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June 16, 2017
Chartering the cloud journey in the applications stream
By: Matthew Johnson

You are taking a ride to the cloud, and more than likely, you are well in the middle of that ride. And, if you have not started, there is a good chance you will this year. 2017 is the year when it is generally expected that virtually all organizations will have some form of cloud technology in place satisfying business requirements big and small. The likelihood is that it all started, or will start, with a cloud application—software you rent instead of buy.

Getting There

The journey to the cloud is comprised of several paths, or streams, if we keep the meteorological metaphor going (as in jet stream). The most familiar stream is focused on software applications that run in the cloud. Also known as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), many organizations started their journey to the cloud, albeit unintentionally, by utilizing one of these apps to satisfy a growing need. With availability on any device and without the need for procurement and IT to intervene, the adoption of these applications scaled quickly. The success of this form of shadow IT usually led to a broader adoption of cloud applications that have gone mainstream, often replacing older and less agile business applications run as traditional, on premise software that was owned and managed by the organization.

The infrastructure stream as path to the cloud involves the use of hosted cloud platforms that can perform many technology functions. Functions such as: Storing data, serving as rented CPU instead of owned, which allows for varied amounts of computational power based on demand, and increasingly as a location where custom built software is hosted to run core business processes. Known as Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), this stream runs parallel to and has a few overlaps with the applications stream, and generally needs to align because varying the workloads in one stream has an impact on the need for capacity in the other.

The operations stream is a necessity of the other two. Traditionally, applications and infrastructure have been managed by the IT team as all the software and hardware was owned by the company. As these two layers of the technology become outsourced to third parties who manage the cloud applications and platforms, the role of IT naturally shifts as the operations are now placed more squarely on the vendors. That does not mean your in-house IT function goes away, but it has or will need to transform, serving more and more as a broker of these as-a-service capabilities, matching the right service to the right business need.

Another Important Detail

If it sounds like these three streams are intertwined, you are correct. They are, they need to be, and they need to remain cohesive.

For the most part, a cloud strategy is what is best for guiding the three streams in a coherent and coordinated journey, and to reach the desired end state of business transformation, a strategy is required. But most organizations don’t start their cloud journey with a cloud strategy. Eventually, that strategy does become a requirement to ensure optimization and alignment of the activity in the three streams to ensure a greater likelihood that the transformational end state is realized.

The App Approach

Yes, all three streams are required for a successful cloud journey, and a strategy to guide them is an eventual requirement as well. If this all feels a bit intimidating, that is okay. You can put focus, for now, in the area that you likely started—the applications stream.

Seeking a successful cloud journey? Place focus on where you began: applications - @MatthewEJohnson blogs

There is plenty to do there, and chances are that you have a good bit of the journey yet ahead. Here are a set of actions you can take to get further along that path:

  1. Application & Platform Optimization—most likely you have an important business process being managed with automation within a cloud application such as Workday, Salesforce, or Office365, and you can probably do more and get more by optimizing that investment. Expanding organizational and functional scope are a given, even within the licenses you already have in place.

  2. Platform Rationalization – taking the optimization one step further, many of the bigger apps, such as Salesforce and ServiceNow, function as enterprise-class technology platforms. That means that they can carry a lot of weight—with an additional ecosystem of apps that can run on top of the stack to drive usability, reduce app redundancies and integration costs.

  3. Application Layer Rationalization – going another step further is the concept of examining the application layer for opportunities to migrate more to the cloud. This is a great time to consolidate redundant apps (think shadow IT again), modernize aging apps, while providing improved usability. App Layer Rationalization can result in huge gains in business effectiveness, IT agility, and operational cost savings.

  4. Technology Innovation – it does not need to be restated that technology advances are happening at an escalating rate and that it is critical to stay on the forefront of innovation. This does not mean you need to be a bleeding edger. It means that you need to build a competency for innovation (or utilize innovation competencies from a partner) to leverage the new technology as quickly as possible. What appears new now will soon become essential—think AI, IoT, machine learning, intelligent applications – the list is growing.

Hope you enjoy the ride on the app stream. This is getting fun.

Discover how to advance in the cloud with the applications stream 

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