Design For Digital #1 - Born in the Cloud
The Cloud has set a new benchmark for how quick, flexible, cost-effective and scalable solutions should be available. This has a transformative impact on the demand and supply sides, as expectations shift. Many organizations are not ready to get all their solutions from the Cloud, but the new normal is already there and the expectations particularly on the business side have considerably changed. For new solutions, the Cloud should be the default scenario, only then to be ‘softened’ by pragmatic considerations around integration, security, legislation and manageability.
Our original Cloud research shows that nowadays, the question for organizations is no longer ‘should we move to the Cloud?’ Instead, it has become ‘how do we maximize the benefits from the Cloud?’ The Cloud is more or less a given; the road towards it is a matter of design.
We might be tricked into believing that many organizations already have internalized the Cloud and would be ready to look around the corner for what’s next. Indeed, if we look closer, we can see that many already have implemented certain Cloud services. However, successfully activating a virtual machine on Amazon Web Services (as exciting as it can be to some of us) is not exactly enough to make an organization enter the era of Digital Transformation powered by the Cloud.
Most organizations still need to build their Cloud Transformation journey, although the benefits are very obvious: not only cost reduction but also speed to market, flexibility, scalability and usage-based pricing without massive upfront investments. Still, there are many uncertainties as well, caused by topics such performance, security and privacy, legislation, integration challenges and governance.
With that, Enterprise Architecture and a solid transformation strategy are the key success factors for embracing the Cloud.
So, what does it mean for an architect? Which are the architectural principles that need to be followed when crafting the Business Technology landscape in the era of Cloud? Before we answer that question, let’s have a look at the new Cloud stakeholders.
The Cloud is often still in its infancy in terms of the relationship between the Business and IT sides of an organization. The Business sees public Cloud services as a very fast and attractive answer to their needs. Sales and Customer Service can find high value in innovative CRM Cloud applications, and Marketing may be exploring social networks through the Cloud to boost their success in the market. But probably sooner rather than later, challenges around integration, multiple Clouds, deployment models, security and manageability need to be addressed. It is the role of the architect to bridge these two worlds, in which the supply and demand sides are not that clear anymore.
In any case, presuming that new solutions will be ‘Born in the Cloud’ as a default, there are certain design qualities and characteristics that should be considered right from the start. These would typically include:
- The cost/performance ratio of the public Cloud
- Unlimited downward and upward scalability
- Very short time to market for new solutions and versions of solutions: ‘easy start/easy fail’
- Pay-per-use pricing models
- ‘Vanilla,’ minimally customized implementations of multi-tenancy applications and infrastructure
- Any place, any time, catalog-based access to solutions without the need for on-premise setup
Business drivers should be linked to these qualities and characteristics: after all, the journey to the Cloud means nothing without the business change we want to drive through it.
Only then can the architecture team start plotting the required changes. They will probably need to cover areas that ‘soften’ the Born in the Cloud principle, as the reality of most enterprises will need a hybrid approach – integrating the old and new worlds - for quite some years to come. This is apparent in many elements of the architectural work, including:
- Services: A clear description is needed of the business and IT services to be delivered from the Cloud, and public/private deployment models needs to be identified; a more catalog-based approach will be typical.
- Business Case: Understanding the value of Cloud-based solutions is crucial to launch and drive projects. This will also involve new (pay per use/low Capex) economics.
- Legal: Moving to the Cloud may mean new billing models, other contracts and different ways of storing and processing data. Regional legislation is likely to apply and may require architectural constraints per sector, country or specific organization.
- Governance: Service Level Agreements will be a major topic to address as multiple Cloud providers may be involved with new, often unexplored ways of delivering their services and guaranteeing their quality.
- Target Architecture: An architecture that contains Cloud elements will likely mix public, private and on-premise deployment options, mixing legacy solutions with entirely new ones; the need for orchestration and manageability is obvious in most enterprise-level setups.
- Data Management: Master Data Management will be key in the Cloud, with data likely to reside in different, not necessarily synchronized places and the business more sensitive than ever to proper stewardship of data.
- Security: The Cloud can be a very safe place, but a different approach is needed to deal with multiple providers and hybrid deployment options.
It’s a healthy challenge to any architect to understand these different perspectives. And it is crucial understanding too, as the next generation of solutions is already today being Born in the Cloud.
This contribution by Patrice Duboé
Part of Capgemini's TechnoVision 2014 update series. See the overview here.