What is the cloud? There are many differing (but also similar) answers to that question. Some consider the cloud a gateway to providing online access, while others consider it the relatively narrow provisioning of remote servers. Technical definitions consider any third party-maintained network the cloud, and others consider it a location to which data and applications are located and accessed. All of these are technically accurate – at least partially. However, each of these views alone or even in combination do not truly do justice to the essence of what the cloud has become and will continue to be.
The cloud is much more than a remotely accessible location of remote servers, applications, and data on third-party maintained network and systems. Gartner provides this definition that encompasses the essence of the cloud:
“Cloud computing is a style of computing in which scalable and elastic IT-enabled capabilities are delivered as a service using internet technologies.”
The phrase “style of computing” is particularly telling. Style refers to a way of doing or forming some thing or a way that thing appears. It therefore follows that the cloud as a “style of computing” is a form, way, and appearance of computing. To be its own style, the cloud’s form, way, and appearance must be different from the styles of computing that have come before it. As a result, when thinking of the cloud and cloud computing more generally, the definition and meaning has come to include digital transformation. Cloud computing has fundamentally transformed the way companies do business from the previous styles of computing to the style of computing enabled by the cloud.
Just as the cloud is more than the location of resources on third-party systems and networks, digital transformation is more than the act of moving such resources from on-premises locations to these third-party systems and networks. The process of offering products and services on the cloud is a paradigm shift that should address the needs, organization, and culture of the business. With this comes many benefits: modernizing aging infrastructure, reducing the need for manual processes, meeting customer demands more quickly, automating workflows for services, accelerating the deployment of new services to customers, and engaging across multiple channels – any device, any place, and in real-time or on-demand. However, these benefits are not achieved simply by moving to the cloud or relocating existing resources to the cloud. The change between styles of computing not only require a change in technologies, but changes in the strategy of the business and how the business operates.
By embracing the cloud’s style of computing, businesses can provide scalable, resilient, and elastic services to its customers on an evolving modern architecture that meets the expected real-world demands and expectations. To transform to this new style of computing, the business will need to adapt its processes, people, and technologies to address the challenges of such a paradigm shift as well as plan for the desired business outcomes.