Download the authoritative guide: Cloud Computing 2019: Using the Cloud for Competitive Advantage
by Andi Mann
It is becoming a truism that every business is a technology business. This is borne out every day in the fortunes made and lost on the business technology battlefield – Uber vs. yellow cabs, Netflix vs. Blockbuster, Amazon vs. almost every retailer, bitcoin and fintech vs. banks and insurance giants. To survive and thrive in the Internet age, you need to transform your business into a digital business.
In digital transformation, cloud computing is table stakes. It creates the foundation for innovation, experimentation, and iteration by delivering the agility, flexibility, and scalability that lets both IT and business try new things, quickly, easily, and cheaply. It is the core of success for ‘digital native’ companies like Google, Facebook, Yelp, and more. Digital transformation starts with cloud.
But the cloud is no longer enough. In fact, the cloud is already, inexorably, becoming the new legacy. After all, it is already more than 10 years old – older than Windows 7, the first iPhone, and the Nintendo Wii. All of which are now way past their use-by dates. Meanwhile a collection of new technologies, new processes, new architectures, and even new ways of working are emerging. I've noted numerous examples below.
Breaking down monoliths
· Microservices – with many similarities to old-school Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), microservice architecture (MSA) breaks large monolithic applications into small, discrete, functions which are combined and shared among internal and even external applications. This allows faster development with more reuse and less rework, enabling rapid iteration and vast scalability.
· Containers – containerization is the newest success to come out of the virtualization landscape, but with a smaller kernel and more shared components than virtual machines, containers enable faster deployment, forming the basis for rapid, iterative delivery of sharable and resilient microservices at scale.
· Serverless computing – despite the name, serverless computing does not mean the end of servers per se, but rather is an emerging technology approach that provides on-demand access to reusable ‘black box’ functions as dynamic, reusable, scalable services – whether your own or from a third-party, such as a SaaS or ‘FaaS’ (Function as a Service) provider.
Opening up ecosystems
· APIs – while not new, API-based development has found a resurgence with cloud, MSAs, and serverless computing. APIs allow a ‘write once/use many’ approach to application code, enabling developers to build new capabilities by reusing existing functions or integrating third-party services to, in turn, drive faster application delivery and hyper focus on core competencies.
· Composable applications – ‘composing’ applications from multiple pre-built components (including microservices, containers, serverless functions, and API connected services) allows developers (and even business teams) to build new capabilities and applications simply by reusing existing code, or by extending existing applications.
Running smarter and faster
· Automation Tooling – automation is not just about replacing people and lowering costs; it is also, if not primarily, about handling repetitive processes at massive scale and speed with fewer errors, tighter security, and better auditability. With humans only able to do so much, and work so fast, automation is increasingly the only way to handle the speed and complexity of new architectures like cloud, MSAs, containers, and serverless computing.
· Data Analytics – the pace, scale, and complexity of new IT architectures create enormous volume of data from many different systems, applications, and users. By collecting, analyzing and visualizing this data organizations can better triage problems, secure systems, understand customers, and close feedback loops with real-time, data-driven decisions on everything from container status or application performance to customer experience and business impacts.
Modernizing delivery practices
· Agile Development and CI/CD – continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) are new ways of using agile development and automation tooling to enable dev teams to build new application capabilities in small, frequent, releases. This drives rapid iteration and innovation, with some CI/CD shops releasing literally thousands of new capabilities to customers an users every day.
· DevOps – this new approach to collaboration, communication, and integration between Dev and Ops (and PMO, QA, Security, etc.) ensures everyone responsible for building and running applications are working together, aligned with business goals. This is the foundation for success at ‘cloud native’ organizations like Netflix and Google, and is now creating measurable competitive advantage even for large traditional enterprises and government agencies.
If you are only adopting cloud, and failing to adopt a collection of these new approaches, then you are falling behind your digital competition: while you rewrite common application functions, they reuse existing ones; while you struggle to do it all yourself, they leverage vibrant third-party ecosystems; while you fight to retain talent, they have top-notch people knocking down their doors; while you take hours to triage and fix problems, they are back up and running in seconds; while you drown in technical debt, they focus on new innovation; while you take 6 months for a release, they take 6 minutes; while you guess and hope, they make fact-based decisions and know their impact.
Of course, cloud computing is also evolving, and cloud providers are keeping pace with, and even driving, many of these new innovations. For example:
· Amazon Web Services (AWS): AWS Lambda, Amazon EC2 Container Service, Amazon API Gateway, AWS Cloudtrail, and Amazon CloudWatch
· Google Cloud Platform: Kubernetes, Google App Engine, Google Container Engine, and Google Cloud Functions
· Microsoft Azure: Azure Spark, Azure API Management, Azure Service Fabric, and Azure Application Gateway
These capabilities are keeping the cloud providers at the leading edge of these critical new technologies and processes; while deep partnerships and tight integrations with third-party providers helps them offer other critical services in areas like containers, automation, and analytics.
However, it is not enough to be using a cloud that provides these capabilities. You need to actively keep pace with them too. The new technologies, processes, and benefits of 'New IT' are not waiting for you, and nor are your digital competitors. If you are still relying on a vanilla cloud adoption to spur your digital transformation, it is time to step up to New IT architectures.
Don’t let your cloud become the legacy system that sinks your business.
Andi Mann is Chief Technology Advocate at Splunk.