Avanade CEO: Global Financial Institutions Can At Last Be Compliant In The Cloud

Major investments from Microsoft have made it possible to support global financial institutions in migrating core or legacy applications to the cloud, Avanade CEO Adam Warby says.

The Seattle-based company, No. 24 on the CRN Solution Provider 500, said stringent rules around asset ownership and coverage coming out of the 2008 global financial crisis have forced financial services firms to be cautious about moving to the cloud.

But that's all changing, Warby told CRN, thanks to initiatives undertaken by Microsoft to serve highly regulated industries in the cloud. Avanade was founded in 2000 as a joint venture between Microsoft and Accenture, and is a 12-time winner of Microsoft's Partner of the Year award.

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"Wherever the barriers have been – from regulations to certain commercial or financial terms – they [Microsoft] are making progress and coming to terms with major clients," Warby said.

Warby called the breaking of regulatory barriers a "huge milestone" for Avanade since financial services is the second-largest industry globally for the $2 billion company.

"Those [financial] institutions are making some substantial decisions around moving to the cloud," Warby said. "It will unlock a lot of further opportunity for us."

Although healthcare firms face a different set of regulations, Warby said that industry also presents a good cloud opportunity for Avanade since it's quite fragmented today. Cloud initiatives in healthcare can enable staff to collaborate better and share information more effectively, improving both the level of patient care and overall patient experience, said Mick Slattery, Avanade's North American president.

The advancements in highly regulated industries have allowed Avanade to initiate conversations around both migrating core and legacy applications to the cloud, as well as how to most effectively synthesize data going to the cloud with data that remains on premise, Warby said.

"Microsoft is one of the only providers out there with a strong hybrid story," Warby said.

Sovereignty and data residency issues around the world mean that many firms still need to store data locally, Warby said, while enabling linkages to data that's far-flung. Getting clients comfortable with how data is being managed in a cloud or hybrid setting is the next big challenge facing the channel, Warby said.

"If you go back a few years, people would have said 'the cloud is not secure,'" Warby said. "I think the education has increased and the experience has increased, so security in its own right is probably less at the top of the agenda."

The big bulk of cloud activity started around Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 or Office 365, Warby said, enabling end users to improve the employee experience or customer experience. This was an obvious place to start, Warby said, and 50 percent to 60 percent of Avanade's cloud work today is still related to SaaS.

Running rapidly behind that are Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) engagements focused on lifting and shifting workloads to the cloud, Warby said, and then modernizing them. Roughly 30 percent of Avanade's cloud projects today are focused on IaaS, Warby said.

The final cloud piece takes more of a transformation-led view, Warby said, and is focused around taking a very deliberate path to get to a real business outcome. Some 15 percent to 20 percent of Avanade's clients have done enough experimentation in the cloud and build the SaaS and individual workload experience necessary to embark on cloud transformation projects, according to Warby.

"They [the clients] are saying, 'We really need to push through here and start to reinvent the way this business is run,'" Warby said.