Monday, December 12, 2016

The Cloud Is The Future

If you've paid attention to IT news in the last couple of years, you will have noticed that cloud computing is all over the place. Major companies like Oracle, Amazon, IBM and Microsoft are rapidly developing a whole new cloud world for enterprises and most successful startups are embracing the new technologies that come with it. In the meantime, I'm noticing that many of my clients are nowhere near the cloud yet and there's also quite some skepticism among my peers.

Focusing more specifically on Oracle technology, which has been my core business for more than ten years, I think that the movement to the cloud is inevitable. On-premise products are still being supported, but when it comes to new developments, Oracle is taking a cloud-first approach, going as far as abandoning on-premise development altogether for certain products.

As a client, this gives you several options: you can keep moving on a dead end road, still happily run your applications for the next 10-15 years and nothing bad is going to happen. However, you'll be missing out on a lot of new features and business opportunities like that, so you need to be very clear that this on-premise software exactly fits your needs and you won't need anything new. Theoretically, this is possible, but in reality we will hardly see such situations.

So, what are the alternatives? If you really don't want to go into the cloud, you can start replacing your proprietary software with open-source software, because with that you can do whatever you want. No vendor will be telling you that a product will get deprecated, because in the very worst case you can still develop it further yourself if there's no community left to work on it. Obviously, such an approach means quite a lot for your organization: you need to re-educate your technical staff, deal with no or limited support in case of problems and the more modifications you make, the harder it will be to find developers who understand what you're doing.

So, I believe that in most cases it will be viable to develop a strategy for moving to the cloud, even if you decide to move to open source. Find out what's holding you back, check if your concerns are actually making sense (are you sure you can be more secure than Oracle, performing faster than Microsoft or guarantee high availability better than Amazon?) and make an action list to work out the remaining concerns. Maybe you'll end up having some kind of private cloud, either managed by yourself or the cloud provider. As long as you have access to the latest technology, these can be viable solutions, although maybe not optimal when you look at cost of ownership, security or availability.

On the other hand, one should also be mindful to not jump to the cloud without thought: many cloud products are not fully developed yet, so you might be missing some crucial features for your specific needs. Planning carefully is the way to go, but waiting too long might make you lose your competitive edge in the age of digital transformation.

If you're a software developer or admin, what can I say? I remember database developers who didn't believe in middleware and ended up in support roles or unemployed. I remember DBAs who found it unfair that databases got smarter, did nothing to adapt and ended up being pushed off the market. We continuously need to improve ourselves and look to the future.

Of course, if you're happy to do the same work for ten more years and end up being overtaken by those who did reinvent themselves, let it be your decision. But it will not be mine. The cloud is the inevitable future, so you can either jump on the train or be left behind. My decision has been made, what will be yours?

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