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Thinking of the Move to Cloud? Think Hybrid

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Republished from the Cloud Era Institute Blog


I had the opportunity to be interviewed last month by Cloud Era Institute, on best practices to moving to cloud. I share my thoughts on products, as well as the inevitable culture-shift. Below is transcript of our discussion:

What are some key points you think readers should know?

It comes down to three things: cost, culture, and APIs (application programming interfaces). There is a huge cost savings by having your IT as a service. You can make business decisions faster and quickly move forward with your process. It’s important that your process is agile, otherwise someone in a garage will pick it up. This is why I’m excited to be working with IBM’s Bluemix solution. You can create scalable apps in a matter of minutes.

Everything in your business needs an API, and the ability to utilize the API internally. Externalize what you either want to sell, or you can use for marketing. You may not think your business can sell APIs, but you have the potential to if you have data that you’ve accumulated.

How do you get past issues with cost, infrastructure, and culture?

You will see more cloud companies offering hybrid solutions, like IBM. That just says, “You can’t throw everything out, you can’t change that fast, so let’s start with one server at a time.” Why would you re-platform everything at once? You could do a hybrid approach with a number of APIs, or stick with your on-premise solution for half, and move the other half to the cloud. That approach pacifies the fear of rapid change.

You can build everything without throwing anything away by using open-source standards. For example, I’m a big fan of Docker containers which are integrated into Bluemix. You can jump around and bring your code with you, if you architect it correctly.

What choices do you need to make when it comes to code?

Putting everything into containers will allow you to be more comfortable and flexible. Make sure you are using JSON (Javascript Object Notation), APIs, and that everything is containerized. Don’t build anything monolithic. Go into micro services and make it modular. Everything is going to be JSON for the next hundred years, and it will be the most common denominator.

What advice do you have for managers?

Start thinking about APIs. It is a tool for business development and you need to think of it like that. Find an API management solution, like IBM’s API management solution , to immediately eliminate the headache of how to plug-in old services into something more consumable. People tend to think, “We have old servers; it’s not going to work for us because everything is firewalled.” You need to get a hybrid API manager solution and make it work. Once you go through the pain of getting it plugged into your API manager, you now have this beautiful micro service environment with APIs, and you can decide what to do with them, which is where business development comes into play.

What challenges do people have going from cloud-clueless to cloud-savvy?

You need an internal evangelist who can straddle business and technology, and lead the heart and soul of this change. It will radically transform your whole organization. When you have an internal evangelist, there is a direct support line to your senior IT person. If you don’t have executive support, then you won’t have the funding and ability to exert change. You will have internal struggles happening left and right. You have to realize that everyone has shared goals, and there are ways to do it quickly and comfortably. Why not double your infrastructure? Put half of it in the cloud, and try it out. There are ways to dislodge obstacles if you have someone internally to ease the pain of all the different cross-functional groups, and you have to walk them through it.

Talk to me about the UI or UX and the impact it’s having on whole industries.

You will see the disappearance of cell phones. With the Internet of Things (IoT), you take those icons and apps, and get to the heart of their functionality by embedding them into things. Technology will always be around, but you have to work it into your natural human behavior.

I won a grand prize at the 2014 Intel IoT Hackathon for creating a web-enabled smart leather jacket. When you walk into a bar and click the button on the jacket, it plays your favorite song. It won based on the concept of simplicity meets style. IoT Technology will mold into our lives more seamlessly without endangering ourselves by texting while driving, or being rude by constantly looking at our phones.

What about the invasion of personal privacy and freedom with wearable of technology?

That ship has sailed. People are going to realize that they need to share mindfully, and submit to the doctrine of FourSquare, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. After ten years of using those apps, you can aggregate the data and see a trend analysis, upload it to a computer, and say, “Okay computer, now that you know me, what should I do tomorrow? And where?” The computer could say, “Based on your data, here’s where to go and what to do. Isn’t your life better now that you share your data?” That is what the future user experience will be.

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