Jumping in Cloud First: Why the Cloud Movement Is the Future of All Business
Cloud computing is quickly becoming not just another tech innovation, but a fundamental shift in the way businesses function. There is no industry it won’t touch, and no business it can’t radically disrupt. If you’re not already operating in the cloud—or if you’re failing to take full advantage of the rapid pace of the innovations it offers—you’re already losing ground to your competitors.
The Challenge: Stability versus innovation
The pace of developments in cloud technology is not only astounding, it represents an existential challenge for business. Cloud best practices have changed radically in the past five years, and the rate is only accelerating: new norms are forming in as little as two years.
But the speed of innovation is much faster then the cycle at which most enterprises operate. Stability—a core value for large enterprises—demands a cautious pace of change. Many companies are steeped in technology and practices that are a decade or two old, and their practices can’t keep up with cloud best practices.
The tension between stability and innovation isn’t new, and the larger your company, the more heavy the bias toward stability. But the cost of lagging behind the cloud movement could be catastrophic. The advantages of the cloud are so significant that failure to adapt means your competitors are going to rapidly outpace you.
Understanding how we got to this point in the cloud movement—and how even the largest enterprises can embrace it fully—is crucial to ensuring your business remains relevant and successful in the changing landscape.
The Landscape: How we got to the cloud
Major tech innovations only take hold as movements when they deliver business value sufficient to transform the landscape of entire industries. That was the case with open source—which Metal Toad embraced over a decade ago. The switch from expensive licensing and cost-intensive code creation to a culture of openly shared invention that could be endlessly iterated and improved translated into tremendous value: faster, cheaper, more flexible innovation.
But as time wore on, the reality of the costs of maintaining and upgrading open source became more and more apparent. Sure, the code is free, but maintenance certainly isn’t. Hosting and deploying code on your own servers costs money, maintaining and updating code costs money, and businesses began to bear the weight of unexpected capital investments that, eventually, just weren’t returning as much value as they needed over the long haul.
In response, a couple new directions emerged. One approach was SaaS—a model in which enterprises simply subscribe to the software they need and leave all the hosting and maintenance to the vendor. It’s a useful model, but also inherently limiting—you’re stuck with whatever options the vendor deems worthy of development, which often don’t align with what your business really needs. And because you’ve ceded investment in innovation to third parties, you cut your company off from any chance at developing the kind of disruption that could really transform your landscape.
That’s why the other new direction—cloud computing—has become the foundation of a groundbreaking movement. We’re now poised at an inflection point of tech innovation and business value that will transform the way enterprises operate.
Cloud: The tech advantage
Cloud technology has been rapidly evolving in recent years; we’ve reached the point where everything—from the coding language to the data to the compute cycles—can live in the cloud, and perform better than ever. The advantages of cloud have become key differentiators for those who adopt it.
- Data storage
- Business intelligence
- Tailored environments
- Improved developer productivity
- Faster ramp-up
1. Data storage
Collecting and storing data in on-premises servers is a massive expense. Moving your data to the cloud not only saves you that expense, it also allows you to take advantage of the efficiencies in cloud computing—like serverless architecture—that further reduce the cost of data storage. In fact, one of the primary motivations companies cite for a cloud migration is this cost savings.
2. Business intelligence
Reducing capital costs may be a prime motivator for a cloud migration, but smart enterprises quickly realize there’s an even bigger benefit to moving data to the cloud: the ability to rapidly derive powerful insights. Once data is in the cloud, it’s easier than ever to introduce new avenues for capturing data (like IoT devices), apply machine learning algorithms, un-silo your applications, and derive the kind of business intelligence that can not only deliver value, but crack open your company’s vision.
3. Tailored environments
The evolution of robust cloud infrastructure allows us to marry code and compute cycles online to environments that are precisely built for those needs, making them faster, more performant, more reliable, and adaptable to meet unique business needs. Developers take the incredible array of flexible, tailored environments and create a backend that delivers the specific performance and value you need.
4. Improved developer productivity
Your development talent- often your most expensive staff members- freed from the constraints of SaaS products and inflexible infrastructure, can now focus on creating front-end interfaces that deliver tremendous value. Whether creating customer-facing experiences that drive revenue or surfacing valuable data-driven insights you can immediately put to use, you can unleash your engineers on your most pressing business needs.
Web traffic fluctuations? Automatically handled. Adding a new feature? The necessary storage is instantly available. Building a new application? Start small and scale up without interruption. With completely elastic cloud environments, you can scale up and down instantly your technology is automatically in sync with the pace of your business development.
6. Improved ramp-up
The experience of writing code has been radically changed. No longer are developers downloading code to a local source or installing new programming languages. With the push of a button, we’re now writing code directly in the browser—massively reducing the time and friction required to create digital products.
Cloud: The movement
All these advantages make cloud a compelling direction for any business. But why is this more than just a useful advance in technology? What really makes this a movement is a one-two punch of rapid change and corporate muscle from companies like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft.
One of the most interesting aspects of the open source movement was its scrappy nature. Thousands of small firms and individual visionaries collaborated across the globe to do something wonderfully new. The culture of cloud is profoundly different because the main drivers of the movement are some of the largest, most powerful companies in the world. Amazon is pouring a massive amount of resources into its Amazon Web Services (AWS) and already reaping huge profits. With over 200 services and growing, it’s clear that AWS is a major force that will only continue to grow. At the same time, two other major players—Microsoft and Google—are rapidly expanding their cloud offerings, and backing up that move with major development investments. When three tech giants are putting major muscle behind a movement, any company would be foolhardy not to recognize a sea change.
But that change is happening a lot faster than many enterprises are prepared to cope with. This rapid pace is the other driving force behind cloud as a movement.
Enterprises have 3 options to address this problem, all of which carry their own risks:
- Internal innovation
- Vendor Partnership
Acquiring a company working in the latest technology can be a step forward, but you risk that the gravity of your parent organization’s need for stability will eventually snuff the culture of innovation you initially gained.
2. Internal innovation
Creating an innovation team which is either exposed or protected from financial oversight. If left unprotected, the innovation team is doomed to failure, as every six to nine months someone from finance will kill or cripple the project because it doesn’t align to corporate profit margin or revenue goals. If left siloed, companies may get innovation, but output is generally every three years—and only if the team they have managed to hire is exceptional. This is a huge and very risky bet.
3. Vendor Partnership
The most successful way to grapple with the problem of balancing innovation with stability is strategic partnership. When you engage an expert vendor, you maintain your organization’s stability while tapping into the power of innovation culture with minimal risk. The best partners are those who fully embrace innovation themselves, and also understand the need for enterprise stability and risk management. That kind of partnership can bring a steady stream of rapid innovation into your organization, carefully aligned with your business needs to deliver real value.
The solution: Strategic cloud partnership
The cloud movement is here, and it’s going to change your business landscape, sooner rather than later. Addressing this shift to the cloud has been dropped on the to-do list of every CIO. But the cloud is massive, ambiguous, and in constant flux. It’s a bit like Mount Everest showing up at your front door and demanding that you climb it, and soon.
Getting up Everest isn’t something anyone does alone. Success depends on a team of sherpas—people who’ve been up and down many times before, who have their pulse on best practices and changing conditions—who can guide you up the path that works best for your unique needs. The first step up the mountain is finding the partner who will listen to what you want to accomplish and chart that path with you.
This is exactly why Metal Toad has put a stake in the ground as a cloud-first partner in digital transformation. Our history of tech firsts and leading-edge innovation puts us at the forefront of the cloud movement. And our ethos of strategic advising and business acumen has driven a legacy of supporting some of the biggest enterprises in making digital transformations that generate real value. We’re jumping in cloud first because that’s the future of business. And we’d love to talk about how we can help you take your next step into the future.