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Why everyone must know what the full stack means - and how it's essential to the cloud

A look inside the IT stack and why understanding

As platforms and processes evolve, IT management has a responsibility to distil user preferences upwards and build an IT stack that is capable of reflecting the way people want to work on the devices that people want to work with.

At the same time, corporate users are becoming more tech-savvy and many non-technical workers are even becoming aware of the way cloud computing works. Once people know more about the back-end elements of IT, it seems reasonable that they will want to do more with the front end on their own devices.

Ten years ago, businesspeople didn't use the term 'application' in the same way that they do nowadays - largely thanks to the popularisation of the term 'app' which was first used to describe software on tablets and smartphones. Five years from now, comparatively non-technical businesspeople may well know what an application programming interface (API) is, by the same degree of evolution.

So what does this mean for cloud?

Today we sit at a pivotal point in terms of people starting to understand what the mechanics of cloud computing really look like.

Part of that process is an appreciation for the 'different types' of cloud that exist (optimised for storage, networking, processing/compute, memory etc.) - as well as an effort to understand the different layers of our IT as we migrate them to the cloud.

Often described by the term 'stack' or indeed 'full stack', we hear technologists talk about 'deployments across the full breadth of your IT stack' and such like. But what does it mean?

All we are talking about is every part of the computer system. This means everything from the base level logic and system level design, upwards to the applications, user interfaces, and the latest visualisation tools.

Inside the stack

Looking closer, while still retaining a relatively easy-to-digest explanation of the stack, we can pinpoint the following layers:

System logic, languages, server-level networking, and hosting

Data models and business logic

Data transport bus systems and APIs

Visualisation and graphical user interface (GUI)

User experiences and functionality

Software requirements and project management

How we get the stack to the cloud

Cloud hosting providers, operating systems companies, and even hardware manufacturers are increasingly positioning themselves as systems integrators (SIs) -- and this function will be crucial in terms of helping enterprises use pre-existing blueprints and best practice frameworks for moving their stack to the cloud.

In many ways cloud computing is a lot like traditional computing, but some aspects of its DNA and operations are handled differently, such as memory and transactional input/output ability. The stack has to be engineered in individual component-sized pieces to be able to adapt to this new landscape.

A basic understanding of the entire stack - for any user - will arguably provide some insight into what goes on at the deeper depths of the IT function, traditionally the domain only of the CIO and the IT operations team. It will also help the entire workforce to understand how tough it can be to move all these elements to cloud - and this grasp of technical reality can ultimately help the CIO and CTO in gaining support from the rest of the organisation when planning migrations.

We know with some certainty that a wider understanding of cloud processes and methodologies is developing across the whole business, the tough part now is ensuring that a little knowledge becomes a wonderful - and not a dangerous - thing.