Unlimited connections in a hybrid multicloud

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Schuberg Philis
Dec 10, 2020, 8:45:00 AM · 8 min lezen
07 AR20 Unlimited Connections In A Hybrid Multicloud

Before, during and after the coronavirus pandemic, cloud‐ based IT services have clearly proven their worth. For many organizations, ramping up the cloud transformation is high on their list of priorities as they aim to service their employees, the business and customers as effectively and as sustainably as they can. Schuberg Philis is perfectly positioned to help customers achieve optimal utilization, flexibility, and operational security for their hybrid multicloud.

That is what we learned from a recent lunch meeting with IT executives from Schiphol Group, CCV Group and Achmea Investment Management, moderated by TEDx Amsterdam founder Jim Stolze. As the economy and society were about to open up again, they got together to talk about their experiences during the Covid‐19 crisis. They also discussed the current and future challenges facing the worlds of IT and business, in which the cloud will play a crucial part in several ways.

Knowing who your friends are

Covid had a tremendous impact on 2020. From one day to the next, thousands of people were forced to work from home. Numerous sectors and companies saw their business come to a standstill, without warning. As employees started working remotely, organizations turned to IT and other modern technological solutions, hoping to open up new revenue streams. The crisis lasted a week, a month, a year—and it still hasn’t ended completely.

At no time in recent history have people faced such an extreme challenge in their professional and private lives. And never before was the value of technology shown as clearly as now. It may sound ironic, but at many companies both the business process and person‐to‐ person collaboration continued remarkably well, even in times of Covid.

“It was a resounding success,” says Michiel Bijleveld, CIO at CCV Group. “The shift to working remotely in a seamless way took place almost overnight, at a scale we hadn’t experienced before. I was impressed by the tremendous effort and flexibility we saw from our people, both IT and non‐IT. For example, they would come to an empty office building on the weekend to pick up test equipment, and then use that to reinvent their garage as a temporary workplace.”

At the same time, in this time of crisis, it became clear who you can really rely on. Not only in terms of employees, but also customers and suppliers. “It’s in a situation like this that you really get to know your friends.” And, unfortunately, some partners didn’t manage to survive the pandemic.

Successful adaptations

As it happens, CCV Group, Achmea Investment Management and Schiphol Group were all ready for the pandemic— culturally, organizationally, and technologically. In many cases the companies had already, albeit at a limited scale, organized their work processes to be free of time and place restrictions.

“In the winter of 2017/2018, a period of heavy snowfall already forced us to work remotely,” says Robil Gergin, COO at Achmea Investment Management”. It didn’t work perfectly at first, due to bandwidth limitations, but these problems were soon fixed. So in early 2020, having large numbers of people work from home was not a challenge anymore. “We were also quickly able to actively approach both customers and prospects through video connections, which actually landed us considerable commercial success early in the corona crisis.” Even so, the successful remote launch and execution of large‐scale strategic programs had never been done before.

Tailor‐made solutions for employees

Another important aspect for our customers who attended the lunch was delivering tailor‐made solutions that focused on the individual. Whether they worked internally or externally, employees were mostly given precisely the support they needed. In some cases—for example, for singles or people who had small children at home—it was possible to continue to work at the office for some of the time. When the realization set in that the crisis would last more than a few weeks, it was decided, in some cases, to accelerate the replacement of the digital workspace.

At Schiphol Group they were very pleased to see how flexibly people handled these changes. For example, the relative downtime at the airport was used to accelerate physical renovations that would normally have to take place during off‐peak hours. In a similar way, airport employees were also open to adopting new changes in their IT toolkit.

According to Lennert l’Amie, CISO and Manager CIO Office at Schiphol Group, this cooperative spirit is related to the open and honest communication practiced at the board level. “That transparency was really important to getting people personally involved, even if the message was sometimes painful. Everyone knew exactly what their situation was. Now that holiday travel is starting up again, and the number of visitors will increase, our collective attitude as a company is: we’re simply going to make it work.”

Connected again

The age of Covid has in fact forged new connections between companies, customers, partners, and colleagues. The speed at which this happened is certainly in part due to the proactive approach with which CIOs, COOs, CTOs and other leaders had already taken steps, before the pandemic broke out, in the fields of security, cloud, workplaces, data, and connectivity. More and more, the business and the board are seeing IT as something that generates value, rather than as a cost item. “Our CEO has already stated that we, as Schiphol Group, are becoming more and more a tech company propelled by data and AI,” says Lennert l’Amie.

But the road towards an ideal IT landscape is not without its pitfalls. Especially for organizations that have to deal with government regulations, embracing the public cloud is a complex operation—just consider the impact of wishes and requirements for data protection and availability along the entire value chain. There is also always some tension between the letter and the spirit of the law. “Just as in the United States, a rule‐ based interpretation is gaining ground in Europe whereas traditionally a principle‐based approach was more common” notes Robil Gergin. Companies sometimes try to use the courts to achieve their desired situation.

Integration and exit

Having flexible, scalable and cost‐efficient IT is crucially important if companies want to safeguard sustainable and profitable services for employees, the business, and customers. This requires them to make targeted agreements with suppliers about adaptability, security, performance, and integration. Attention also needs to be paid to exit agreements, so that the IT services will continue to run even if the company switches to a new partner. “In order to achieve this, a partner has to understand the context and join us on our journey,” says Michiel Bijleveld. “I just can’t get used to the idea that with many suppliers, you’re a customer for one year and then a patient in the years that follow.”

Another challenge is handling the integration into the legacy technology, which are often considered to be entry costs. Is there really a business case? And if so, is it even possible to achieve a fully interoperable hybrid multicloud? Or will it always remain impossible to integrate certain parts of the infrastructure, for commercial or technical reasons? Could that in fact be a reason to prefer using a single provider? Or is it better to go “best of breed”? The guests at our lunch discussion all agree that these are matters that need to be considered very carefully.

Realizing freedom of choice

Everyone around the table knows the sometimes difficult discussions with the powerful American based cloud providers—which, as an organization or as an IT leader, you often simply cannot avoid. Also, they often find themselves locked into previously made choices. Despite the promises of “lift & shift,” in practice it’s often quite complicated to port an IT environment from one cloud to another. We will have to wait and see whether European regulations can help to resolve the lock‐in problem. But as things stand now, expectations are not high.

“A trusted partner like Schuberg Philis can play a part in the transferability between clouds,” says Robil Gergin. “For us as a data‐intensive company, flexibility and cost efficiency are of strategic importance. Schuberg Philis delivers us added value in access to a mix of cloud solutions allowing us freedom of choice.” According to Lennert l’Amie, lifecycle management is also part of this process: looking into the future and, at the same time, also assessing what to do with the current IT solutions.

The question behind the IT question

This aligns perfectly with the development Schuberg Philis is going through. In addition to the IT question, we are focusing more and more on the question behind the IT question. The goal is to realize an IT environment that is flexible and scalable, so as to optimally support customers’ primary business. We work closely together to find the best solutions, taking into account the costs for entry, operation, and exit. Not only to disburden customers and let them sleep at night, but also to let them wake up with a song in their heads.

And let’s say that everything comes together... That there are no more technical or legal limitations in the cloud. In that scenario, which steps would Schiphol Group, CCV Group and Achmea Investment Management hope to make?

In a practical sense, all three organizations are gradually shifting to the public cloud. At Achmea Investment Management, for example, they want to move towards cloud‐ based data storage in which all information that is now distributed over several locations is brought together in one place. “We’re doing this together with Schuberg Philis,” says Robil Gergin.

Scalable and moveable

In his ideal IT world everything is flexibly scalable and transferable. “Then you can switch the parts of your IT environment on or off as desired. In the end, that may even let us create completely different products. In that case, IT would no longer partially be a cost item, but we would sell technologically driven solutions to customers. In fact, we’re already doing that on a limited scale. For example, Schuberg Philis’s own services are now part of one of our products on the market.”

Michiel Bijleveld says that it’s the total cloud transformation that matters. We have to move towards sustainable utilization and as little vendor lock‐in as possible. Schuberg Philis proves its value by having an actionable plan B or plan C, for every cloud supplier. If you can help us follow an alternative path if required, then you really have a meaningful position in the market.”

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