Has Cloud Changed Your Business?
Has Cloud Changed Your Business?
With the automation the cloud allows, it's surprising that companies are still making apps in a way that seems to ignore it.
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I really hope you don't know anyone who still maintains an offline phone book instead of storing contacts on your smartphone. This comparison is to drive home a point that many customers that I run into with my work are still managing cloud-based systems just like they have always done for the last few decades.
Have you wondered why? Many software developers are not really developing their new applications for the cloud, but that is changing rapidly. The areas of configuration management and provisioning are maturing as well. There are a bunch of companies offering monitoring solutions and a slew of them offering various PaaS, SaaS, and CI/CD solutions. They are all trying to abstract something to make your life easy. But the reality is that life is far from being easy — the IT landscape is more complex than before and requires complicated skillsets more than ever. You are trying to hire, train, and retain staff to support the "supporting software" rather than focusing on your core business applications.
Why is this, you may ask? Partly because of the inherent complexity. But I submit that complexity can be managed. The other part is that, well, many companies are still interested in selling products the old way — pack enough features into it to justify the exorbitant costs. On top of this, the goal is to sell enough licenses and annual support contracts. They will also sell training and give you the feeling that they will take care of you with professional services, on-premise help, and frequent surveys you on your satisfaction.
So now, instead of hiring people to improve applications to run your business or look for newer business models and innovation, you are hiring people to install and maintain software you had to buy that is supposed to make your business applications run smoothly. Your dollars are now split between infrastructure, software, and people costs for your core business apps as well as your support apps that run your core apps. If your support apps fail, they can also cause outages to your business. After all the expenditure, can you blame the business for expecting better?
Not convinced? Read on, but here's a little warning: I hated writing this because it's corny. It traces how the IT industry has come along. Staying with the phone theme, let's suppose the new iPhone you bought came with an excellent instruction set in many languages, 5-day training programs, certification levels, and also an annual support contract. You then hire staff, get them trained, buy the support contract, and start a 24/7 shift for them to be available at your beck and call. And each time you want to use your iPhone, you can call any of your systems people to push the buttons for you. Bad example? Play along... "Wait, that's expensive!" Well, then let's consolidate all the needs of the people in our community and create a shared service model and an SLA on how quickly they can push the buttons on my iPhone. Still not working — OK, let's outsource it and bring the cost down. You see how this model is silly?
Why can't businesses use IT the way iPhones are used? Why do I need anyone at all to help me manage IT? You must be thinking each business and each application is different and not at all like an iPhone. Somewhat true, but how many models of how many phones are working this way? This is not being naive — if each company that builds software or systems, make it easy enough not to require a supporting IT staff, things will change.
Cloud computing, with its automation capabilities, can enable you to deliver a better business proposition for a lot cheaper than what companies are spending now on IT. You will never have to manage systems like the way you do today. Make it easy and technological advances can reach newer heights. Complexity slows things down — you all know this. I believe this future is not far off where your IT practice manual can be kept next to your old phone book, perhaps for sentimental reasons.
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