Article written by VMware A/NZ vice president and managing director Alister Dias
For any new application to survive and thrive, it needs to be built in the cloud. The world’s most disruptive enterprises like Facebook, Netflix, and Uber have gained their market edge because their apps were born in, and live on, the cloud – allowing them to scale, update, and roll out new services as fast as customers demand them, if not faster. That’s something which larger, more established enterprises should embrace as well if they want to remain competitive and relevant in today’s market.
Doing so, however, is easier said than done. Developing on the cloud allows for far faster innovation, to the extent that we can barely predict how the next generation of businesses will use it. That means time is of the essence for enterprise IT leaders. Software and app development processes must move to the cloud for businesses to stay competitive – and doing so requires a sea-change in how they equip their developers with infrastructure.
Large organisations have large footprints – in data, infrastructure, and process. To keep software development competitive, enterprise IT leaders must find ways to quickly yet seamlessly translate these resources into a cloud-hosted environment. At the same time, they’ll also seek to keep development processes lean enough to roll out new or updated apps at speed – not to mention giving developers themselves a certain degree of autonomy in how they procure what they need, when they need it.
Typically, software development succeeds in the cloud when supported by three main things. First, developers need access to testing tools which offer their teams a high degree of visibility. Cloud-based software development only hits its stride when developers can rapidly test, fix, and re-iterate their applications many times within a short period (the essence of agile methodology). The more collaborative the environment – the more eyes can observe the app throughout the development cycle – the more rigorous the testing process, and the more effective the result.
Second, cloud-based software development only works with production resources that can scale at speed. Peak demand is the most obvious issue, but developers also need to account for rapid changes in user feedback – which can result in higher-performance features that demand more resources than before, or greater network and storage devoted to certain popular app functions. Scalable production resources play a critical role in supporting the entire gamut of customer demands, not just spikes in volume.
Finally, any cloud development environment must be supported with the right security measures to minimise the business’ risk profile. Any breach to such an environment can inflict severe costs on a business – in terms of not just revenues lost from downtime to key services, but also revenue and trust in the organisation, as breaches suffered by Facebook and Uber have more than proven.
IT leaders must shore up their defences well before software development moves into the cloud, constantly testing them with the help of trusted third-parties to ensure they remain effective.
Moving software and app development processes to the cloud must occur quickly enough for production to continue as normal, but also minimise the friction that developers and others in the business feel because of the change. Ideally, developers can build, test, and deploy their applications in a familiar setting, while still getting the elasticity and visibility of the cloud.
Although while a familiar environment is one thing; a changed mindset is another. For cloud-based software development to thrive, developers need to think in a cloud-first way: embracing agile, investing to transparent collaboration, using security to drive improvement rather than as an excuse to maintain the status quo. That way of thinking is what powers the success of the world’s most disruptive companies; the cloud is merely the platform that allows this attitude to reach its full potential.
For larger, more established enterprises to foster that attitude, they can certainly hire newer talent – or better still, rekindle their organisational vision and put the focus of their current developers on meeting and beating customers’ expectations. Applications thrive when they’re built in the cloud, but only if built by individuals who are truly, lastingly committed to making them work.