Most of today’s organisations have adopted the cloud for at least some of their business processes. However, may still rely heavily on legacy IT systems. They use the cloud tactically, plugging holes where needed – rather than looking at the big picture business case, which requires comprehensive organisational transformation. Regardless of where organisations are in their cloud journey, one point is clear: the cloud is no longer a choice, but a necessity.
In the near future, cloud-first will be the normal way of working. Within the stratosphere of cloud transformation, cloud native is a key term which enterprise IT leaders must know. This refers to applications that are built in – and purely for – the cloud. Capgemini research has found that organisations who use these applications improve their operations: 73% of cloud native users say it takes them less than 14 days to develop and deploy new web applications, while 84% say that it has helped them to increase revenue and cut operating costs.
These applications are a positive differentiator because they enable companies to rapidly innovate and scale new products, achieving levels of velocity and flexibility that are unattainable with legacy systems. When COVID-19 struck, businesses with cloud native applications were able to react with agility to changing employee and consumer demands while others scrambled to get the infrastructure in place for working from home.
Becoming a digital enterprise
Traditionally, business applications have been developed and deployed as rigid entities, run either in data centers or “lifted and shifted” to the cloud. While these applications can run in the cloud, they are unable to utilise its elasticity and scalability. On the other hand, cloud-native applications are built specifically for the cloud environment, with Platform-as-a-Services (PaaS) tools that are fast to develop, deploy, and modify. In today’s rapidly changing environment, these applications offer better functionality than their legacy counterparts.
To take full advantage of the possibilities of cloud native and become a truly digital business, it’s important to have the right strategy in place. Moving away from antiquated applications is not an overnight affair. There are three main options for organisations to adopt cloud native:
Off-the-shelf Platforms-a-Service (PaaS): PaaS solutions such as IBM Bluemix make it easy for organisations to develop, deploy, and manage apps. They remove undifferentiated workloads and make pre-developed functionality, connections, and frameworks available for deployments, so developers can focus on building business services. These can incur significant upfront costs that need to be balanced against the return on investment from applications in the longer term. Vendor lock-in is a concern for many companies, but workloads will usually be portable to different underlying cloud providers. This option is recommended for companies with significant cloud budgets that favor simplicity and speed.
Public Platforms-a-Service (PaaS): Leading public cloud providers such as AWS and Microsoft offer PaaS-like capabilities that enable developers to create applications easily on their platforms. If an organisation is already working with one of these platforms, extending existing investments to PaaS may offer advantages. Companies in this industry looking to build their machine learning capabilities should also evaluate what these vendors are able to offer on their platforms to enable these capabilities. This option will most often imply a major long-term commitment to that specific public cloud provider, and is best suited to companies that have a clear strategy to concentrate investments in one market-leading public cloud vendor.
Custom Platforms-a-Service (PaaS): Another option is to create a custom PaaS platform or work with a partner to tailor one, typically leveraging containers and container orchestration. This can be tailored to the specifications of the business, people, DevOps processes, and innovation goals, while minimising vendor lock-in. However, this approach can lead to complexity and a greater management workload, as well demands for a strong internal skills base. Significant initial investment in time and resources will be needed to reach the functionality offered by a pre-built PaaS.
Skills and culture
Organisations should also bear in mind that the shift to cloud native is more than just a digital transition; it also requires a cultural upheaval. Successful strategies are underpinned by a culture of flexibility and innovation. To create this, IT leaders need to ensure that they have executive understanding and buy-in. Moreover, they need to ensure they have the skill-sets needed to run the cloud-native applications. Organisations should recruit architects to guide development decisions, upskill their existing teams and partner with knowledgeable suppliers who can help to alter established cultures.
Becoming a cloud native company calls for a complete transformation in the way enterprises innovate, develop, deliver, change, and collaborate on new software capabilities – but the input is worth the output. An organisation with a successful strategy can expect to enjoy increased agility, flexibility, and scalability. Our research found that cloud-native leaders experience improved organisational velocity (88% agree), better customer experiences and boosted workforce mobility – all critical differentiators in today’s climate.
Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their experiences and use-cases? Attend the Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam to learn more.