Cloud computing in and of itself is not a strategy. I know this has been said, but it bears repeating. If your cloud strategy is “we will use the public cloud to do what we are doing today”, then you will fail. Cloud is not about just moving stuff to someone else’s location. Cloud is about embracing our past faults in IT and in business and approaching things in a new way.

One of the best things to happen since the word cloud started getting thrown around, is the discussion between business and technical staff about using “the cloud”. For much too long we have been separating IT from the business and just accepting either that IT just is, or that the business just tells us what to do. Your view depended on which side you were on. But now, we are seeing discussions about this thing called cloud and it is bringing the business down to IT to ask how they can leverage this to do business better. Unfortunately this discussion is often not productive because neither side has taken the time to define their goals.cloud_hugs_by_infinitoa-d6jiydx

The pieces missing from that discussion are the heart of a cloud strategy. Hashing out what value has not been received by traditional IT, and hashing out ways to break down the walls of separation so that everyone is heard and business growth is achieved through any investment, this is a cloud strategy. This doesn’t mean we need group hugs and unicorn costumes, but it does mean real conversation about what is and is not working, and where to start adding “cloud” to help the business achieve growth.

Growth comes in many different forms. It might be that using the cloud to build a new mobile application helps bring in hundreds or thousands of new customers, but it might also be that brining cloud practices to existing systems will increase availability and produce lower overall costs of doing business. I like this quote from Ms. Scott in a Gartner article on Cloud Strategy, “Using cloud services is not enough. It’s the way you use cloud services that matters”. [source]

That use comes from your strategy. The strategy must entail purposeful use of what you have, what you want, and what you will build. In application design, stepping back and thinking about practices that will help make the application more flexible and easy to maintain down the road. There are many different technologies and practices that will help here. Things like containers, micro-services, PaaS, and others. But we need to be purposeful in using those things, sharing a vision across teams of what we want to accomplish and why it is important to do things right from the start.

The strategy doesn’t just apply to application development, but also in traditional systems. How will we test, deploy, and secure our traditional systems using Cloud technologies and practices? Again, we need to consider what we desire to accomplish and then work in technologies and practices that will help us achieve our goals with things like DevOps, Infrastructure-as-Code, configuration management and logging. There are so many things here that a strategy is necessary to guard our investments both in time and money.

So, what is a Cloud Strategy? It isn’t “we will use the cloud”, but instead it is defining why we will use the cloud, what we will achieve by using the cloud, and how we will measure our success.