The New Normal: Cloud Transformation Journey

Cloud is the driving force enabling and accelerating digital transformation today. Cloud adoption rate continues to expand rapidly as more organizations pursue a “cloud first” policy to drive digital transformation. In the next few years, Gartner estimates that over 95% of new digital workloads will be deployed on cloud-native platforms by 2025, up from 30% in 2021*. With this increased rate of adoption, organizations need a framework to reliably accelerate their cloud journey and move forward to the cloud with confidence.

Cloud computing is defined by National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction. This cloud model is composed of five essential characteristics: On-demand self-service, Broad Network Access, Resource Pooling, Rapid Elasticity, and Measured Service. 

Cloud computing has evolved as a disruptive innovation to traditional computing and becoming the new normal. In October 2020, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology published KSA’s Cloud First Policy to accelerate the adoption of Cloud computing services by directing the governmental entities to consider Cloud options when making new IT investment decisions. The private sector was encouraged to follow the same exercise by having an internal Cloud First Policy. The policy was defined in line with the key pillars of KSA’s ambitious Vision 2030. 

A cloud-first approach enables organizations in public and private sectors to scale up or down based on usage, drive business agility and adapt quickly, accelerate innovation and time-to-market with self-service on-demand provisioning of computing resources, and reduce total cost of ownership by trading fixed expenses for variable expenses with a pay-as-you-go model. Cloud computing provides organizations with immense opportunities to generate new cloud-based business models for business success and scalability. 

Personal data protection law and cyber security legislation and regulations are impacting cloud adoption in heavily regulated sectors. Demands for local data centers have increased to address compliance and data residency challenges. Bringing data centers closer to the user also reduces the distance in which the data has to travel which significantly reduces latency and thus increases quality and customer satisfaction. To date, there are 22 registered cloud service providers in Saudi Arabia, according to the Communications and Information Technology Commission. Nine more cloud service providers are under the qualification process. The region is also witnessing increasing penetration of leading global hyperscale cloud providers including AWS in Bahrain, Azure in Emirates, Google Cloud in Qatar and recently announced in Saudi Arabia by 2023. Google will deploy and operate the cloud region in Saudi Arabia with the local strategic reseller and distributor, CNTXT. 

Cloud adoption frameworks are available from the leading cloud service providers to guide organizations through their cloud adoption journey and mitigate possible risks. Cloud adoption framework helps organizations identify key activities that will reliably accelerate their cloud journey. It offers a baseline to start with when migrating to the cloud using a standardized approach with actionable instructions following vendor best practices and clear and customizable documentation.

Google, for example, offers a cloud adoption framework designed to build a structure on the rubric of people, technology, and processes. The framework provides an assessment of where you are in your cloud adoption journey and actionable programs that get you to where you want to be. 

The Google Cloud Adoption Framework** includes four themes and three phases. It helps organizations determine their cloud maturity level by evaluating each of the themes in terms of the three phases. Organizations readiness for success in the cloud is determined by their current business practices in each of these four themes. The four themes the framework uses to define the foundation of cloud readiness are:

  • Learn— assesses the quality and scale of the learning programs in place to upskill technical teams. By understanding their state of readiness, organizations can determine if the current knowledge and skills can support a move to the cloud or whether they need to augment their IT staff with experienced partners to bridge experience and knowledge gaps.
  • Lead— assesses the extent to which IT teams are supported by a mandate from leadership to migrate to cloud, and the degree to which the teams themselves are cross-functional, collaborative, and self-motivated. 
  • Scale— assesses the extent to which the organization already uses cloud-native services that reduce operational over-head and automate manual processes and policies.
  • Secure— assesses the ability of organizations to protect their services from unauthorized and inappropriate access with a multilayered, identity-centric security model. It also depends on the advanced maturity of the above three themes and the security controls and strategies the organizations have in place. 

For each of the above four themes, the assessed business practices will fall into one of the following three phases:

  • Tactical— during this phase, individual workloads are in place, but the organization has no coherent plan encompassing all of them with a strategy for building out into the future. The organization’s primary focus is reducing the cost of discrete systems to get quick return on investment and on getting to the cloud with minimal disruption with no provision for scale.
  • Strategic— during this phase, the organization has broader vision and strategy that govern individual workloads. The organization focuses mainly on future needs and scale and has an effective and efficient processes and IT team.
  • Transformational— in this phase the organization has well-run cloud operations functioning smoothly and the whole organization is being transformed. The organization focuses on integrating the data and insights learned from working in the cloud to support the technological changes in the cloud. Predictive and prescriptive analytics are used utilizing Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). In this phase, IT is no longer a cost center, but has instead become a partner to the business. 

To support organizations’ data ecosystems and enable data-driven transformation, Google also provides several data cloud products with built in AI such as BigQuery, Cloud Spanner, Looker, and Vertex AI for ML. Google Cloud is open and standards-based. It offers best-in-class integration with open source standards and APIs and supports multi-cloud and hybrid environments. 

You can use Google Cloud’s Adoption Framework yourself to make an assessment of your organization’s readiness for the cloud. Google provides a free Cloud Maturity Assessment tool part of Google Cloud Adoption Framework to help you determine where you are on your cloud journey today, plan your progress, and mature your cloud capabilities. It does this by assessing your current business practices along the four themes – Learn, Lead, Scale and Secure – and providing recommendations on how to move from the tactical phase to the strategic and ultimately to the transformational phase of cloud maturity. If you’d like a partner on that journey, CNTXT is here for you to help you fully harness cloud’s capabilities and become cloud-first organization. 

Founded in 2022 and based in Saudi Arabia, CNTXT is a joint venture between Saudi Aramco and Norwegian software firm Cognite that delivers premium cloud and digital transformation products and services in the Middle East and North Africa. CNTXT’s digital offerings include Google Cloud and Cognite Data Fusion, enabling customers to achieve greater efficiency, sustainability, and profitability throughout their digital transformation journeys. 

Do you want to learn more about our services and solutions? Feel free to contact us at [email protected]

By Manal Al-Ghamdi, CNTXT