Against a backdrop of disruptive global events and fast-moving technology change, a cloud-first approach to enterprise applications is increasingly critical. That’s the consensus from members of CIO.com’s community of IT experts who weighed in on how a cloud-first approach to enterprise applications allow an organization to scale its business.
With a cloud-first approach, businesses can sidestep the high costs associated with on-premises deployment, installation, maintenance, and IT infrastructure upgrades with an option that scales capacity up or down based on need. Cloud-first applications support a manageable OpEx cost model, metered like a utility, as opposed to requiring significant upfront capital investments in infrastructure and software licenses.
Another upside to the cloud-first enterprise application model is standardization and lower complexity for internal IT operations, says Helen Yu (@YuHelenYu), founder and CEO of Tigon Advisory Corp. “It also brings your products and services closer to more customers with faster time to value, flexibility, and better adaptation to their ever-changing needs,” she adds.
At the same time, the auto-scaling nature of cloud-first applications requires no human intervention because scaling is done based on CPU and memory usage to further improve efficiency, notes Scott Schober (@ScottBVS), president and CEO at Berkeley Varitronics Systems Inc. “Configurability in cloud-first strategies is key as organizations don’t have to worry about hardware control, allowing for more focus on getting new services up and running faster,” he says.
A cloud-first approach “allows companies to focus on the business dynamics that dictate when and by how much enterprise applications need to scale,” says Steve Guilford, CEO of AsterionDB. “What could be worse than to plan for an event that requires the scaling of an application’s infrastructure only to have it all fall flat on its face when the time comes?”
Quick response to disruptions
Consider the last two-plus years of business disruptions caused by the global pandemic. Companies that not only survived but thrived amidst the myriad business challenges show why cloud-first application deployment is a critical component of a retooled IT strategy.
“Those that adopted a cloud-first approach were able to shift and adapt to the impeding changes that COVID brought efficiently and rapidly as compared to businesses that delayed efforts to move off premises,” notes Elitsa Krumova (@Eli_Krumova), a global thought leader and technology influencer. “The cloud-first approach gives organizations a strong competitive advantage, ability to keep up with the competition, and improved roadmap for sustainable, future business growth.”
A shift to cloud-first enterprise applications ensured that remote employees could work effectively during the pandemic while creating a backbone to accommodate what is fast becoming a hybrid and distributed workforce, says Sridhar Iyengar (@iSridhar), management director, Zoho Europe. “A cloud-first approach provides benefits to all organizations, whether their employees are spread disparately or working in one location,” Iyengar says.
“The COVID-19 pandemic established that business and cloud strategy are interwoven,” says Gene De Libero (@GeneDeLibero), chief strategy officer at GeekHive.com. “That’s illustrated by the ability of cloud-first businesses to pivot to a remote work-from-home model with unprecedented speed and scale.”
Carving out a digital transformation edge
Growth for today’s modern business hinges on a variety of factors, including the ability to deliver seamless and compelling customer experiences and automate manual and cumbersome business processes, along with the crown jewels: creating a foundation for data-driven insights. By taking a cloud-first approach to enterprise applications, IT organizations free themselves up from repetitive implementation, configuration, and maintenance tasks to allow time for innovation efforts trained at promoting value for the business.
“Cloud-first implementations help shift the entire organization’s focus from the nuts and bolts of operating legacy systems to digital experiences, collaborative workflows, and real-time data,” says Isaac Sacolick (@nyike), president of StarCIO and a digital transformation leader and influencer. “Scaling the business requires these flexibilities, and leaders seek this agility to better respond to disruption, changing customer needs, and growth opportunities.”
“The ability to securely store, prioritize, analyze, share, and scale data is fundamental to operations,” says Chuck Brooks (@ChuckDBrooks), president of Brooks Consulting International and an adjunct faculty member at Georgetown University. A cloud-first enterprise applications strategy helps make data more accessible to distributed users and workflows, he says.
This type of functionality and scale can be a game-changer for mission-critical applications such as SAP.
“SAP on the cloud is no longer just an IT cost-cutting proposition,” says Venkat Tatavarthy (@vattyreflects), senior partner solutions architect for SAP at AWS. “It can help drive increased competitiveness, improved brand recognition, and added value to your customers. In short, it is a pathway to innovation.”
More data-driven insights
The ability to tap into sophisticated machine learning, AI, and text-processing capabilities available through cloud platforms like AWS and through cloud-first enterprise applications can bolster an organization’s ability to capture data-driven insights.
“Whether you’re a healthcare provider trying to decrease 30-day readmissions or a utility company working to tackle vegetation encroachment, having immediate access to data is paramount to digital transformations,” says Peter B. Nichol (@PeterBNichol), chief technology officer at OROCA Innovations. “Cloud-first makes it possible for companies to collect, consolidate, analyze, and visualize data to make intelligent decisions at the pace of today’s business.”
The scale of cloud provider platforms are an imperative for applications with complex AI functionality, says Sergey Alyamkin (sergey-alyamkin), CEO and co-founder of ENOT.ai.
“It is often required to ‘retrain’ neural networks for user data, which requires significant computing resources for a short period of time,” Alyamkin says. “To make it more complicated, it’s not only the training of neural networks that requires significant computing resources, but also their use in the inference mode. In that case, a cloud-first approach to enterprise applications is the only way to host AI-based applications.”
Faster time to market
A cloud-first approach also elevates software development practices, accelerating product release cycles and allowing for testing on a wider range of product possibilities, says Nikolay Ganyushkin, CEO & co-founder of Acure. Acure, which is developing a cloud-hosted AIOps platform for automating IT operations, was able to launch a new website and set up CRM and mailing services in preparation for a new product launch in India in a matter of two weeks using only cloud-based applications as opposed to what would have taken four to six weeks or longer with traditional, on-premises software, he says.
Cloud-first organizations can also more readily shift to modern software development constructs, including embrace of the DevOps/DevSecOps model that promotes agility. “This enables software development teams to achieve a delivery velocity that just wasn’t possible with legacy technologies and on-premises hosting,” says Will Kelly (@willkelly), senior product marketing manager for Section, an edge compute platform. “This enables them to deliver security updates, new features, and applications that help grow their business operations.”
Given that the global landscape is still recalibrating in response to pandemic-related disruptions, talent shortages, and economic pressures, companies need IT infrastructure that lets them quickly and easily make course corrections.
“The traditional model of purchasing equipment is slow and cumbersome,” says Adam Stern (@iv_cloudhosting), founder & CEO of Infinitely Virtual. “The newer, better approach of simply selecting the app and provisioning the cloud server on the fly is not just more efficient; it promotes more flexible solutions. It’s particularly useful from a cost perspective, preventing you from getting locked into mistakes.”
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