Riding the cloud-native wave: How to get your strategy in order

Patrick Hubbard is Head Geek at SolarWinds. An accomplished technologist with over 20 years of experience, Hubbard’s career includes software development, operations, product management and marketing, technology strategy, and advocacy. An unapologetic market-hype deconstructionist, Hubbard is passionate about arming technology professionals with the tools and skills to deliver services that delight, not just satisfy, users. Hubbard’s current focus is helping enterprises adopt cloud-native and DevOps techniques that deliver the business transformation CIOs increasingly demand.

“Cloud-native” is an approach for building applications which often incorporates microservices, containers, and cloud services on dynamically orchestrated platforms. There can be a steep learning curve, but these techniques and technologies fully exploit the advantages of the cloud computing model.

Managing application operations through agile DevOps processes and continuous delivery pipelines empowers organisations to more easily build and run new applications in modern environments such as public, private, and hybrid clouds. 

This dramatic shift in how applications are architected and deployed has huge potential for IT, leading to lower operational costs, boosted performance, greater efficiency, and increased business agility. At a broad level, this translates into acclerated speed to market, the ability to support rapid expansion, and more margin as departments pay for additional resources only as needed.

“Disruption-forward” companies like Airbnb, Netflix, and Uber are grabbing the lion’s share of their respective markets due to their newer, faster, more efficient, user-centric interfaces and services. Built in the cloud and without a physical footprint, these tech-driven businesses routinely and safely pivot and scale to meet customer demands at a pace that most enterprises—struggling to migrate from legacy technology—can only envy from afar.

If it ain’t broke…

The problem is, shifting to cloud-native not only requires fundamental changes to IT architectures, but to the entire IT economy that supports it. That’s a transformation IT department heads, met with shrinking budgets, often aren’t willing to—or simply can’t—entertain.

Pundits have talked digital transformation to death for at least five years—a conversation where cloud-native technologies feature heavily. A few businesses have embraced this opportunity with gusto, pulling ahead of competitors or disrupting markets outright. But most enterprises, especially those most risk-averse, haven’t made many changes. Sadly, the IT mantra, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” still dominates.

The IT professional is ultimately responsible for keeping senior leadership teams on track when it comes to the technological investments planned to move the needle for their organisations. But making the case for cloud-native isn’t always easy. It requires not only a financial investment, but a significant IT commitment for the build, from HR on a cultural front, and most importantly, recognition from the COO and board that IT truly is a strategic driver for the organisation.

Managing new complexity

With the promise of greater efficiency, flexibility, and scalability, it’s easy to see why ambitious IT pros and strategy leaders among us are pushing our organisations to move towards cloud-native approaches. But these benefits bring new complexity that needs to be managed correctly.

IT pros tasked with managing the shift to a cloud-native architecture need to devise new and creative methods if they are to successfully manage and navigate this shift. It’s not only about putting the right tools in place, but also the need to create a receptive and adaptable system for continued advancements.

Effective monitoring is essential. The traditional success reporting model favoured by IT teams is the SLA (service level agreement). But SLAs only represent the minimal acceptable performance IT is willing to accept, while management is looking for a report of business success and ROI on transformation investments.

For IT pros looking to make a business case for cloud-native, the right monitoring and reporting systems are critical. Reporting only minimal acceptable performance prevents IT from being part of the discussion. IT must run in close alignment with the business to mitigate risk, allow transformation, and prove success to build budgets—and truly change culture.

Skills worth investing

Even once the business case has been made and management has bought in, the skills gap remains one of the biggest but often overlooked considerations when undergoing huge transitions such as this. The 2019 SolarWinds IT Trends Report found 70% of all tech pros surveyed are not confident in having all the necessary skills to successfully manage their IT environments over the next three to five years. In fact, almost one in five (19%) U.K. IT pros felt unequipped to implement or manage automation and orchestration with their current skillset.

Without improvement in time and budget constraints, the majority of tech pros (70%) say they will be unable to confidently manage future innovations. This reality ultimately puts businesses at risk of performance and competitive advantage losses, making the prioritisation of skills and career development for tech pros paramount.

A turning tide

The cloud-native shift is a rare opportunity for companies both new and established. While most IT departments are just becoming comfortable wrangling their hybrid IT environments, the promise of the next step—cloud-native—can’t happen if we’re too narrowly focused on decades-old metrics and reporting. Keeping the lights on and meeting basic SLAs is no longer enough.  

Fortunately, the tide is turning. Despite challenges, companies are making towards cloud adoption investments that have them more than “running to stand still.” The next few years will see those that adopt a cloud native approach truly soar, while those unable to mitigate transformation risk will fall behind. While it represents new skills investment upfront, this approach pays career and corporate dividends in a fast-changing world.

https://www.cybersecuritycloudexpo.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/cyber-security-world-series-1.pngInterested 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.

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