Stop talking about cloud – and start talking about what cloud can enable

(c)iStock.com/Clint Spencer

Cloud computing is still a very trendy topic of discussion among technology leaders around the world. It’s easy to see why; cloud adoption rates are on the rise and are predicted to continue their upward trend, while cloud service providers (CSPs) continue to roll out new features, products, and services.

Times are good in the world of cloud computing – but I believe the conversation has begun to change and is about to change to a greater extent.

Cloud, as we all know, is a platform option and not an end onto itself. As technology professionals have always known, a platform is only as effective as what it can be used for. In recent conversations with customers and colleagues, I have attempted to steer the conversation – trying to be a good enterprise architect – more towards what an enterprise can use cloud for, as opposed to the “I need to be running on cloud because the CIO wants it” discussion.

There are any number of excellent examples of enabled technologies and processes that cloud can and should be the basis for, and this is where the conversation and the focus needs to gradually move to.

DevOps

DevOps is more than just a shift in how operations, development and the business stakeholders technically work together to develop new services. It is a cultural shift within an enterprise, which changes how business and technology relates to each other.

This cultural shift causes technology organisations to move at a different pace than previously – a pace which can keep up with the business demands of time to market, as well as product and services lifecycles.

At the heart of this new pace is cloud’s ability to rapidly provision and change development and test environments. Cloud’s ability to create and change hybrid environments also allows for additional flexibility and more effective costing for development, test, deployment, update, and retirement of services.

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) and the technologies that support it are rapidly growing in use and importance in the technology and business world.

The diversity of industries looking at IoT is on the rise. Even financial services firms are looking at IoT as a possible competitive edge in the marketplace. The simplest way to describe IoT conceptually is the transmission, collection, aggregation, analysis and reaction to, large number of small size sensor or device data.

This requires considerable and ever changing compute resources to handle this data as various stages of the process. The flexibility of cloud and the ability of a hybrid cloud to easily put resources ‘close to the action’ make it an excellent choice for an IoT platform.

Geographic distribution of services

Many times, customers have asked how they can cost effectively distribute services across a geographically diverse enterprise. These enterprises are no longer willing, and in many cases able, to put together a business case for standing up replicated server installations at multiple points on the globe.

Enter the hybrid cloud. In a multi-region hybrid cloud environment, the regions that live in the public cloud space can be geographically located close to business centres to enable users to utilise services from the region closest to them. This provides a geographic distribution of services at a much lower cost, and also enables the rapid deployment of a new site, change in resources in a region, or retirement of a site as user and business patterns change.

High availability (HA) and disaster recovery (DR)

Similar to geographic distribution, enterprises are tired of having to stand up a secondary set of hardware to be used only sparingly until a HA or DR event occurs. Today’s business environment simply won’t tolerate it.

Recent introductions, or upgrades, by many CSPs and cloud platform vendors have been focused on solving this problem, in the cloud. For example, Microsoft’s Automated System Recovery (ASR) product has gone through a major update with the focus being the provisioning of a passive DR environment in the Azure Cloud. The on-prem or in-cloud environment is replicated in a separate Azure cloud space. The virtual machines are then inactivated except for two, which remain up to monitor the primary site and maintain storage integrity. When an event is recognised by the monitoring VMs, the secondary site is activated and services restarted in the cloud.

Conclusion

These are just a very few cloud enabled technologies; many more exist and more than that have yet to be discovered. We as technology leaders need to shift the conversation within the enterprises we support back to what the future state looks like based on business need, and utilise cloud as a platform option to attain that future state.

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