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How to get into the cloud

The cloud has occupied a lot of space in the thoughts, discussions and even actions of companies in 2018. If the trend continues, 2019 will probably also be a year of digital transformation for several companies at varying degrees of pace. Some companies are probably still reflecting on what cloud could do for them. Others may be wondering why all this media hype? But several organizations have probably made the decision to adopt it,  but they are wondering how to do so. To this question, as the saying goes: all roads lead to Rome! But first, let’s go back to some definitions.

For the purposes of this article, let’s say in a simplified way that “going into the cloud” means consuming or subscribing to one or more Internet services made available by a provider in order to meet a more or less broad IT need. The ways to use these services are based on three distinct approaches referred to by the acronyms: IaaS, PaaS and SaaS.

IaaS or Infrastructure as a Service: this involves making APIs and services available without regard to physical infrastructures in order to allow their use and consumption on demand: servers, storage space, network services (links, VPN, etc.)

PaaS or Platform as a Service: it is a group of services designed to enable the development, deployment and management of applications without the inherent complexity of the underlying IT infrastructures (network, processing, storage, security, etc); for example, Pivotal is a popular PaaS.

SaaS or Software as a Service: it is a software (or an application) managed as a whole by a third party on the Internet and delivered as a consumable service and payable on the basis of the features used. Office 365 is a good example of SaaS.

The IaaS approach, in other words, is based on a modus operandi that is very close to traditional IT, because it includes the same concepts as in enterprise data centers: processing units, storage spaces, network, firewalls, segmentation, etc. 

« Migrating to IaaS services is a bit like doing “lift and shift” with as few transformations as possible. »

This approach involves fewer risks, allows similar IT practices to be maintained, and allows a switch from CAPEX to OPEX accounting. But the question we can ask ourselves: is this really what “adopting the cloud” is all about?

The PaaS approach is what represents the spirit of cloud computing as a modern approach to IT. It involves a total, sectoral or partial reengineering of the organization’s application base in order to make it more flexible and agile in response to its needs. This is not an easy task. It is therefore more risky and costly in the short term and requires a rethinking of the long-term vision of IT within the company. In addition, rewriting applications also means choosing development languages, or even more generally, on development stack and delivery methods. This type of commitment is never for the short term if you want to develop your expertise and expect a return on your investments. But the benefits can be considerable and take the company to new horizons.

The SaaS approach is the 100% Internet version of the software that was once purchased with its CDs and manuals, but in a mode managed and operated by the service provider. This is about replacing one software with another, but without the need to deploy infrastructure. As a result, the question of relearning a new application arises. In addition, the adaptability of the application must be taken into account and included in  the selection criteria. Finally, choosing a managed application is a bit like a marriage, you have to commit yourself over the long term to recover your investments in time. For this reason, it is highly relevant to start as much as possible with non-critical or secondary applications to test this mode of migration in the cloud.  

All these ways of doing things bring you closer in one way or another to the cloud and they are by no means exclusive, but can be complementary. This is what is increasingly referred to as hybrid cloud. Like many things in life, not everything is black or white, there is always a grey area between the two. That’s why there are a thousand and one ways to go in the cloud and to Rome.

Jean-François Martin
Senior Consultant – Architecture & Technologies