The cloud world is changing fast, and everyone wants to be on board. There are two distinct groups of cloud adopters - cloud immigrants who, for long, have been running IT in the traditional form, using on-premise data centers, and trying to match steps with the needs of the business. And the cloud-natives, who are born in the cloud. They execute at the speed of thought, know what the cloud can bring to the table and how it can respond, scale, and deliver. While the adaptation curve is almost non-existent for cloud-natives, traditional cloud immigrants traverse a long and winding path, one that influences how they view the value and its associated dependencies for transformation.
What does cloud-native mean?
“Cloud-native technologies empower organizations to build and run scalable applications in modern, dynamic environments such as public, private, and hybrid clouds. Containers, service meshes, microservices, immutable infrastructure, and declarative APIs exemplify this approach.” The Cloud Native Computing Foundation1.
The cloud immigrants are aware and open to the power of the cloud; however, they bring their baggage of constraints. Every brownfield migration needs to take care of multiple factors, build an app on the cloud, manage a double cost of running on-premises simultaneously to ensure business continuity. Add to it the reality of never being able to exit the cloud completely – with data that must remain on-premise, custom legacy workloads, and other regulation demands - the immigrants may not warm up to the cloud the way the natives would.
What do the cloud-natives see in the cloud? And why is the view counter-intuitive?
Cloud-native organizations look at the cloud and its benefits and caveats a little differently. Sometimes, not having a previous experience can be a good thing. The natives have a fresh perspective – they do not have an on-premises set-up, have not managed leases in a colocation facility, or had staff to maintain cooling, power, networking. What they see is the infinite scale and power of the cloud. They look at the ease of deployment and scale of microservices on containers, quick detection and response to Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, cheaper storage on demand. They look at creating immutable, swift, consistent, error-free infrastructure and maintaining business continuity. The list goes on. A new frame of reference brings to the fore many value drivers not limited to cost and helps create business differentiation.
One can distill the ways of working of a purely cloud-native organization into a mindset, which is a great starting point for the immigrant type of organizations.The Cultural Shift Towards A Cloud-Native Mindset (forbes.com)2 Once the mindset finds favor with the leadership – both business and tech – it can then be shaped into a strategy, an actual path that the organization can follow. A tailored cloud-native strategy delivers many benefits. The recent Wipro survey of 1300 global executives (Making Business Thrive: A Cloud Leader Roadmap for Achieving 10x) is a case in point. It illustrates how organizations that embrace more of the cloud-modernization of its core, adoption of cloud-native applications, and related tech- show a significant increase in their bottom-line.
However, it is essential to note that the challenges immigrants face are real – and in a VUCA world (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous), the challenge is at multiple levels. However, while these can be daunting, new problems need new thinking, not old. “The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not turbulence itself, but to act with yesterday’s logic” - Peter Drucker.
Cloud-native helps move the industries forward
Cloud-native thinking is helping multiple industries get a better grip of the transformation and have an action plan that can yield quick and meaningful results.
A healthcare company uses the power of big data and AI-based platform on the cloud to help doctors personalize each patient’s radiation treatment.Innovation in health and life sciences with Microsoft for Startups - Microsoft Industry Blogs3. Investment platform businesses scale up during market hours and scale down seamlessly when the markets close for the day – controlling costs and optimizing capacity.
Telcos are integrating 5G and Edge using the cloud for differentiation. Connected cars provide a step-up in the mobility space with sensors, data exchanges, and cloud connectivity for safe and innovative driving. EdTech is serving worldwide insights on demand through cloud content delivery networks - the power of an integrated business and tech-led cloud-native mindset and strategy is limitless.
Learnings from Cloud-native
There are many areas for businesses to learn from and close the cloud-native gap.
- Leveraging a cloud-native mindset, one can construct a strategy that leverages the power of the cloud and serves as a realizable roadmap and a call to action. The policies, frameworks and the tech itself can then follow.
- Recognize that one does not have to restrict cloud-native tech and its principles to the cloud itself- they are inclusive and can be expanded on-premises and at the edge- think containers with a central cloud plane across the hybrid ecosystem.
- Cloud-native needs bold goals and gardening support from leadership. Another understated need is flexibility for the companies in the choice of technology, and trust in the approach. This shift is also a broader culture change that needs to come from the leadership itself. A Netflix-esque cloud engineering model needs a lot of vision and dedication.
- Create digital/cloud transformation offices to start seeding the native working methods and slowly work broader and deeper to execute the vision. Partnering (instead of competing) with cloud-native organizations will also help move away from a vertically integrated value chain. (This could especially be of use for large traditional companies) – Think FinTechs with large banks.
The road ahead
There is a need to embrace the thinking that cloud-native brings forth. While the objective of the transformation remains the same, the new rules need to be understood. As a car is not a faster cycle and is much more, one has to look at cloud-native needs with different optics to solve things in previously unthought-of ways. With more innovation on the cloud-native front, there would be more adoption, leading to technology democratization, reducing entry barriers to modernization. It is time to shed inhibitions and leave the baggage behind!