The Cloud and the Many Questions We Need to Ask

We live in a new world today, with unique challenges heretofore unseen in information technology. To remain at the expected technological apex, organizations should ask themselves the following common questions:

  • Where is my physical or logical infrastructure located?
  • Where and how is my security being handled?
  • Where is my data?
  • Who else has access to my data?
  • Do individuals who have access to the data have the ability to alter the data?
  • Where is the software?
  • How are the applications being deployed?
  • Where are my development teams located?
  • Do I have the adequate software licenses and support contracts?
  • Which nations’ rules of law do I need to follow?
  • Should I be considering a SaaS model?
  • Is my team adequately aligned to deal with challenges on the horizon?
  • Do I need a “cloudkeeper”?
  • Are there new rules in the new cloud-enabled world?
  • How does machine learning or deep learning fit into my organization?
  • How does big data fit into my organization?
  • What legal requirements for data retention apply to my organization?
  • How do we convert this data into actionable information?

To quote Charles Darwin: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

Organizations that fail to adapt to this new cloud-dependent environment will meet a fate similar to that of the “slide rule”—that is complete obsolescence. These questions constitute the proverbial “tip of the iceberg,” and the respective thoughtful answers will allow your business to remain in control of its future. Adapting and leveraging the enhanced capabilities of technology today—and as technology continues to evolve—is an essential capability for a modern business as we approach the third decade of the 21st century. 

Where Is My Infrastructure?

Every organization should endeavor to determine the precise location of its infrastructure. The figure above depicts a useful framework to use when undergoing such an exercise. It is quickly revealed that the organization is widely distributed. Often, SaaS applications and on-premise applications, as well as both public and private clouds, confuse the topology.

For those organizations that continue to struggle with infrastructure management or are having difficulty settling on which technology trends to adopt to ensure their continued relevance, a number of age-old clichés can be informative. First, consider the sage advice to “follow the money,” and, second, understand that not only are “all wars economic,” but a major force shaping technology is the power of economics.

Consider the meteoric rise in adoption of virtualization. The powerful economic “optimization of infrastructure” capabilities of virtualization, coupled with its ability to render physical infrastructure obsolete or redundant, made it the dominant approach to architectures over the preceding decade.

Companies such as Amazon with its Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft with its Azure can acquire physical infrastructure with unmatched economies of scale. When combining this economic advantage with the ability to obtain near-unlimited computing power “by the drink,” it does not make strategic sense for companies to continue to invest in their own on-premise data centers.

Where Is My Security?

The most important lesson for organizations to learn is that security is now a shared responsibility. A business is only as secure as its weakest link. As our organization’s technology footprints become stretched across the cloud, we now have more surface areas vulnerable to attack and must rely on the quality of our vendors’ security to help keep our own organizations secure. Too many organizations forget that security is an evolving issue and that to stay secure requires that both they and their vendors continuously seek out new approaches to protect their computing environments and data. When a breach occurs it’s important to understand the obligations of your vendors to notify you. It’s essential that you are informed when third-party vendors experience security breaches, as the ramifications for your organization could be significant and the effects profound.

Where Are My Developers, Where Are My Programs?

It is now common practice to outsource development and to utilize independent third parties. Often, this is done to achieve cost savings, but other times it is done to bring in expertise not currently available within an organization. The normally difficult task of maintaining synchronicity between software development and production environments becomes more challenging when the various tasks are stretched across the clouds. Many companies have adopted the approach of virtualization of the operating systems by using containers. By abstracting the OS, containers solve the problem by allowing software to run reliably when moved from one computing environment to another. Each container has a self-contained runtime environment and application, as well as libraries and binaries it needs to accomplish its task. When you couple containers with an orchestration tool, the process of container allocation can be automated. In this context, the uncertainty as to the physical location of software becomes moot.

Do I Have the Right License?
Do I Have the Right Database?

When software is purchased, vendors have a right to be paid. No reasonable person disputes this fact. Understanding licensing in the new world order is fraught with classic fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD). The contracts are not always clear on what constitutes a valid use of the license. When a license review occurs, many customers incur steep penalties. A budding industry now exists for license specialists whose sole purpose is to advise customers on the proper licensing of software and databases in the cloud. Many software solutions help manage license compliance, and at least one vendor has the capability of performing real-time license compliance alerting.

Further complicating the situation of unexpected license exposure are the vendors themselves. Not all vendors provide clear contract language that explicitly specifies the exact licensing rules. Ironically, it is often the case that this almost ubiquitous language ambiguity disappears when the vendor specifies violations and sends out an overage bill.  

Open source databases continue to gain momentum. This is partly fueled by the desire on the part of customers to avoid the risks associated with licensing. Many quickly discover the license savings can immediately be consumed by additional needed services if they are not careful. Other organizations are turning to the many new and different data management products that are emerging with increased frequency. It’s no wonder the first relational database is more than 40 years old, and many of these new databases are optimized to deal with the cloud, big data, and other challenges that face organizations today.

We started this article asking pertinent questions while citing Darwin’s view that the ability to change is the critical factor for survival. Similarly, to continue to thrive, organizations must continue to adapt and question the approaches they are taking and the technologies they are using. To continue to deploy technology the way we always have is a sure-fire way to go the path of the dodo bird.


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