8 steps to becoming a 'cloud-native' enterprise

Go Agile, go DevOps, get the right skills, and don't fret the ROI just yet.

These days, the idea of becoming a "cloud-native" enterprise has a sexy appeal to it, but it's going to take some serious re-thinking and work to get there. Capgemini recently issued some interesting findings of its survey of 902 IT executives on their progress toward cloud-native. (Reported in a previous post here.)

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Photo: Joe McKendrick

Along with the stats, the report's authors provide some guidance on how enterprises can begin their journeys toward cloud-native adoption. Of course, if you're with a startup or small, information-intensive operation, cloud may already be the natural foundation of the business. For legacy-laden enterprises, there needs to be a re-evaluation of where cloud makes sense, and what kinds of processes are needed to start or proceed on the journey. Here are Capgemini's recommendations:

Go Agile. Becoming a cloud-native operation "is less a matter of technology adoption and more one of inculcating new skills and changing old attitudes and practices," the Capgemini authors state. This includes embracing "a culture of agile, continuous development, and a greater openness to collaboration and receptivity to new ideas from a variety of partners, both internal and external." Easier said than done, of course, but this is a course that needs to be set.

Go DevOps. "DevOps is the essential enabler of cloud-native development," the authors state. However, the shift to DevOps methods requires a rethinking of IT operations, as well as requirement to keep the lights on while the change is being made. "DevOps is both a cultural shift, and a technology movement."

Get skilled. Essential skills include the ability "to run a microservices architecture on Platform-as-a-Service -- and adopt automated testing, provisioning, and deployment." IT teams will also "need to become adept at communicating the value of cloud native to the C-suite and the rest of the business in understandable terms."

Don't fret the ROI. There often can't be a good business case made for bypassing years of investments in on-premises systems to adopt new cloud-based applications, the Capgemini authors admit. Instead, the benefits are seen within the bigger picture that develops involving business flexibility and competitiveness.

Get business leaders involved -- and educated. Going cloud-native is going to touch just about every corner of the organization. That means educating business leaders on new ways of delivering technology. The Capgemini authors advise "selling the benefits of Agile development and continuous delivery to the business." Cloud, of course, is the gateway to digital enterprise, which is a turn-on for every self-respective executive in today's economy.

Start small, don't attempt to boil the ocean. This should be familiar advice to any technology veteran that has sought to introduce new systems and methodologies -- from client/server to service-oriented architecture to data warehousing -- into their enterprises. "Teaching thousands of developers new cloud-native skills at once introduces too much change and risk."

Buy, don't sweat building: The Capgemini researchers recommend going with off-the-shelf Platform as a Service solutions, "either already pre-packaged(such as a Cloud Foundry or public cloud PaaS), or a combination of containers and container orchestrator (Containers-as-a-Service)." They add that there is always the issue of lock-in from vendors or providers, but the reduced costs and hassles offered are a better value proposition in the long run.

Innovate, innovate, innovate: Incubating a "culture of innovation, collaboration, testing and learning" is part and parcel of a cloud-native enterprise, the authors assert. "Developers who were previously insulated from the business will be more exposed to the issues of customer experience... They must learn to be business thinkers, articulating value propositions, and demonstrating their revenue generating potential, as well as managing project costs and timelines as before."

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