Wazee Digital began a journey a few years ago to create a new coding framework for our services that could match all the capabilities of what it means to reap the benefits of being a cloud-native service. From inception, our services have been in the cloud, provided globally outside the firewall; this latest evolution is to start the process to architect our services into purpose driven APIs that adhere to agile best practices and provide a truly global, elastic, secure SaaS platform. That’s just a bunch of technical jargon which means: to provide a simple service that allows a customer to store and find their content, and use it whenever they need it. Many software vendors say, “Our application is a cloud service,” as a de-facto statement as though there are not shades of grey. As you start to dig into the layers of the aforementioned “cloud service” you find the variance of their meaning. Often times using their definition of a "cloud service, “ I have come to realize that my Dad (who is 87) can describe his Mac at home as a cloud service since his son accesses it from his house remotely. The confusion on what’s really cloud has even generated new terminology by the IT community to push judgement back on services that they deem “not worthy” of the cloud moniker. The term “Cloud-washed” has become popular and means the purposeful and sometimes deceptive attempt by a vendor to rebrand an old product or service by associating the buzzword "cloud" with it. (definition from Whatis.com)
The truth of the matter, is that most businesses are not trying to deceive anyone; there are so many layers to the question of whether your services are indeed a cloud service. It’s often useful to think of a cloud service as a journey rather than a completed destination. Getting your services to work outside of your own firewall is the first step - but does not meet all the requirements to get your cloud merit badge.
The good news for the non-techie executive is that your IT organization will drop hints along the way if you know how to interpret them. If the IT guy is using “server-names” when he’s talking about the performance of the service, this is a big red flag. While I love having Star Trek references peppered into a serious conversation on service performance as much as the next guy, it’s not a cloud thing. Another tell is the amount of time the IT guys are spending spinning up and down your services to control costs. The good news is that once you’re at this level, it does mean you’re in the journey for real. At this point, the IT guys have embraced cloud religion and are dreaming of ways to automate the usage of cloud resources which accelerates your company into a real cloud service model. But anyone who’s climbed a mountain in the Rocky Mountains will tell you that first hilltop you see is only hiding the bigger hills behind it.
The challenge now moves to all the vendor services your business leverages as each vendor is on their own journey into the cloud. Honestly, if company leaders understood the complete transition to the cloud, they’d likely pull out their old Cure CD’s, lock themselves in a room and start Googling the next potential apocalypse date. It’s at this point where the whole business has to embrace what IT has started and evangelize, promote, and partner with like-minded service companies tackling security, service integration issues, and global availability issues. And, this is just the IT side of things. Now the business must get involved in these services as the underlying cost metrics have changed for your services and require hard negotiations with your partners, as well as changing your own service pricing architecture. Once you and your partners transition to a proper cloud pricing model, you’ll both be dancing. It’s a bit like Footloose… If dancing was a metaphor for cloud (and we all know who the Rev. Shaw Moore is in our corporate life right?).
Your business service can be cloud but it needs the support of all its partners to take advantage of all the benefits that go with cloud. As my business manages large video catalogs, this means my service cloud has to balance the challenges of technology, performance and business economics for storage, file movement, transcode, CDN, metadata processing, service partner interfaces; or as the millennials say, “It ain’t easy being cheesy.”
The point of all this is that unlike company data centers and internal platforms where there is a destination, the cloud is a journey. The challenges and problems service providers are tackling today provide benefits for all their customers incrementally. Over time, you’ll find the problems move to higher quality problems. Today you may struggle with figuring out how to get thousands of digital assets into a state where they can be found - to next year where the new problem is how to deliver assets to a thousand different places - to months later in a thousand different formats. Our first journey into cloud services took several years to get the first million assets into the system. We’re now processing several million assets each year. The journey continues, and the problems of tomorrow are way cooler than the old ones.