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Tuesday, 24 May 2022 10:31

Why the cloud delivers more than a best-of-breed IT strategy

By Steve Singer, regional vice president and ANZ country manager, Zscaler
Zscaler regional vice president and ANZ country manager Steve Singer Zscaler regional vice president and ANZ country manager Steve Singer

GUEST OPINION: Back in the early years of the twenty-first century, the role of IT teams was very different from what it is today.

Needing to keep the corporate data centre humming, IT's time was spent managing racks of equipment, server, storage, and other networking point products provided by a slew of different vendors.

It then fell on the IT team to stitch those point products together to form a technology platform that could meet the business’s computing needs. In addition, security measures such as internet firewalls protected the entire infrastructure from the outside world.

Fast forward to 2022, and things are very different. Software-defined resources and cloud platforms have radically altered the approach most organisations take to business technology. As a result, any business that still follows a best-of-breed strategy is lagging behind.

Consumption rather than provision

This is not to say that best-of-breed has disappeared altogether. Cloud platforms may have led to the consolidation of many services, but some are yet to make the change.

Evolution has been significant in the areas of server, storage, and applications. However, when it comes to networking and security, best-of-breed is still often the norm. Many IT teams believe that such elements don’t exist in the cloud or aren't able to perform up to required standards. This is not the case and cloud adoption can be just as effective.

The benefits of being a cloud-first organisation

While there are significant business benefits to be gained from shifting to the cloud, it doesn’t have to be to one of the major providers such as AWS or Azure. There are many more domain-focused providers that specialise in fields such as identity management, unified communications, SD-WAN, and zero trust security.

These specialised cloud platforms outperform the best-of-breed approach in several ways. They can help reduce operational overheads as maintenance becomes the cloud provider’s responsibility. There can also be more frequent addition of new features. It's easier and more cost-effective to push out new features and updates to cloud platforms than it is to on-premise products.

Moreover, cloud-first organisations can benefit from increased opex agility. For example, resources can be dialled up and down as business requirements change, which means an organisation does not have to pay for resources that are not being used.


Five excuses for remaining with best-of-breed IT

When it comes to naming the reasons why an organisation has opted to retain a best-of-breed IT strategy, most fall into one of five categories:

1. Reluctance to change. Some organisations believe that there is no real benefit in changing because they’ve always taken a particular approach.

2. Fear of costs. Some IT teams fear potential cost blowouts if they shift from on-premise IT to a pay-as-you-go model. They figure the devil you know is better than the one you don’t, but this should not be a reason to avoid trying.

3. Resistance to evolution. Change can be challenging, and many choose to avoid it. However, a better approach is to invest in staff training and encourage them to explore the options.

4. Compliance requirements prevent change. This might be the perception; however, people tend to block transformation more than technology. Therefore, leadership teams should hold IT departments accountable when they fail to explore new options.

5. The current approach is cheaper. Some people believe it’s more cost-effective to keep everything on-premise; however, experience shows this is not always the case.

Shifting away from best-of-breed

While moving away from a best-of-breed mindset can deliver significant benefits, it is not without its own set of risks and challenges. However, developing a cohesive strategy can overcome many transformation difficulties.

When contemplating a shift to the cloud, focus attention on these core areas:

• Start with design. Adopting a cloud strategy requires architecture designed with high availability in mind. Services need to tolerate interruptions and outages, and security strategies need to shift.

• Distinguish between configuration and customisation. It’s important to remember a clear distinction between configuring a service and customising it to fit organisational requirements. Businesses must balance adapting to new tools instead of changing them to suit their needs.

• Prioritise flexibility. Understand the shift will take time and has to be embraced across an organisation. Highlight the improved flexibility it will deliver to both staff and customers.

As cloud platforms and services continue to evolve, their ability to deliver significant business benefits grows daily. The reasons for remaining with a best-of-breed IT strategy may have made sense in the past, but this is unlikely to be the case in the months and years ahead.

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