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A cloud by any other name? Seek outcomes, not buzzwords

When is a cloud not a cloud? When it’s described as one by a vendor or systems integrator, but doesn’t deliver the core business benefits expected of a cloud when it’s supposed to.

When developing a digital transformation strategy, confusing the cloud landscape for an organisation can introduce unintended barriers and prolong age-old problems, preventing an effective transformation from being delivered.

There are certainly plenty of powerful, enabling technologies that can allow a business to make far better use of their on-premises, or hosted, procured IT infrastructure, but calling everything “cloud” just to “tick the box” is dangerous.

Calling out what the infrastructure actually is (especially when it isn’t cloud) is helpful, and furthermore, it’s okay!

The advent of cloud technologies has enabled some very different interactions between business units and the core IT of organisations, especially where enabling innovation is concerned.

For example, a software-defined data centre capability allows new software development methodologies and techniques – such as versioning and centralised storage of infrastructure configurations – to deliver powerful and rapid deployment of systems for disaster recovery, test and development rigs, and compliance with strict controls. This removes manual tinkering that would otherwise allow configurations to drift and introduce reliability problems or security risks.

While these capabilities are more automated and presented to consumers of pay-as-you-go in cloud platforms as natural inclusions, their presence alongside an on-premise infrastructure pool doesn’t magically turn the latter into a cloud. There are many other reasons which distinguish cloud as a group of technologies and billing models from an on-premises pool of infrastructure.

Outcomes over buzzwords

Instead of the slavish focus on specific features, and therefore whether some platform is, or is not a cloud, it’s time to focus on what business outcomes any choice of infrastructure delivers – from a global hyperscale cloud to a community-restricted cloud, on-premise equipment with automation, or a blend of the above.

Moreover, excessive jargon leads to questions that introduce somewhat arbitrary adjectives such as public, private, hybrid, multi and so on to be attached to the term “cloud”.

When outcomes are the focus, the religious wars about which specific technologies are chosen, and where they reside, go away. And the necessary alignment between internal teams, who acutely know the business’ needs, and external service providers and vendors, can start to deliver what is needed.

When the conversation moves from everything needing to be a cloud, to everything needing to work together to deliver transformation outcomes, innovation enablement, or customer engagement and data intelligence, the buzzwords that surround cloud technologies – and which so often clouds (if you pardon the pun) the core business outcome drivers – goes away as well.

Anthony Woodward is founder and Chief Executive Officer of Accelera