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Various expert talk about Cloud Technologies

Cloud Technologies – The Experts Speak

A review of the various expert opinions regarding the Cloud

The focus of Cloud Technologies – The Experts Speak is a review of the various expert opinions regarding the Cloud. You will be able to read the experts’ views and make up your own mind about them.

For your assessment of cloud technologies and options, we turned to leading personalities and companies. We will therefore be presenting the expert counsels of Gartner, Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Flatworld, Michalis Moraitis, Founding Board member of Euro Digital Organization, and Shipping IT domain expert, Nikos Rassias.

Definitely, it would be a privilege to read your comments and engage in discussions about the concerns the experts raise. And most especially in the context of the Maritime industry.

Software innovations from Silicon Valley

Can we rely on Software innovations from “Silicon Valley” for all our innovative progress in Shipping IT?

Undeniably most software innovations from Silicon Valley have enormous impact on the world as a whole. And every year the media hails these Silicon Valley innovations. Is it the case that these innovations plug and play in all industries?

The question is valid because most Silicon Valley innovations solve major problems for some industries and situations only. There is actually little chance for these innovations to work in all industries and all situations. And this newsletter attempts to prove why this can’t be. First of all, it’s fair to say that not all Silicon Valley innovations are equal. For example, innovations like image recognition have been useful to all industries. And some, like portals, have proved unimportant.

However, the marketing for Silicon Valley innovations is so resounding that it overshadows innovations that do address Shipping IT needs.

For technology to offer solutions rather than be an imposition

For technology to offer solutions rather than be an imposition implies deep understanding of industry domains. Shipping is a hardware business carrying physical goods. Therefore, software for the Shipping domain requires significantly different software development architecture than financial establishments do. We therefore must understand if part of Shipping IT can benefit from cloud services and realize which parts cannot.

Given the characteristics of the maritime transportation enterprise, one thing is certain. Ship management requires a software design paradigm that is not highly dependent on expensive consultants and their services. Because the design paradigm needs to be flexible, configurable, updateable and be able to last for years.

Also, due to the dispersed location of business units and constantly traveling staff, maritime users will be offline more than staff in other industries. This also requires sophisticated technology, as transactions that are interrupted and left half complete need to be managed well.

Furthermore, the quest, which Silicon Valley and the Space Industry pursue, to be always online may be doable today. In many use cases. But we are still far from eliminating offline work in all use cases.

(NOTE: Owing to the prominence of the satellite-related activities, some sources use the term satellite industry interchangeably with the term space industry)

We cannot simply adopt innovations, we have to adapt them

Experience shows that we cannot simply adopt innovations, we have to adapt them. In effect, people and enterprises dictating solutions at the highest level in the “food chain” always oversimplify the problems. The “Silicon Valley” giants are no exception. As a result, it is their prospective clients who must take on the burden of solving real world problems. Usually at great out-of-pocket cost.

There are several examples of innovations one could choose from in order to analyse the problems and the difficulties involved in adapting them. In Cloud Technologies – The Experts Speak we will be discussing cloud technologies. The opportunities they bring to Shipping IT and the dangers.

The Cloud

We start by fully supporting that the Cloud is an essential innovation for many industries. Especially those with highly variable needs for processing and storage infrastructure, for example eBay and Amazon store.

Cloud is also a familiar feature of Business to Customer IT Services. For instance, as laypeople we are frequent users of cloud services.

Cloud adoption in the maritime enterprise

However, cloud adoption in the maritime enterprise, where software must execute intricate processes, is a different game altogether. Quite plainly, our trusted handhelds do not execute intricate enterprise processes. We simply use them to access transaction applications hosted by other companies like banks who have enormous budgets at their disposal to develop cloud services.

Also, Cloud applications adopted by government portals and financial institutions have millions of users imposed upon to use them. Setting aside, however, the element of imposition, let’s consider the ratio of processes per user. Because the ratio of processes per user will help us put scalability and flexibility of cloud technologies into perspective.

  • In the case of government portals, banks, airlines and the like, how many processes are involved in the transactions users perform?
  • And how many users perform these transactions?

The answers are that the processes are few in number and the users in the millions. Migration to cloud technologies for these bodies therefore makes sense and the cost is probably scalable.

This is not the case in a ship management company:

  • In a ship management enterprise the processes are in the hundreds per department. And the staff onboard ships and in the office at any one point might not be more than two thousand.
  • Performing poorly designed transactions on the cloud will cost a shipping company thousands of dollars in staff time and preoccupation per year.

Therefore, the level of scalability and flexibility of cloud technologies for the maritime enterprise is significantly lower, and the ratio of cost in process/per user significantly higher.

What the experts are saying

Let’s take a closer look at what the experts are saying regarding the challenges facing cloud technology customers. And let’s begin with Gartner.

Gartner

Gartner, Inc., the leading technological research and technology consulting firm, requires no introduction. The schematics shown here were presented by Anastasios Moustakis at the Cloud Computing Conference, March 30, 2023, organized by OTE Academy

We observe that in a Single cloud solution flexibility and complexity are balanced. Practically, this means that when a company adopts a single cloud solution, the same amount of complexity and flexibility will be added to the organization. The Dual Cloud + X solution offers greater flexibility than the complexity it incurs. But the cost is significantly greater.

These factors are important to consider… The cloud is not a “silver bullet” that swiftly arrives on target.

What are the implications for Shipping Industry IT?

Whatever the cloud solution of choice, the amount of shipping processes and process variation will make migration to cloud solutions more complex. So, in relation to other industries, maritime enterprises can expect a disturbance of the balance between complexity and flexibility. And a cost ratio that is far greater in relation to the size of the company.

Gartner: Hype Cycle for Cloud Computing, 2022

The schematic shows cloud technologies implementation in terms of time and the expectations they provoke.

In the second column we observe a legion of cloud technologies that appear as peaking in inflated expectations! And it may come as a bigger shock that Gartner shows Cloud and Multicloud solutions belonging to the Trough of Disillusionment (third column)! In the Slope of Enlightenment we notice cloud solutions that are realistically developing (fourth column). The last column, Plateau of Productivity, is truly educational. We observe that only Cloud Migration is on a curve of productivity.

Should we, then, infer that cloud solutions are still in a “grey” sphere of inflated expectation or disillusionment? Let’s see what other experts have to say.

Michalis Moraitis

Michalis Moraitis is a Founding & Board member of Euro Digital Organization in Brussels. He is also IT strategist & CIO, Actus Valida Partner, itSMF Hellas Board Member. Certainly, Michalis is a Cloud Technologies – Expert eminently qualified to speak.

His vast experience in digitization and passing from non-cloud technologies to cloud technologies starts by putting company milestones at the centre of any enterprise IT transformation plan. And his advice to enterprises is founded on sympathy and realism.

M. Moraitis’ mapping of the important considerations and major aspects of such a major undertaking are presented here in English, from the original Greek.

NOTE: The original document appeared in “The Strategic CIO: The exit strategy plan in Cloud computing”, (parts I, II, III), Michalis Moraitis, Netweek June 2023

To implement a cloud strategy

Available Resources – To implement a cloud strategy in your company you may need far more resources than expected.

Company milestones – Consider and analyze the existing company milestones. Such an analysis will attest if cloud is the appropriate solution for your company and its existing software applications.

Cloud Services Cost is a very important consideration – Consequently, a Cost Benefit Analysis will provide arguments for or against cloud solutions viability. Effectively, it could show that for your company the Cloud Services Cost is not viable. And notably it can protect you from discovering too late that you have far exceeded your budget.

Security – The company needs to determine in an exact manner the security level it wants to implement.

Workload characteristics affecting companies – An accurate assessment of staff effort and preoccupation in implementing a cloud solution must precede any decision to adopt cloud technologies. An accurate assessment must also take account of company milestones.

Integration of legacy systems with new cloud systems is not a one day transition – To define the integration process and for it to happen requires ample time and enormous design effort. The cost of integration may actually become a pressure not to integrate. But throwing out applications that work in order to replace them with untried solutions might be ruinous for your company

Scalability and Flexibility – Define your organization’s current size and factor in future organization development. The question you need to answer is: Will your first cloud integration be extendable as the organization grows?

Compliance – Compliance standards regarding data protection will be challenging, whatever the geographical jurisdictions of the cloud services you are buying

Service Level Agreement (SLA) – Before selecting the right SLA, we must know exactly what the flexibility of our systems will be.

When entering a cloud plan – It is not enough for a company to enter a cloud plan. In doing so, it is important to have the Backup plan and also the Exit Agreement in case the cloud proves unsuitable.

Data migration – How we are going to actualize the data migration. Has data ownership been clearly defined?

Multicloud solution – The Multicloud Solution is another available option for your company. But it may be very costly.

NOTE: The most common Multicloud strategy is for a company to combine services from different public cloud providers.

Incompatibilities after integration – Companies will expect all systems to work without any incompatibilities. But is it likely the company will be able to foresee all the configurations that will be needed? And is it a good idea to base integrations strategy on third parties. Especially considering that they will be integrating processes they don’t know about.

Michalis Moraitis concluding counsel on how a company must approach cloud technologies:

“All in all, you must keep in mind that, if you want to move to a cloud solution, you need a very long list of considerations that must be meticulously studied before taking the decision to migrate. Cloud is not for everything.

Our major takeaways from Michalis Moraitis expert counsel can be summed up in three bullets. If you are considering migrating to Cloud Technologies:

  • Take your budget very seriously. Don’t exclude the eventuality of returning to a non-cloud situation. Make sure you budget your migration plan, your back up and exit plan.   
  • When you draw up your Five-Year Cost Plan, allow for cloud services and bandwidth becoming significantly more costly

Consider your options in Cloud systems. Will you prefer On Premises Cloud Services? Or will you prefer Multicloud Services? Or a Hybrid Solution? The exercise of choosing the best solution for you will be exceedingly challenging. And you can’t exclude the likelihood of none of the available solutions satisfying your needs.

NOTE: The most widespread hybrid cloud strategy will combine on-premises or hosted resources, owned and controlled by a company, with public cloud resources from a third-party provider.

Fraunhofer

Fraunhofer – Gesellschaft is the world’s leading applied research organization. By prioritizing key technologies for the future and commercializing its findings in business and industry, it plays a major role in the innovation process and currently operates 76 institutes and research units. So, leaving out the leading applied research authority from Cloud Technologies – The Experts Speak would be an omission.

Cloud use cases and data exchange

Fraunhofer has interesting things to say about Cloud use cases and data exchange:

The use of cloud technologies is validated only when the specific use cases are considered fully and not just simply following a general cloud policy

The combination of different software components, meaning applications from different providers to a uniform process requires a smooth data exchange.

"Business Objects for Logistics"

“In order to ensure and optimize the compatibility of the modules with each other, the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics IML in cooperation with the Fraunhofer Institute for Software and Systems Engineering ISST is developing the communication standard “Business Objects for Logistics”. The aim is to define the first independent data standard for logistics processes that will enable logistics IT applications from different providers to interact directly by standardizing interface data. This, according to Fraunhofer, greatly simplifies a) the creation of entire software module process chains and b) the integration of new applications.”

Cloud computing security analysis

The Fraunhofer paper for cloud computing security analysis concludes:

  1. The legal implications and problems when processing (personal) data in the cloud are not yet sufficiently addressed and solved
  2. Security of utmost importance for all service providers but businesses with extra sensitive data should consider using cloud services under specific conditions.
  3. In order to ensure smooth exchange you need a Business standard interface for all data.

FlatWorld

Flatworld Solutions (FWS) is a global corporation offering solutions in IT, Business Consulting and Outsourcing services.

Flatworld Solutions are unequivocal in their support of the cloud. They believe that Cloud technologies are extremely scalable. Also, that those implementing Cloud Services can expect reduced costs by streamlining jobs. Also, clients can expect better storage, automated tasks, more flexibility when testing and deploying applications.

Areas that require the attention of companies interested in cloud possibilities

However, Flatworld Solutions has indicated areas that require the attention of companies interested in cloud possibilities. The main cause is that cloud computing is still in nascent stages and in the process of being perfected. So, let’s consider some of the drawbacks that Flatworld Solutions has signaled. We feel Flatworld Solutions offer a very honest appraisal of the concerns potential cloud users must consider:

Data Sensitivity – All organizations, irrespective of their size run their cloud operations at the cost of data that they store in the cloud and the clients they share this data with. This data can only be shared if it has been migrated to the cloud in its entirety, and it is quite possible that some data might eventually leak out or get lost. Therefore, the process of cloud migration is a time-intensive task which requires careful planning and data evaluation, failing which you might find your precious data lost, and in some cases, irrecoverable.

Cloud Security – In today’s interconnected world, cloud security is not only essential, but downright necessary for your company to remain functional. Special care is needed when migrating data from your existing systems to the cloud, and all variables related to data security must be checked off.

Application Interoperability – One of the biggest challenges facing cloud computing and its overall acceptance are interoperability issues. This is because each individual vendor approaches cloud computing in their own way, therefore making it tough for individual applications to communicate with each other. In an ideal world of cloud computing, a single line of code should work across applications developed by different vendors, which, sadly, is not the case right now.
Therefore, if your business is thinking of cloud migration in the future, do look into interoperability and how your applications function together.

Time and Cost of Cloud Migration – When trying to implement an enterprise-wide cloud migration strategy, it is important to remember the time that the process will take, and the overall costs involved. It is useful to remember that bandwidth costs during this initial period of migration would rocket, and the time taken will also hamper your overall employee productivity in certain cases.

Nikos Rassias

Nikos Rassias is CTO of Ulysses Systems and was previously ICT Manager of Olympic Shipping and Management (Onassis Group). Including Nikos in “Cloud Technologies – The Experts Speak” was a must. Because if we are talking about cloud technologies for the Shipping Industry, we need heed a domain expert’s advice.

Cloud SAAS from a Shipping IT vantage point

Nikos here presents Cloud SAAS from a Shipping IT vantage point. Software-as-a-service, or SaaS for short, offers cloud-based software. And shipping companies have been eager to discover the advantages. How does it work? The answer is that users subscribe to an application rather than purchasing it and installing it. And they can log into and use a SaaS application from any compatible device over the Internet, while the application runs in cloud servers.

Speaking from experience, Nikos signals some of the drawbacks:

Upgradability vs Level of Configurability – Cloud Native SaaS applications have to be upgraded to all users at once and to all customers irrelevant to their operation status.

This means that during an audit taking place in different time zones the company might have to stop using the software!

While all customers will enjoy new features at the same time, customer specific configurations may be affected. This unfortunately will be the case if the application has not been designed with the proper abstractions and isolations. So, companies must expect cases where the cloud application vendor has not invested time to encompass the application configurations in the fullness.

Discontinued Features – Features that are discontinued by your cloud vendor and replaced with another will affect all customers who haven’t taken the appropriate steps to replace the discontinued feature with the replacement feature. With ERP software replacing discontinued features is a problem. And we must face the fact that the responsibility is passed to the customer, who by default must upgrade to the new version as all others customers.

Cloud Exit Strategy must be clear if companies are to avoid data loss – When a company decides to buy Cloud Services, the Exit Strategy must be a key considerations. Because there are cases where cloud vendors are unclear about the terms or how the Process of Exiting works.

Compare this to premises installations, where there is no data loss if an application is uninstalled. The application data is stored in database systems and the company can reuse it. Now consider the case where data is delivered through cloud services. Due to multi-tenancy, all customers share the same database storage layer. Unless the company has bought a specific license or special agreement, it will not have direct access to the database to recuperate its data. So, to guard against a crushing data loss, the company must expend itself to extract content and history. And without the certainty that it can be reused. Therefore, migration from a cloud native application to another one or to an on premises application might prove to be a horror story. Only that it won’t be a story but a real situation!

Closing words

We sincerely hope you found value in the experts’ views about the cloud. And that you enjoyed Cloud Technologies – The Experts Speak, our first newsletter in some years. It was first published on LinkedIn, and we encourage you to assist us by subscribing and sharing it. Our goal is to enter into discussion with our readers on a monthly basis. Our topics will be hot technology subjects in the context of the maritime industry’s painpoints.

Ulysses Systems is a Maritime software specialist. It’s award winning Task Assistant® Software enables office and seagoing personnel to work intuitively and efficiently with minimal training and just-in-time information. Managers should expect a fast return on total software lifecycle cost thanks to mature process optimization, bridging of information gaps and refined integration technologies. Currently Ulysses Systems is pioneering fast development of new annexes to existing software, including monitoring underlying systems for cybersecurity compliance.

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