As we head into the new year, we often reflect on what’s happened in the past and commit to try something different.  As you’re reflecting, consider this: only 10 years ago the first iPhone debuted.  Fast-forward to today. Using my iPhone and Smartthings, my front door automatically unlocks for me when I return home.  And of course, many activities were revolutionized by smartphone apps while Blackberry – once darling of the business phone market –  was made irrelevant.

The pace of technology change and disruption has been staggering in the last 10 years. The consequences are often severe.  If your organization is still running its mission-critical applications on-premise in a data center that is managed by company employees, it’s time to take a good hard look at where the organization is and where it’s going.  This post is not to advocate for simply moving to “the cloud”; but rather, to encourage an understanding of what that really means to gain the right benefits.  Only then can organizations truly take advantage of what the cloud has to offer.

Many think that migrating to the cloud is simply taking existing applications and moving them to a data center managed by a third party.  By simply having the same kind of servers and applications in a different location is not fully taking advantage of all cloud benefits. However, it is leveraging cost-effective infrastructure of IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service).  This can have many benefits in that organizations don’t have large capital expenses for hardware, scaling up or out becomes much easier, and expenses for running a data center go away (e.g., electricity, heating/cooling, and cabling).  Organizations can also save money by only being charged when servers are used.  However, it is not a silver bullet.  If there’s a very specific, unique need, then cloud providers may get very expensive.

Then there are the applications themselves.  Simply migrating the existing 3-tiered application to the cloud is short-sighted because traditional (if I can start calling them that) architectures don’t take advantage of what the cloud offers.  “Cloud native” apps can offer scaling and control that is simply beyond the possibility of traditionally architected applications.  The term, cloud native, can and will evolve as new technologies emerge.  However, today the use of the microservices architecture can provide the level of flexibility and scalability to let the organization focus on the business rather than simply keeping their applications running.

Now before you stop reading this post thinking that this is just a bunch of tech mumbo-jumbo, consider a real-world example.  Don Brown, a local entrepreneur, started Interactive Intelligence in 1994 and ran a successful company. However, he wasn’t content with that and he knew he could be disrupted by competitors.  So he went on the offense.  Interactive Intelligence built a completely new cloud native product using microservices.  Since then, the company has been acquired for $1.4 billon.  Interactive Intelligence became the disruptor rather than being disrupted.

There’s much to consider about a cloud migration.  Organizations can do this with varying levels of commitment and approach.  The key is to consider the organization’s challenges and then understand what about a cloud migration will address those challenges.  It’s the classic: “what problem are you trying to solve?”