Going cloud native in a time of declining IT budgets

Cloud services are driving digital transformations, and experts say they are a game changer for delivering value to customers.

Cloud.

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It's no secret CIOs are trying to balance budgets that are shrinking while meeting exponentially increasing IT demands necessary to support remote workforces and online business. 

Spencer Kimball, co-founder and CEO of startup Cockroach Labs, is making the case for cloud-native apps, especially as IT budgets are decreasing. Kimball suggested companies should be storing their data in open source, flexible databases running on a generic Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) instance.

SEE: Top cloud providers in 2020: AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud, hybrid, SaaS players (TechRepublic)

It's a good time to adopt cloud-native platforms and all the technologies that enable it, like Kubernetes and containers, which are foundational for orchestrating resources in the cloud in a seamless and holistic way, Kimball said.

"Kubernetes is supported by all the major and private cloud vendors and is a ubiquitous technology," he said. Companies can do more and faster with microservices and cloud-native platforms, which "dramatically cut overhead on DevOps and human capital to do those things by hand, often with scripts that aren't always going to work because … they are somewhat fragile and built for one purpose," he maintained. 

But when it comes to modernizing existing applications to gain the agility, scalability, resilience, and cost benefits of cloud-native computing, application professionals must find and address critical hot spots in the architecture, advised Gartner.

SEE: COVID-19 has become a powerful catalyst for rapid cloud migration (TechRepublic)

And IDC has noted that "While cloud-native applications deliver a multitude of benefits such as infrastructure portability and enhanced automation, they also feature challenges — for example, re-platforming and re-factoring."

Partnering with the cloud giants may seem like a quick, easy, foolproof, and cheap solution for cloud migration, Kimball said. But often companies are locked in to paying high costs, and proprietary APIs and the fine print in these vendor contracts takes away the flexibility and freedom to make strategic, cost-cutting decisions, he said. 

"In situations where budgets aren't as constrained, a lot of things get done," he said. CIOs can still invest in transformation efforts "but they can be more surgical in how we build for the future so we can control costs."  

Best of breed versus single vendor

 
When the decision is made to implement a cloud-native service, CIOs and IT managers need to figure out whether to use one cloud vendor for everything or a best of breed approach.
 
The single vendor means "one throat to choke" and often better pricing, which tends to appeal to smaller companies, he noted. Best of breed, as the term suggests, offers the ability to pick and choose based on the services needed, with the flexibility to migrate from one cloud to another. This can also be more expensive.

Of course, companies that aren't startups are typically not completely cloud native, but they should be thinking about migrating some portion of their workloads and apps to newer stacks, Kimball said.

The hybrid cloud stack approach has "significant value," he said. "No one wants a super high friction, proprietary service that won't be portable; basically, you're tying your hands behind your back from an IT perspective."

Organizations should be careful about how locked in they get with cloud vendors, Kimball said, and he predicts "a multicloud environment will be very much the standard in the next several years as tools like Kubernetes and others make it relatively easy for companies to embrace a multicloud stance."

From a strategic, forward-thinking perspective, "moving to a cloud-native stack will ultimately set you up to iterate faster,'' Kimball said. "With the same budget you can create more services and launch more for customers so they can improve products and services."

Jonathan Le Lous, field CTO of cloud infrastructure services at Capgemini, agreed, and said overall, the benefits of adopting cloud have far outweighed the challenges.

"Cloud-native, hybrid-cloud, and multicloud solutions are continuing to take the digitization process by storm,'' Le Lous wrote in a January blog post. "App development made agile, empowered by microservices, in scalable and contained environments, is changing the way business is done."

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