the traditional approach of managing and maintaining internal applications in a dedicated data center.

"We don't have any physical, on premise storage," says Dowden. "We have some legacy systems that we've moved to the cloud . . . Those applications will have a lifespan that we know already and they will also be decommissioned on the cloud.”

Dowden says the only data sources that are not connected to the cloud are those that must be stored locally for legal purposes. "For those, we do use file servers to hold local data," he says. 

"But, otherwise, all our data is in the cloud and everything is synchronized, so users can access everything from a single mobile device."