We are now well into the so-called “Information Age” that we embarked upon around the last half of the 20th century. We see and use various kinds of digital technologies in almost everything we do and everywhere we go now. We probably won’t be able to see a single individual without a smartphone at this age, to say the least. In fact, according to several reports, smartphones have already outgrown human beings in this world for crying out loud!
After the Agricultural Revolution and the Industrial Revolution, we came through several groundbreaking changes in the things we use to communicate, with the widespread adoption and proliferation of digital computing and other digital communication technologies. We called it the digital revolution — the third Industrial Revolution.
Now, on our fourth Industrial Revolution, or “Industry 4.0,” we have come past even ordinary digital technologies. It is the age of cloud computing and the Internet of Things. With the creation of a so-called “smart factory,” physical systems are designed to communicate with each other as well as with human beings in real time through the Internet of Things.
It goes even further than that. The Internet of Services is also designed to enable the seamless exchange of services internally — within an organization as well as between organizations — and to be used by the different members of the value chain.
This revolution is mainly driven by the “third platform technologies” like mobile, the cloud, social business technologies, big data, and analytics. Evidently, it involves technologies that have become a part of our business as well as personal lives. In fact, the differentiation is barely there. Enterprises are increasingly using technologies along with processes that are so designed to work closely with the customers and the market that the thin line of difference between an organization's internal operations and its external environment is fast disappearing.
While business managers are scrambling to evolve their enterprises through the phenomenon of digital transformation, it is also evident that they need to combine digital technologies with organizational and business model innovation — so as to create or find new ways to grow and manage the enterprise.
And for that, third platform technologies are very critical, considering the growing pace of changes and the evolution happening in different industries and markets. Enterprises need to step up their game if they are here to stay!
Third platform technologies not only facilitate faster innovation but also enable the easy and more efficient collection, analysis, and use of data for enterprises to address market needs better.
The Role of the Cloud
The cloud actually plays a huge role in digital transformation. In fact, it forms the heart of it. It changes the entire business model to facilitate a more technology-led transformation. Enterprises have the option of choosing from public or hosted private clouds, which would enable them to improve processes and embrace innovation without having to spend huge amounts on infrastructure and avoid the risk of deploying redundant technology when there are good chances for failure.
However, choosing the right model, even for cloud computing, is very essential, as each of them has its own advantages and disadvantages.
For example, private clouds are perfect if security and control over resources are your major priorities. They provide these benefits along with certain operational advantages of the public cloud. Especially in industries like healthcare and pharmaceuticals, where they need to strictly adhere to a number of standards and practices and may also deal with highly data-intensive applications, a private cloud is a better fit.
Public clouds, on the other hand, can be better utilized with applications that might have variable resource requirements, like e-commerce apps and gaming apps. Another important fact is that the resources are shared among a number of applications hosted in a public cloud. The applications are also used by many people, whether it is within or outside of an organization. Hence, these kinds of applications are made to cater to the needs of a number of users. SaaS applications, for example, are being deployed by many organizations, which essentially uses the public cloud.
The third kind of cloud — the hybrid cloud is something that combines the best of both worlds. It provides sufficient security for organizations that use a lot of critical organizations and sensitive data through a private infrastructure, while at the same time providing all the advantages of scalability and accessibility enjoyed by public applications. Hybrid clouds also allow organizations to carefully tailor their applications to suit different markets, according to the regulatory compliance specifications and general accessibility requirements. It allows organizations to interact with and deal with many clients through a public cloud and secure important information through a private cloud.
It is probably because of these reasons that the IDC believes that hybrid cloud will have a particularly important role to play in digital transformation. Another supporting fact is that, even though the transition to public cloud software services is rapidly progressing, the IDC believes that even by 2017 80% of the G2000 will still have IT resources running on-site.
The Impact of the Cloud on the Enterprise
Cloud computing, as one of the third platform technologies, is increasingly being used by companies in different industries. In fact, it is seen as a business-critical technology, as it has a definitive impact on the way companies are analyzing, procuring and deploying IT assets.
The move to the cloud though, is something that requires a drastic change in the entire operations of an enterprise. The processes, the people, and even the technologies need to change.
By moving to the cloud, an enterprise stands to gain in a number of ways. One of the biggest benefits is a better management of the unprecedented growth of big data and related analytics, which will help organizations keep up with the fast pace of business change. What’s more, it allows organizations to have a pay-as-you-go approach toward purchasing and using IT resources, thereby enabling faster application and service development and in turn faster deployment and knowledge transfer.
It brings with it a number of challenges, too, though. First off, an enterprise might need to rethink its priorities altogether. Governance issues like compliance need to be addressed, along with addressing budget-related details. Rather than having expensive IT projects, plans need to be restructured around smaller, more focused iterative projects for specific business units that require faster returns.
Apart from these, enterprises are likely to find the process of shifting to the cloud quite challenging, as it involves the integration of the networks, applications, data, and other resources, while also establishing consistent security across all systems.
Security, as a matter of fact, will become a bigger challenge altogether, as the traditional boundaries involved in typical data centers disappear.
Importance of Consistent Application Services
A rather evident advantage of using hybrid cloud services is that enterprises get to share the responsibility of delivering and managing applications with the service provider. But the enterprise IT team will still be held responsible for any kind of faults on either of their sides.
With consistent application services and standardized security norms throughout a hybrid environment, the enterprise IT team will be able to deliver applications to users with the level of performance and security that they expect.
Consistency in application services is actually the single most important aspect of change in enterprise IT. Once it is achieved, then the rest of the business operations will fall into place. It forms the basic support functionality for big data and cloud migration. Hence, it will support all major transformations in business in future, while enabling consistent security.
Some benefits of consistent application services across the cloud are:
Availability: Application resources are available throughout enterprise platforms and networks.
Performance: Application services when provided in a consistent manner, ensure top notch performance, maximum efficiency and speed to users for their business
Security: Consistent services call for consistent security policies as well.
Such practices of migrating to the cloud and using a multi-cloud approach to business and applications management can be quite beneficial considering the rapidly changing business environment. At the same time, it becomes more critical to use consistent application services, in the event of companies deploying more SaaS applications. Even IT departments can improve efficiency by using existing tools across hybrid cloud environments, rather than using and managing a separate set of tools from different vendors. Moreover, with hybrid cloud, enterprises need not get “vendor locked-in.” They get to explore and migrate applications to different cloud environments as and when required.