Most cloud experts will tell you that the real advantage of shedding static, legacy infrastructure is not the cost savings, but the enhanced agility. By quickly and easily developing new applications and pushing them out, organizations can craft a more responsive and compelling experience to customers, which should translate into higher sales.
But even after the cloud environment has been deployed, this doesn’t happen by itself. The enterprise needs to make sure that cloud functionality exists across the data environment and that business managers know how to leverage the flexibility and agility that the new service-based infrastructure offers.
One of the ways to do this, of course, is rapid deployment and configuration of resources. But as Google and others are quick to point out, the goal is not simply to deploy a new environment and let it run but to constantly configure and reconfigure resources to produce optimal results with the lowest consumption. Google’s new Custom Machine Types supports this level of functionality by offering sub-minute configuration changes, which provide the twin benefits of highly accurate load balancing and the ability to quickly change underlying resources like compute and memory to meet shifting data requirements. Essentially, it gives the enterprise what it wants when it wants it, with only a fraction of the complexity that usually accompanies infrastructure change management.
Agility will be crucial in the emerging digital economy, where the only constant is change, says Diginomica’s Kevin Price. New technologies, new markets and constantly shifting consumer demand will put static businesses out of business in very short order, so the only way for organizations to survive is to ramp up dynamic cloud architectures as quickly as possible, both at home and on third-party infrastructure. And with the cloud in place, decision-makers actually gain a little breathing room when it comes to establishing new business strategies. With more rapid configuration and change, lead times shrink and deployments can be made based on actual market conditions rather than speculative projections. And they can just as easily be altered should conditions suddenly change.
Still, it is important to distinguish between agility and speed, warn IBM’s Frank De Gilio and Caleb Barlow. When it comes to things like sales, service fulfillment and general processing of data, speed is critical, but once you start talking about application development and new market penetration, agility is top dog. For this, you’ll need to shed the “waterfall” mode of deployment that follows a strict design-build-test-deploy-support approach in favor of a more agile process that incorporates continuous integration and continuous delivery of new services. Even if a rigidly constructed app is first to market, it will be of little benefit if it lacks the capacity to change dynamically.
And far too often, organizations deploy onto the cloud only to find themselves trapped in the same silo-based architectures they were trying to get away from, except this time costs are mounting along with scale. To counter this and fulfill the promise of cloud agility, organizations need to drill down to the integration of data and apps over time, says John Joseph, vice president of marketing at Scribe Software. Without integration, marketing can’t track customers from leads to sales and therefore can’t build any institutional knowledge to guide future campaigns. This problem only compounds as data volumes grow and the pace of business activity increases. Already, the impact of improper cloud integration is being felt in the form of missed quotas and slow growth even at firms that have roundly embraced service-based sales and marketing platforms.
Of course, it’s easy to say you want more integration and agility in the cloud, but it is very difficult to achieve. The security implications alone are enough to warrant a careful approach, particularly since the data needed to maintain high agility is often the most critical.
Unfortunately, there is no alternative. Agility is key going forward, and it can only be done effectively through the cloud.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.