Becoming a Cloud-Minded Technology Professional: The seven cloud principles that can be applied to any IT environment

By and large, it seems like today’s IT professionals belong to one of two camps: either traditional on-premises IT or the cool, new age cloud. Sometimes, it can even seem like we are talking about two different species. After all, for many of us who come from the client-server era, cloud can be intimidating. Even worse, it can be a source of real anxiety; becoming obsolete is a constant risk in an industry that evolves as fast as ours.

However, the reality is that there is nothing in our DNA preventing us from evolving to understand and embrace the cloud. More importantly, there is nothing in our DNA preventing us from understanding and embracing a cloud mindset. After all, the cloud is really about much more than a particular technology. Yes, it is about elastic, instantly provisioned, billed per-use infrastructure, but it is also about a way of thinking.

The great thing about this is that it means you do not necessarily have to deploy applications in the cloud to be a cloud-centric professional. It implies that there is an opportunity to bring modern cloud thinking to traditional on-premises models and to bridge both worlds. It also provides a path of evolution for existing technologies that do not require changing the architecture and the deployment of existing applications that work just fine.

Cloud is about elastic, instantly provisioned, billed-per-use infrastructure, but it is also about a way of thinking.

Many of the DevOps-oriented cloud professionals out there used to also be client-server guys, or worse, the acronym COBOL may be somewhere on their resume. In all honesty, what we call traditional on-premises IT is more often virtualized infrastructure in a colocation environment that resembles the cloud much more than what some cloud service providers would like to admit.

If all of this is true, then what are the fundamental concepts of the new age of cloud computing that we can apply to our traditional deployment methods to give them some of the goodness of the cloud? Consider the following seven cloud mindset principles:

  1. Application and End User Focus—End users and the applications they rely on are the key focus. Infrastructure serves only to make the application work. Servers are not pets, they are cattle. If one gets sick, you shoot it and get a new one.
  2. Performance Orientation—Performance is a requirement and a discipline. It is measured, all the time, everywhere. Bottlenecks and contentions are well-understood.
  3. Collaboration—Because the ultimate objective is to provide the end user with peak application performance, silos do not work. If an application is down, everyone has failed. There is no database team. There is no virtualization team. There is no storage team. There is only the IT/operations team, and they are responsible for the performance of applications. This requires transparency, visibility, a consistent set of tools, and teamwork. And, it requires expertise across the stack.
  4. Speed—Taking agility one step further, shorter, iterative processes allow teams to move faster, innovate, and serve the business more effectively
  5. Service Orientation—There are no monolithic applications. Everything is a service, from application components to infrastructure. Everything is flexible and ready to scale or change.
  6. Automation—To move faster, code, deployments, tests, monitoring, alerts—everything is automated. IT services, too, embrace self-service for users and focus on what matters.
  7. End-to-End Monitoring—Visibility is critical for speed and collaboration. Monitoring is also a requirement and a discipline. Everything is tested; the impact of every change is known.

These seven principles are the foundation of cloud thinking and represent the mindset that companies are trying to hire for. This foundation is not only required to properly take advantage of cloud technologies, but is also useful when applied to so-called traditional on-premises IT. Those that embrace these principles will become faster, more agile, modern ships that can turn on a dime and are ready for whatever the business needs next.