For a number of years, you’ve heard about “The Cloud.” We speak of the cloud as though it is a single, distinct thing. The reality is very different.
Perhaps the best way to understand the nature of the cloud as a non-IT professional is to think of it as a data center that has been outsourced, and which allows you, the customer, to quickly add more services to your account and, if your applications support it, to quickly scale capacity up and down to match demand on your systems.
Is this a powerful paradigm in data operations? Unquestionably, it is. As a large enterprise, you could have resources provisioned and deployed in minutes that would easily require weeks or months to get in place in a data center operated by your firm. As a startup or small business, the cloud affords you the opportunity to purchase capabilities on a fractional basis that formerly would have required major capital investment, allowing the deployment of more advanced solutions than would have been possible at smaller scale prior to this cloud era.
So, the cloud is one big win, then, right? As is often the case, the facts are more nuanced.
Building Applications and Resumes
There’s something that doesn’t get talked about a lot in the enterprise, but can be a very costly phenomenon. IT specialists sometimes select or specify particular technologies and/or platforms simply to get them on their resumes, or to help win speaking slots at the right conferences.
I have seen a middle-manager in a very large enterprise drive a significant investment in a particular technology platform for this reason. This led to acquisition costs, implementation costs, long-term operations costs, and application development that progressed more slowly than it might have because engineers were learning a complex new environment that wasn’t truly necessary for the project. (Bonus points for you if you guessed that the manager in question had departed for a new job before this costly new platform was ever serving actual users.)
The implication here is that as a business leader, you need trustworthy IT resources guiding decisions about the technology your firm builds on. Deciding to build on the cloud doesn’t change this fact. In fact, it’s becomes even more critical.
The relative ease of adding more pieces to a cloud-based solution can be a positive, but not without knowledgable, disciplined oversight of the components incorporated into your solutions. For an engineer who is prone to building a Rube Goldberg machine – just because they can – the cloud has all the makings of a wonderful playground. (Amazon’s AWS platform, for example, has about 150 distinct products available, all just clicks away! And that number of offerings continues to grow at a dizzying pace.)
Nobody wins long-term when such an approach leads the way in architecting solutions. The end result is inevitably late, over budget, operationally fragile, and extremely hard to extend and maintain.
Plot Your Course
Should you be using the cloud for your business? There are more questions to answer on the way to making that determination, but you certainly should be looking at it. There are implications for security, operations, and applications development, and understanding how your existing IT staff, applications and operational requirements align with operating in the cloud environment is a necessity.
If you are facing decisions about your use of cloud offerings, and could use an experienced guide to help you develop strategies appropriate for your needs, please reach out. I would love the chance to discuss your particular situation with you.