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Five revealing differences in cloud adoption around the world

Lee Atchison Profile picture for user Lee Atchison January 8, 2018
Where you live in the world changes how you feel about cloud adoption. New Relic's Lee Atchison reveals five differences he encountered on three continents

Business man sitting on cloud looking at planet earth © ra2 studio
I recently went on a global tour covering eleven cities, seven countries, and three continents. During this roadshow I had the opportunity to meet in a variety of public and private forums with a broad array of companies. The common theme among all the individuals I spoke with was a desire to use the cloud within their organization, and how they could measure the effectiveness of their cloud operations.

During this time, I observed five trends in cloud usage and adoption that were impacted by an organization’s geography.

#1 Cloud matters everywhere, but not universally

Interest in ways organizations can leverage the cloud is a seemingly universal truth across industries and the world. We do know that company culture plays a great role in how the cloud is adopted within a given technology organization. For instance, a smaller, nimble startup or mid-size company is more willing to listen to the cloud adoption argument and be early adopters of newer technologies and techniques. Larger companies are more risk averse so typically are slower to adopt and are more conservative on the types of technologies they take advantage of.

The same divergence occurs geographically. I observed that companies based in Australia and New Zealand tend to be faster adopters of cloud technologies. They hunger for information about what they can do to leverage the cloud to make their businesses better. These aren’t ‘early adopters’, but rather ‘eager adopters’. They proactively look at early technology and want to learn how it might impact and help grow their business.

In Germany, however, it is the exact opposite. They are safety conscious and want to fully understand the impact of a technology before moving forward. When confronted with a piece of technology, their response is frequently, “How is this better than what I already have and what problems might it cause?”.

#2 How you fix stuff impacts how you adopt cloud

I noticed a significant difference in how different parts of the world approach fixing and resolving problems across their technology architecture.

Historically in Europe and North America, most products that were needed by an industrialized nation were produced locally or at least available along very strong trade routes. As such, it was easy to get equipment and when equipment broke down, it was easy to get spare parts for that equipment. This created a “replacement mentality” where broken items were easily repaired and replaced and never thought of again. Things broke, but the problems that created were easily overcome, and the solutions to problems were permanent solutions.

In New Zealand, this was not the case. New Zealand was very isolated and had extremely long and thin trade routes. It would historically take six months for products to ship to New Zealand, so replacement parts were hard to come by. As such, companies and individuals had to become quite ingenious in figuring out how to fix broken equipment on their own with only the things they had on hand. Quick and temporary fixes were common, and equipment was held together just well enough to complete their job.

They even have an expression representing this tendency, ‘Number 8 wire’. The term comes from the size of wire that was commonly available in remote areas of New Zealand and commonly used to rig temporary fixes to machinery. The phrase ‘number 8 wire mentality’ is still used today to describe the Kiwi mentality of using whatever scrap materials are on hand to solve a problem.

This difference in approach even impacts the current mindsets of companies in these countries. In Europe, there is a tendency to fix things using solid, well defined processes and procedures using well tested and ‘approved’ methods, including for software and how companies consider leveraging the cloud. In New Zealand and Australia, there is a tendency to fix things using whatever is on hand and only fix them to the level that is absolutely required to solve the immediate problem. This difference impacts how cloud vendors should talk to customers in these different locales.

#3 Which cloud is most important?

In the United States, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is clearly the favored cloud provider by all measures, but questions on Microsoft Azure have been starting to pick up some steam, especially around containerization.

In Australia and New Zealand, it seems that AWS is much more ingrained, and Microsoft Azure has not yet made significant headway into the mindset of the market. However, in Europe and Great Britain, while AWS is still very popular, Microsoft Azure is a part of almost every conversation I have with companies.

In all regions, there are a few companies in select industries that have an ‘allergy to AWS’. This includes many retail or e-commerce companies who consider Amazon a competitor. This allergy in these industries is strongest in the US and in Europe, and seemingly less pervasive in Australia and New Zealand.

#4 Important technologies differ

In each geography, there are different cloud technologies that have a different level of importance. Here are some examples:

  • Private Cloud. I didn’t hear the term private cloud hardly anywhere, except in Germany. In Germany, there is a strong focus on private cloud, due to government, business, and consumer security and privacy concerns that still exist with the public cloud.
  • Containers and Kubernetes. These were common topics in Great Britain and throughout continental Europe. In Great Britain and parts of Europe it’s seen as a way to leverage Microsoft and Linux technologies together easier, and also make use of both AWS and Microsoft Azure services easier. In other parts of Europe, it’s a key to leveraging the private cloud (see above).
  • Security. This was mostly considered a known and solvable issue in most places I visited. In Germany, however, it was considered the number one issue inhibiting public cloud adoption.
  • DevOps/Continuous Integration-Continuous Delivery/Process Improvements. People were eager to discuss these topics in Australia/New Zealand, Great Britain, and The Netherlands. In Germany these topics were less pervasive – not surprisingly given their approach to cloud adoption.

#5 Data sovereignty is universal

There was one aspect of cloud computing that was universally important––data sovereignty is critical. There is simultaneously a strong need to:

  • Keep data locally for performance reasons. For actively accessed data, latency is a major concern, especially in the Asia Pacific region. Having data locally improves the customer experience significantly.
  • Have control over their data locally. Keeping all data locally (not just data that needs to be accessed quickly) is also of concern. This can be for company policies/needs/desires, but in nearly all cases there are also new and pending laws that are impacting this need.
  • Keep data out of the US. Separate from keeping it locally, keeping it out of the United States is becoming increasingly important. This is independent of the two needs above. There is growing concern of international organizations of the safety of their data being stored in the United States. This is a concern also for backup and disaster recovery scenarios as well.

These points were universal in all discussions in all countries outside of the United States.

My take

As I reflect on this past year while the cloud is now global, cultural differences will always be reflected in even small ways. Representing a vendor it’s always important to bear in mind that technology and processes will be seen differently depending on the vantage you're looking at it.

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