Cloud Native – Buzzword or better business?

 

You’ve probably heard the sales speech for moving to the cloud so many times, that the message of cost savings, agility, efficiency, and security sounds like a broken record. If the cloud simply gives you these benefits, why is it then necessary to repeat the message over and over again?

A shift from local datacenters to the cloud can be an important part of meeting the contemporary digital demands. But as research shows, a migration is not at all a guarantee that you are able to benefit from all the possibilities, you normally link to a digital transformation.

According to McKinsey, only 14% of the companies moving to the cloud see a withstanding performance improvement. And according to Accenture, only 37% of companies making the move, fully achieves their expected cloud benefits.

Thus, many companies have abandoned a naïve view on the cloud as the end goal for their digital journey. Instead, focus is more on the broader strategic approach to building, developing and running one’s IT.

The strategic approach suited to benefit from the possibilities of the cloud is called Cloud Native.

Born in the cloud

Cloud Native as a concept is often coupled with companies like Airbnb, Uber and Spotify. They all have in common that they are born in the cloud: they never owned a datacenter, and instead of having to go through thorough digital transformations that have from day one built their infrastructure around the cloud and its possibilities for collecting data and automate great parts of their business processes.

These companies’ success has inspired many others to copy their IT-strategic approach, and Cloud Native is in a broad sense used as a wording for acting as if you were born in the cloud, like cloud expert David Lithicum says it on Infoworld.com: “Even if you weren’t born in the cloud, do your best to act as if you were”.

A more technical definition of cloud native relates to the usage of certain specific technologies for developing and deploying software applications. The focus is here on splitting software into microservices, on packing these into containers, and on letting IT-development and IT-operations closer together in so-called DevOps. This is the definition found at Cloud Native Computing Foundation.

(You can read more about containers in our next post)

Cloud Native as an umbrella for successful digitalization

Even though IT is a world of ones and zeros, I do not see the concept as a binary thing. In my world, cloud native doesn’t depend on the usage of certain technologies and there’s no one size fits all for digital journeys.

Overall, it can be said, that there is a before and after cloud computing, and if you weren’t born in the cloud, you will have a lot of legacy IT which isn’t built for the cloud. In order to become cloud Nattive you thus cannot alone adopt certain technologies onwards – you also have to modernize your existing setup towards modern standards.

Instead of focusing on certain technologies, I have chosen to t on ake a standpoint in what characterizes cloud native companies, and I have headlined four areas on which I believe cloud native companies excel. No matter if you are fully established in cloud or you use an on-premise setup, you can benefit from using these as parametres for succesful digitalization:

  • Business-driven IT
  • Automated Security
  • Automatic Rightsizing
  • Vendor-Independence

Four parameters for a Cloud Native approach to digitalization

1.     Business-driven IT-development

Business-driven IT means that development of new applications is much more dictated by the company’s overall strategical priorities.

For many years it has been the responsibility of the operations team also to develop new services. This puts a lot of pressure on them, as they at the same time have to maintain and patch the existing setup. Most often this has as a result that there is an extremely long way form the wishes of the CEO to delivery.

A mark of Cloud Native companies is that they typically take the job of developing out of the basement, so to speak. Instead, they establish separate development teams which are much closer to the business-strategic processes.

An important benefit of a Cloud Native IT-development – in the technical sense of Cloud Native – is, that they can easier find the ressources they need.

Competition is tough in IT and because Cloud Native companies can offer the newest technological tools they have an easier time attracting the right people.

2.     Automated IT-security

Fundamentally, the most common security threat is complexity.

In a traditional, on-premises setup, living up to the security demands in an often complex system of servers and environments is one of the largest workloads. Many companies thus spend great amounts of resources on IT-security as they must patch everything themselves to meet the newest standards.

Apart from the expenses, it also often means that one cannot allocate resources for development, and it means, that one is vulnerable to human error.

On this area, the cloud is in itself an important step in the right direction. It is to a larger extend possible to buy automated IT-security from the cloud vendors.

Another security factor is that if you deploy workloads in the cloud, you have to consider things, that are of relevance for your security, which one normally tend to overlook. Take Identity access management (IAM) as an example.

3.    Automatic Rightsizing

Rightsizing of your IT might be the simplest and easiest cost saving for a digital enterprise.

In an on-premises scenario one typically buys servers on a 3- or 5-year-deal. One has typically also expansion in mind, which means that one invests in a decent overcapacity to avoid reaching an upper limit for business development in the near future.

In contrast hereto it is possible in the cloud to automatically scale up and down the capacity. In other words: you only pay for what you use. This is called elastic computing and has during the covid-crisis been crucial for companies’ ability to scape up and down at the speed of need.

Rightsizing is not only about capacity, though. It is also about software licenses.

In our work we see that licenses are a major expense in many companies, and there are great amounts of money to be saved by managing these licenses properly. When we help companies rightsizing their capacity, we thus also create an overview of the existing software licenses.

4.     Vendor-independence

This area is extremely important if one wants to understand the overall trend in the digital world these years. It is both about the money and about securing the overall business.

If one has established an IT-setup in a cloud it can be extremely difficult to move one’s applications to another environment. And this is in the interest of the cloud vendors: the harder it is to move, the more they can increase the price without losing its customers.

More technically the conflict is about one’s applications, which a bound to certain API(s) and stacks, which only very rarely can be paired with other clouds or operating systems without functional compromises.

Thus a shift to another vendor will typically require som rewriting of code, which easly can become more expensive than staying.

Secondly, one runs a big business-related risk because business critical applications or processes are bound to one single vendor which can fail to deliver or go down.

Like any larger corporation teams up with at least two banks and two lawyers, they should as well use more than one cloud provider, also known as multicloud.

If one operates in PaaS, one is extremely vulnerable to vendor lock-in, because PaaS API’s vary between the vendors both in functionality and price. But IaaS can also put you in trouble – if for example you have signed up for year-long agreements and/or have many virtual machines in the installation.

If one wants to operate even more cloud native regarding vendor-independence, one should consider moving one’s applications into containers as they are both lightweight and portable, and they are compatible across any IT-environment – also on-premise.

From theory to practice

In BOSCO we enable companies to operate Cloud Native.

We have developed a line of models and a data-foundation which enables us to map an IT-installation and classify how it performs regarding some of these Cloud Native parametres – for example the rightsizing potential, vendor-independence and the possibility to automate risk mitigation.

In that way we can offer a data-driven, strategic tool for IT-transformation and modernization towards Cloud Native.

In order to give you a simple overview, we have scored how the different computing models perform on the 4 Cloud Native parametres. (Where zero is none and 5 is very cloud native)

If you have any questions or comments, please reach out to us or leave a comment below.

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