Datatechvibe, Middle East’s only media platform focused on the data landscape, hosted the UAE edition of the Enterprise Cloud & Data Center Forum (ECDC) on March 10, 2021. The virtual event was graced by experts from across industries and had over 300 delegates in attendance. The Conference’s agenda centred around the theme of making ‘Cloud-native organisations a reality!’
Thought leaders who spoke at the conference focused on how organisations can become more agile, adopt a cloud-first strategy, bridge the skill gap, transform businesses, and give customers the best experience.
The event began with a keynote address by Piyush Chowhan, Group CIO, Lulu Group, UAE. The discussion focussed on digital transformation and what that means for enterprises when adopting the cloud. Chowhan gave clarity on the method that needs to be approached by thought leaders when embarking upon their organisation’s digital transformation. ‘We can’t survive the future if a digital-first or digital acceleration isn’t done correctly. The core of digital transformation is a belief that needs to be embedded in proper practice. Few organisations believe that uploading everything in the cloud is the be-all and end-all in an organisation’s journey towards complete digitisation.’
This was followed by a panel discussion on choosing the right cloud for business. The panel comprised of Dr Chris Cooper, GM Data Centre Group at Lenovo. Bassel Kassem, Regional Sales Manager at Nutanix. Peter Jamieson, CTO, Department of Culture, UAE.
Dr Chris Cooper emphasised the importance of embracing the latest technology that was available. ‘I think irrespective of what industry we belong to, we must think holistically about where data is generated, where data will be generated, and where thought leaders invest to reap the maximum benefits from that data.’ Bassel Kassem said that ‘Cloud, as we know, has changed vastly. Cloud environments are continuously evolving. We have to be mindful of many aspects, and the planning has to be complete.
To a question of whether cloud adoption could be called the last stage of an organisation’s digitisation, Dr Cooper said that ‘Organisations need to evaluate their requirement before proceeding on their cloud adoption. Taking your data to the cloud will not help if the requirements are not mapped first.’
Jayakumar Mohanachandran, Group CIO at Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group, spoke about container technologies and how they were the driving force for enterprise digital transformation. Watch the session here. Jayakumar spoke about three myths enterprises have regarding their adoption of the cloud and digital transformation of enterprises. The first myth is Cloud isn’t as secure as it’s made out to be. The second myth is about the cost and utilisation of cloud infrastructure. The third myth is integration, a false sense of belief that everything is under the organisation’s control.
Debunking the myths, Jayakumar elaborated that the Cloud is actually one of the most secure places where enterprises can store their data. Elaborating on the second myth, he said, ‘The cloud is always expanding. Organisations who are adopting a digital-first approach need to first map their requirements.
How much data would be uploaded on the cloud? Whether or not a hybrid approach will be adopted? And the overall utilisation of the infrastructure. Instead of going by popular opinions, an organisation must evaluate their exact requirements that initiates change.’ Debunking the third myth, Jayakumar said most organisations believe that they can control everything once they have adopted a specific infrastructure type. That is incorrect. Managing applications and data once it has moved on the cloud simplifies the process for some; however, it can unnecessarily complicate the process for others. ‘What works for us as an organisation may be disastrous for another,’ Jayakumar said.
A panel discussion on Compliance and governance with Prakash Sethuraman, Global Head, Cloud Security, HSBC, Nathalie Laneret, Director Private Policy, CIPL, Ankur Rastogi, Head of IT Application, Cloud Migration at Lufthansa, centred around Data security in premise and on the cloud. How enterprises can help deliver a clean cloud across businesses.
Nathalie spoke about balancing ‘ease of doing business’ with data protection and compliance by making them business imperative, and not just a provision to satisfy the laws of the land. Prakash explained that compliance is integral to the BFS Industries.
‘Compliance exists to protect your customer and their data in an organisation. This is not an either-or situation. Processes must be developed, automated, bettered,’ Prakash said.
Ankur Rastogi threw light on the security perspective of cloud computing. ‘I believe that the cloud is the most secure than on-premise systems. They provide continuous upgrades into their security that normal organisations can’t match up to’, Ankur said. Prakash added, ‘Cloud service providers are probably more secure than on-premise data servers or storage places.’ Whether the responsibility of providing security to the cloud only belonged to the CSPs, Ankur said that, Security is not the responsibility of CSPs alone. Application development has to be very secure, and once that is in place, cloud infrastructure providers will follow. Watch the entire session here.
Krishnan Gopi, Chief Disruption Officer at GEMS Education, shed light on the importance of controlling accessibility and visibility of information in the cloud. Watch the session here. To a question on CIOs’ role in ensuring complete compliance and data safety, Krishnan replied that every employee of an organisation is equally responsible for data safety and security. However, it is believed that the CIO has the last word on all things security. Security can be fool-proof only when everyone is made aware of their responsibilities. A chain is just as strong as its weakest link. Krishnan also spoke about a common misconception that exists in many organisations. ‘Often, it is believed that the CIO and the CFO are on opposing sides, and it is rare that the two leaders come together. A belief exists that the CFO will always try and save costs, come what may.’ ‘That is incorrect. Speaking about vendor lock-in, Krishnan said that adopting a hybrid cloud strategy isn’t the only way to avoid vendor lock-in. Depending upon the organisation and its requirements, CIOs map their cloud strategies. Pursuing a multi-cloud approach should not lead business leaders to adopt more complex systems. A vendor management strategy is a must for controlling costs.
Atul Khatri, noted stand-up comic artiste tickled the funny bone with his anecdotes and wisecracks that ranged from marriage till Star Wars. Khatri’s own journey from C-Suite till Comedy was inspiring. You can watch his session here.
The closing address was by Ankur Rastogi, Head of IT Application and Cloud Migration at Lufthansa Group, where he explained the reasons for migrating to the cloud and exhorted business leaders to ask themselves why do they want to migrate to the cloud? ‘Digitisation, Helps organisations adopt an agile approach. The Covid-19 pandemic triggered a rapid digital transformation. The focus was clearly on remote working, which further pushed the demand for a higher security level, resilient infrastructure, and business continuity management. Application-specific life cycle requirements have changed. This is because the business landscape, as well as the technological environment, have changed simultaneously. Innovation-driven environments have to be balanced with traditional business environments,’ Rastogi said.
‘These traditional processes could be anything from Operations, Security, Compliance, Automation Control, etc.’ ‘The cloud must not be treated as an infrastructure strategy. The cloud helps business owners to move beyond traditional process environments to a more advanced environment. Cloud strategy needs to be firmly embedded in enterprises’ larger IT and digital strategy, with clear guiding principles. Cloud is the basis for the digital transformation of a company. However, Cloud migration is not the end of an organisation’s digital transformation goal. The Cloud transformation strategy of any organisation has to be dynamic and incorporate all changes.’
Elaborating further, Rastogi explained how cloud migration should happen in an ideal scenario.
‘All systems and technologies have to be cloud-compatible before they are adopted. Cost, maintenance, data migration, agility and ability have to be considered before anyone migrates into the cloud. That could be possible only when it followed an order of priority. They are Saas > PaaS > IaaS. Also, Application systems that are dated shouldn’t be forced on to the cloud. Else productivity takes a backseat. A Centralised Cloud Strategy Management Team has to be established’, Rastogi said.
The journey to the cloud requires a step-by-step approach. They are Planning, Discovery, Assessment, Pilot, Execution.’ Rastogi explained the essence of a cloud adoption strategy could be achieved by adopting the following strategies – Business-based strategy, Solution-Oriented Architecture, Collaborative Governance, Change Management with Clear Communication. Cloud requires businesses to change their mindset, as well as disrupt existing processes. When companies are prepared for that, their digital transformation begins. Watch the session here.