As the tide of technology continues to flow towards the cloud, there are discernible shockwaves felt throughout enterprises that are trying to modernise their application structures - so where can we look for lessons and guidance?
One telling example is Microsoft's handling of Visual Studio.
As Microsoft's flagship tool suite and integrated development environment (IDE), Visual Studio provides the code editor of choice for developers who construct software applications for Windows. Starting from the end of 2013, Microsoft began to release new versions of this developer product in the form of Visual Studio online for the Microsoft Azure cloud platform.
If the significance of this development isn't immediately apparent, let us just restate the basic facts here. The largest software company in the world is providing its developer tools in a cloud-first format in a computing world that is increasingly services-based.
What the cloud really does for us
This shift to cloud-centric virtualised applications and services - such as Microsoft's Office 365 - is a way for both programmers and users to always ensure that they are:
a) Using the most up-to-date tools possible at all times.
b) Using software systems that have more backend power than traditional on-premises systems.
c) Using more connected socially collaborative applications.
d) Using tools with the maximum amount of test and analytics functions possible - power that typically comes from the back-end.
e) Using tools that are essentially dynamic and changeable.
To many people, these represent the characteristics of what we might call a 'modern' application. The creation of increasingly connected applications that integrate in a more precision-engineered fashion with the networking intelligence that governs them is a prerequisite for the future.
What does this mean for users?
The message for techies and end users is the same: powerful tools with great performance and maximum compatibility for the job in hand. In other words, cloud-centric software works well on multiple levels.
Looking deeper into the workings here, we know that modern applications need to be able to evidence application insights. This is not just a question of big data analytics applications providing us with new understanding, it is a question of applications being able to work effectively with load balancing technologies and all the elements of application delivery platform technologies - such as data streaming, monitoring, and management.
What this means is that our IT stack is suddenly able to look after itself better. We are talking about the opportunity to start putting automation intelligence into our IT and get more value out of the investments we make. We can do more things with a lesser degree of hands-on effort, and we can do them faster and more efficiently - surely this makes good business sense.
Much of this will come from the chance businesses have now to elevate software through cloud virtualisation techniques so that it is essentially abstracted from the hardware that it sits upon. In simple terms, we are talking about running the software that works best for the job on the best price/performance hardware available.
What was the question again?
Coming back to our initial question: what does this shift to cloud teach us? It shows how directly the applications of the future will benefit from continual bug fixes, performance improvements, and connectivity when we work in an online environment.
As Microsoft developer division VP S. Somasegar said at the time of Visual Studio's launch into the cloud: "As a part of our cloud OS vision, [these online product releases] enable developers to build modern applications - at a time when the devices and services transformation is changing software development across the industry, the developer is at the centre of this transformation."
The lesson here then is, if developers are at the centre of this transformation to the cloud, then we must follow their lead and think about how our line-of-business applications in accounts, finance, sales, and everywhere else can follow suit.