Cloud has catapulted into a position of prime importance in any IT strategy. Cloud enables enterprises to dynamically address business requirements. However, the transformation from physically centralized to virtually distributed IT environments often causes enterprises to be wary. Businesses are spread across diverse economic, financial, geographic, competitive, socio-cultural, regulatory and technological environments. These are ‘stimuli’ and cannot be easily influenced. However, products, services, processes, procurement, pricing and promotions (‘responses’ as I would like to say) are within the span of control of a business. These are the vectors that drive decisions around infrastructure and the applications that support the business. In a certain way, we are referring to the common denominator for growth and competitiveness among enterprises.
However, over a period of time businesses accumulate vast legacy systems. This is also true for Information Technology (IT) investments. The sprawl can become so vast that often enterprises lose track of what they actually own. Worse, development takes place in siloes and over a period of time, applications do not/cannot talk to each other due to a lack of linkages. Business information is frustratingly difficult to access across departments and even more difficult to act on. Systems and processes become dangerously cemented, preventing businesses from addressing change quickly enough. Let’s admit it – IT doesn’t have the time to look back and fix anything; today, given the pace of change, it is on a treadmill with no stop-button.
To understand the shifts within IT systems and to be able to respond with a sustainable, long-term solution, let’s understand how IT systems have evolved over time to meet business needs. The rigid mainframe era from the mid ‘60s to the late ‘70s made it almost impossible for businesses to address change. By the ‘90s the Internet proved to be a major accelerator for client-server architecture. This ‘democratic’ nature meant that multiple systems emerged within enterprises, each one functioning within a silo. Each of the systems was building its own stack of applications, data stores and back-up solutions. This led to a disjointed and unconnected network within the enterprise which could not communicate with each other. Sporadic and isolated attempts were made to connect these systems with limited success.
The cloud by design is a shared ‘network’ and will build linkages between disparate systems and applications, to enable information sharing across the enterprise. It is also the answer to improving IT utilization and optimizing costs. Forward-thinking CIOs are deploying cloud computing as a strategic weapon—not just for IT, but to enable full business transformation, eventually changing how they operate their business. Most importantly, adopting the cloud is the road to improve enterprise agility and ensure that infrastructure and applications can be dynamically enhanced, scaled, replaced or retired as per the business demands.
In a couple of years, many enterprises will talk about how cloud helped them create a much tighter connection between IT transformation and business transformation. That will be the win for this cloud era. It’s no secret that cloud computing is here to stay—it promises everything from reduced complexity and unlimited scalability to capacity on demand and CapEx savings. Although there are still many unanswered questions about cloud computing, many are optimistic that it will be able to deliver on these promises.