Eric Krapf’s No Jitter blog post, “False Clouds & Acid Tests: How ‘Cloudy’ Do You Have to Be?,” provides a preview to what I feel is one of the most important topics to hit our industry in a very long time. A new wave of cloud platforms are emerging that providers claim are “true” and revolutionary. What makes them so? What will their impact be and why do customers even care? Do they make all other clouds false? Eric nailed it when he said, “Real end users don’t base their cloud decisions on technology dogma; they base them on business considerations.”
Legacy Clouds Failing
Jason Galanter, unified communications architect at Airbnb, made an enormously important contribution to the Enterprise Connect panel. He exposed a major issue plaguing many of today’s monolithic cloud communications and customer engagement applications – limited scale. Airbnb, an exponential organization moving at light speed, was forced to slow a certain area of their business down because of the inadequacies of their cloud communications platform. They chose to bring functions in-house, and it certainly didn’t seem to be due to the lure of owning and operating software. In short, the cloud failed them.
Imagining a Better Way
So, what if the cloud could get out of its own way by making scale a non-issue and providing a level of resiliency our industry has not yet seen? And what if it could do so while also helping companies pace the rate of technological and social change in their business?
“True” Clouds Answering
This new class of cloud is setting out to do just that. These platforms bring virtually unlimited scale, unsurpassed resiliency and continuous innovation and enhancement. How? At the core is how they’re architected. The following are the two most important characteristics of a true cloud:
- Microservice architecture – Applications are divided into hundreds of independent microservices. These microservices are independently scaled to dynamically adjust to any area needing more resources. Also, a failure in one microservice has no impact on others, eliminating single points of failure. Finally, microservices are independently and continuously developed, tested and deployed for rapid innovation and enhancement.
- Massive global cloud infrastructure – These new platforms have been intentionally developed to run atop massive global cloud infrastructures such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and take advantage of many services these providers have spent billions of dollars and many years developing and perfecting.
If you want to go deeper and learn more about other true cloud characteristics, check out our eBook, “Hadoop the Shard! How to evaluate a ‘True’ Cloud Platform.”
If developed properly, microservice architectures atop massive cloud infrastructures such as AWS make scalability a concern of the past, deliver an unprecedented level of resiliency and deliver continuous innovation allowing companies such as Quicken to keep one step ahead of the competition.
Other Cloud and On-Premises Solutions are Still Important, True in their Own Sense
While it may be true these new cloud platforms are the way of the future, they don’t necessarily make other clouds – or on-premises solutions for that matter – false. There will continue to be business considerations and preferences that warrant the use of many different types of solutions, often together in a hybrid environment. One really cool thing about these new cloud platforms is that incremental progress can be made while building on past success. Integration is simple, fast and secure, making it easy to weave services into one’s existing IT fabric.
A few additional things to consider relative to true clouds based on recent, growing dialogue on the topic. First, multitenancy and owning/operating data centers are not really defining characteristics of a true cloud – legacy cloud platforms have been doing this for years. Second, many cloud providers are pitching some kind of AWS play. Make sure to look under the hood – you’ll usually find the same monolithic applications deployed on Amazon instances (instead of virtual machines in their own data center). Finally, a true cloud must be architected and developed from the ground up to be so – retrofitting traditional multitenant cloud apps won’t cut it.
Impact to Our Industry
We’re still in the early days of the true cloud era. Based on what I’m seeing and hearing, this movement could very well change our industry forever. A shift as big as TDM to VoIP? Hardware-based platforms to software-only solutions running on standard, off-the-shelf hardware? My gut tells me yes, but only time will tell. Companies considering a move to the cloud should definitely evaluate true cloud alternatives if scale, resiliency and rapid progress are important business considerations.
One of a Few Key Trends
True clouds are one of five important tech trends to follow. Check out our eBook, Five Tech Trends Redefining the Customer Experience, to learn about the other four.
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