Many enterprises are pondering the implications of the all-cloud data center when, in fact, a more immediate change is in the works. This would be the so-called “cloud-first” strategy, which seems to be playing out on the application layer rather than in end-to-end infrastructure deliberations.
The key difference between the two is that while all-cloud focuses largely on how the cloud is built, cloud-first looks at how the cloud is utilized. And in almost all cases, cloud-first offers a leaner, more efficient, and more manageable approach to enterprise functionality than legacy architecture.
According to IDC, cloud-first strategies are responsible for a good portion of the explosion in cloud services that is rocking the enterprise industry. Cloud services are set to increase by nearly 20 percent per year for the remainder of the decade, to top $141 billion by 2019. This will result in the average business spending six times more for cloud services than they do for overall information technology, with software-as-a-service taking the lion’s share of that spend. Ultimately, however, this will lead to broader adoption of cloud-based platform and infrastructure services (PaaS and IaaS), both of which are starting from smaller bases than services but are growing between 27 percent and 30 percent per year.
The best thing about cloud-first is that it can be accomplished piece by piece without a lot of up-front investment, says SoftServe’s Vadym Fedorov. As workflows become more mobile-oriented, and thus faster, key applications will transition to the cloud as a matter of course. This doesn’t mean the enterprise should forgo a formal cloud-first strategy; in fact, it will be easier to chart positive outcomes, cost benefits and other factors compared to a full cloud infrastructure policy. But it is fair to say that multiple initiatives – everything from hybrid architectures to containerization to converged, modular infrastructure – will grow out of the desire to produce cloud-first options for key applications and business processes.
Many service companies, of course, are highly interested in simplifying the adoption of cloud-first strategies and are laying the groundwork to make them happen. Accenture, for instance, just acquired CRMWaypoint, a Dutch provider of cloud services and expertise that helps the enterprise acquire Salesforce and other platforms to lift sales and marketing apps off of static legacy infrastructure. The company will be added to Accenture’s Cloud First Applications team that specializes in pure-play cloud technologies from Google, Workday, ServiceNow and a host of other players. The move follows a string of similar acquisitions that brought companies like Cloud Sherpas, Tquila and ClientHouse into the Accenture portfolio.
As well, a company called Kinvey, which specializes in forging links between on-premises, mobile and cloud architectures, recently expanded its RAPID Connectors system to support legacy Microsoft applications like SharePoint and SQL Server. In this way, enterprise customers will be able to provide the kind of security and acceleration needed to link disparate service platforms in a secure and compliant manner while enabling the high-speed, abstraction required of modern business environments. The connectors can be configured and deployed within minutes and require no specialized knowledge of back-end systems or infrastructure, which gives mobile developers, in particular, a near-instant means of building self-service features into apps that are increasingly driving enterprise productivity and profitability. In addition, the connectors provide cloud caching and offline capabilities to support sub-second performance and streamlined application code.
With a cloud-first strategy, the enterprise still has the leverage to maintain critical applications in-house, particularly as private cloud infrastructure takes shape, but at the same time, they can tap the efficiencies and economies of scale that are available on large public platforms.
Ultimately, cloud-first motivates the enterprise to gravitate toward what works best, rather than what leverages yesterday’s infrastructure.
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.