​Cloud computing switch as digital transformation takes priority

Cost-cutting takes a back seat as cloud-powered business change moves centre stage.

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How business leaders are embracing cloud services

The cloud is disrupting traditional operating models for IT departments and entire organizations.

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Cloud computing is often promoted as a way of reducing costs and giving companies more flexibility about how they buy computing power. However, vendors are now keen to push its ability to help executives reshape their businesses.

"We're early in the cloud -- about ten percent of the workloads have moved to the cloud -- but it's really clear it's a major vehicle for digital transformation," said Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene, speaking at the company's Google Cloud Next event in London.

Companies are using the move to the cloud and their migration planning as an opportunity "to step back, redefine their mission," and take a look at their culture, processes and data strategy, Greene said.

It's also possible that many of the workloads that are straightforward to shift to the cloud have already been moved, so emphasising the transformative aspects of the cloud is the next step.

"Cloud is becoming a better way to run your IT, and it's turning out to almost provide a complete structure for how you can effect change in your company," said Greene.

SEE: Cloud v. data center decision (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)

There is plenty of momentum behind cloud computing, which is expected to account for 28 percent of enterprise tech spending by 2022, but cloud is not the answer for every computing problem -- especially from a cost point of view, where renting computing power can work out more expensive than buying in the long term. By promoting the idea that cloud computing can help companies do new things faster and not just old things cheaper, cloud vendors may be able to persuade more companies to take the plunge.

For example, corporate data tends to be held in silos by office or department; shifting to the cloud to take advantage of AI or machine learning could also help break down some of those organisational barriers to change.

Google Cloud still trails Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft's Azure in the cloud market, coming in at number three, or number four behind Alibaba, depending on which set of numbers you're looking at. But the company is keen to promote its AI and analytics capabilities -- one area where it's arguably ahead of its larger cloud rivals -- as one reason to choose it.

Mark Smith, group CTO at ITV, said that while the broadcaster uses the cloud to host its ITV Player video service, it has also been putting a lot more effort into data and analytics. The company has spent 18 months building out a cloud data analytics platform that can capture millions of real-time events every day -- every play, pause and resume for every single viewer.

"In the past it has all been about keeping the platform up, looking at disaster recovery options or those kinds of things; this year it was much more proactive," Smith said.

Orpheus Warr, CTO at Channel 4, said it was using cloud computing for commodity services. "Increasingly we are focused on outsourcing the commodity, buying services online, putting stuff into the cloud where we feel that actually it's really no longer differentiating and driving our business, and that allows us to focus on the stuff that's really going to make a difference," he said.

The cloud is also helping the broadcaster with things like AI.

"Almost regardless of the algorithms you choose to bring, the platform itself is formed at a scale that we could probably never achieve if we wanted to do that stuff ourselves. So harnessing the scale and the expertise of some of these companies is a big focus for us," Warr said.

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