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Cloud technology is everywhere around us. Organizations consider it key to their IT strategy and it is predicted that by the end of 2020, 83% of the enterprise application workload will be on the cloud.

So, what makes the cloud so appealing?

First, there are the organizations that benefit from faster processing speeds, self-service, and 24/7 global reach when they are on the cloud. They can scale their IT processes up or down according to their business needs. They can also reduce IT overhead by 30-40%, saving a substantial amount of money.

Then, there are the service providers who can start offering their services and applications on the cloud, earning a predictable, recurring revenue through subscriptions. They can also innovate faster and distribute more continuously, thereby encouraging more customers to adapt their solutions.

This makes a compelling case for transitioning to the cloud. However, before you decide to take the leap, it’s critical to understand the various services and deployment models that exist, so you can choose one that works best for you.

A plethora of choices

When it comes to the cloud, businesses can choose from several different options. To make an informed choice, consider things like security, cost, compliance, integration, and efficiency. Let’s examine some common service and deployment models along with their advantages.

Service models

SaaS (Software as a Service): Of the different service models, SaaS is expected to remain the largest market segment through 2022. A SaaS model allows organizations to access applications directly from central servers. Since the data capacity on the cloud is flexible, businesses can scale up or down according to their requirements and pay only for what they use. Some of the most popular examples of SaaS solutions are Dropbox, Google GSuite, and Cisco WebEx. A SaaS model is ideal for a startup or small business that requires affordable app solutions with web and mobile access.

IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service): IaaS is the second-largest cloud service market segment and is forecasted to grow at 24% yearly, which is the highest growth rate across all the three service models. With an IaaS model, organizations can access infrastructural resources on-demand. They can control applications, runtimes, operating systems, middleware, and data while the service providers manage storage, servers, hard drives, and networks. This model is preferred by small companies and rapidly-growing businesses as they can change hardware and software quickly according to their evolving needs. Amazon Web Services (AWS) is an example of this model.

PaaS (Platform as a Service): The total PaaS market revenue is forecast to exceed $34 billion in 2022. In this model, infrastructure is provided to developers over the cloud where they can create custom applications. All storage, networks, and servers are managed by the service provider while the applications are completely managed by the developers. Windows Azure, Google App Engine, and Apache Stratos all use a PaaS model.

Deployment models

Private cloud: As the name implies, a private cloud provider will maintain services, applications, and computing resources on a private network that is dedicated to a single organization. The biggest benefit of this is that organizations can exercise greater control and security. Large organizations like government organizations, financial institutions, and healthcare providers that are custodians of sensitive client data prefer to opt for private clouds.

Public clouds: A public cloud allows multiple organizations to share computing resources off-site. The greatest advantage this has for businesses is that they can achieve greater efficiency and scale easily at lower costs. This model is often used by small or medium-sized businesses that need to launch their products or services in the market quickly without investing heavily in computing resources.

Hybrid clouds: A hybrid cloud combines the best of both worlds. It allows organizations to decide which aspects of their business they want to run on a public cloud and which they’d prefer to house privately. Hybrid clouds are best suited for organizations that deal with confidential information but have fluctuating requirements, like e-commerce businesses. By 2021, 75% of mid-sized and large organizations will have adopted a multi-cloud or hybrid IT strategy.

Community clouds: In this model, the cloud is shared by multiple customers or organizations, supporting a specific community of users. It’s an ecosystem that provides a secure space for members that share common goals and have similar security, compliance, and performance requirements. This model is usually used by educational institutions, central banks, and government departments.

How to make the transition?

Making the transition to the cloud is an ambitious undertaking, not a one-off tactical decision. You will need to implement a comprehensive strategy in order to get the full value of the cloud.

Several challenges can derail the transition process. These include:

  • Thinking of the cloud as just an IT solution instead of a business solution

  • Lack of clarity and planning and a failure to understand what a digital transformation looks like in the context of your industry and company

  • Incomplete evaluation of your current app portfolio and a poor assessment on how to adapt them to the new environment

The following steps can help organizations devise a successful cloud transition strategy:

1. Articulate your cloud adoption goals, both from the business and IT perspective. To decide the optimal way forward, craft outcome-oriented goals depending at what stage your company is at. You may be just starting to experiment with digital transformation or already be part of the way there.

2. Evaluate the readiness of your existing applications for the cloud to discern application mapping and dependencies. You can identify applications as cloud-native, cloud-resilient, cloud-friendly, cloud-ready, and cloud-hostile.

3. Choose your migration strategy from among these 5 Rs.

    • Rehost: take applications from the current environment and shift them onto the cloud

    • Revise: support legacy modernization by extending or modifying the existing code

    • Rearchitect: reuse languages, frameworks, and containers

    • Rebuild: discard legacy applications and rebuild applications from scratch using cloud services

    • Replace: substitute an existing application with commercial software that is delivered as a service

4. Design a culture for the transition by addressing management, training the existing workforce, or hiring cloud experts. Senior management shift their IT behavior and mindset from traditional, fragmented, and cumbersome processes to more agile, flexible ones.

Transition for a competitive advantage

Cloud computing enables innovation at a faster pace and lower cost. It allows organizations to have a more manageable IT footprint. Moving to the cloud means moving to an environment where a new product or update takes just days or even minutes to launch instead of months as can be the case with traditional IT setups. Being on the cloud allows businesses to plan capacity around actual consumption. It has changed how engineering teams address problems and made businesses more responsive to customer needs. From flexibility to efficiency, the cloud has proven over the years to give organizations a distinct advantage where innovation is not limited by a lack of computing resources.

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