The Cloud: Pack your parachute for a smooth landing

In my 37 years in IT, I’ve actively participated in just about every new paradigm as it came along, and seen at least twice as many promise Nirvana only to vanish in a puff of marketing shortly after.  

26 years ago I recall going to an IBM presentation (everybody used to go to every IBM presentations then as they had the best scones south of the equator).  There, we were promised we would be able to go to the World Series, the bank, jump on a plane and dine at our favourite restaurant, with no need to say who we were or what we had ordered – thanks to facial recognition and global electronic data interchange (EDI).  Within 12 months. 

Then there are the new ways, which are just the old ways rebadged.  

My favourite was the application service provider (ASP) – they used to be a computer bureau. 

Now we have the Cloud.

Gazing out the plane window at 33,000, we were led to believe we could safety step off the horizon and board it. Just as well we know how deceptive clouds can be. 33,000 feet to earth sans parachute takes about 65 seconds. A quick and effective end to the experiment, with a definitive result and easy learnings for the future.  

Yet things are not as clear cut for businesses trying to make the right technology investments to future proof their business.

Cloud. The Cloud. IAAS, PAAS, SAAS et al. Some thought the Cloud would be the silver bullet to solve the last couple of decades of project promises. Cloud. The Cloud, is going to make it all drift away. 

Remember the days when nobody got fired for buying IBM (hardware was king), then nobody got fired for buying SAP (software was king) and now, nobody gets fired for buying Cloud (the king has abdicated).

So what is Cloud?  

That’s the beauty of this particular paradigm. It’s all sorts of things, and it’s clearly going to be floating around for a while yet.

Cloud Technology

What I suggest is putting on a parachute before going to the cloud, so you have some control over the speed at which you land.

Moving to the Cloud is not a quick fix. Like all the other paradigms that serve us, it takes time and a huge amount of investment to meet the needs of a mature and/or complex business. Generally, if your business is mature, it will be also complex. Not out of necessity, but from the passage of time, the evolution of the business, and the decisions at a point in time to resolve problems or meet requirements. And no, there isn’t a single best practice book that every supplier is using as their blueprint. 

For a successful cloud offering, application suppliers need to do a bucket load of work to engineer (in the case of newbies) or re-engineer (in the oldies). For this reason, the Cloud is not the cheap option it is oft touted to be – but it can be efficient, reliable, and effective if the right decisions are made.

Regardless of whether you opt for a newbie or oldie supplier, the depth of functionality that took decades of developer years to build won’t be there for a while yet. Standard processes will be.

Be wary of uttering ‘it’s ok, we will change our business processes’. Be honest! While often the right thing to do, wholesale change is rarely achievable for a business in a short time frame, for many reasons both rational and emotional. 

My advice:  

Plan for the Cloud.  Be honest, patient, and realistic.