A Look Into the Future of Cloud Application Development

LogoThis is a guest post written by Rob Walters, CTO at Engine Yard, a leading Platform as a Service for a wide range of Ruby on Rails, PHP and Node.js applications, and long-time New Relic partner.

How to use public cloud to close the IT/developer divide.

The roots of public cloud adoption were in shadow IT — developers circumventing their IT departments and signing up directly with cloud service providers. During the last year, some IT departments have started providing cloud services to their business units, and in so doing have regained control of their suppliers and costs. While this might sound like the natural course of evolution, there may be some conflicts of interest between development and IT, which I’ll take a look at here and offer some advice to help you smooth the transition.

Who is the right owner of cloud services?

Let’s start with what I found to be a surprising fact: the cloud market, while undeniably large and growing ($130B today and forecasted to be $240B by 2017) only represents 3% of overall IT spending today, and will be 5% in 2017.

I mention these numbers as a possible proxy for cloud spending inside a typical organization. If that is accurate, one can understand why many CIOs have not tried to offer cloud services yet — it’s simply not been a big enough ticket item. Conventional wisdom tells us that will change, and that cloud services will become part of the standard IT portfolio:

  1. It’s the standard technology adoption curve… SMBs are the first to adopt, then business users in enterprises get involved and finally enterprise IT has to clean up the mess!
  2. We’ve also learnt that public cloud isn’t the best way to do everything: it’s either not fast enough or is more expensive than other options, so must work with them.
  3. Hybrid cloud seems to be gaining ground as the way to combine public and private IT services.

Hang on and take a step back…

This all seems like a convincing argument, until you remember why the developers looked outside and found public cloud in the first place: they wanted more flexibility, lower entry costs, faster time to market. Public cloud was aligned with these goals, making it a natural fit for them in areas that IT has traditionally struggled with; supporting new development projects, changing needs and unplanned activities are hard for them to cope with.

If IT were to start delivering cloud services, there would definitely be benefits, optimized spending and improved vendor management resulting in improved service levels to name a few. However, if a traditional set of evaluation criteria were used in the selection of cloud vendors, development could lose some of the critical flexibility that they need (though things might still look good to the CFO and CIO, at least in the short term).

The ideal solution would deliver a common set of processes and tools that understand and value the inputs of both development and IT, so that development is free to focus on development and not be hindered by undue process or infrastructure planning, and IT can set standards and policies.

Now it’s your turn!

Given the importance of having the right cloud solution to the development team, my advice is to get involved and actively steer things in the right direction, ASAP. There is plenty that you can do to ensure that things proceed smoothly and that your organization gets it right the first time. This short list of do’s and don’ts should set you on the right path:

  • Do start gathering a full set of requirements that meet the needs of your overall business, not just your development needs.
  • Do involve an IT or devops person in this activity to ensure that their needs are represented.
  • Don’t sit by and hope no one is noticing your current public cloud usage — they probably already have!
  • Don’t underestimate your power as an influencer in your organization. If you can find a solution that is well vetted and has support from both development and IT, it will gain a lot of internal support. Use this to your advantage!

About Engine Yard

Engine Yard is the leading Platform as a Service (PaaS) for a wide range of Ruby on Rails, PHP and Node.js applications. We deliver a cloud application management platform and expert support that enables developers to focus on creating great applications, instead of managing their platform. Your can try Engine Yard with 500 free hours.

About About Rob Walters

Rob has over 20 years experience using and creating technology to solve business problems. Before joining Engine Yard, Rob was Vice President of Cloud Product at SunGard Availability Services where he was responsible for cloud strategy and delivery. Rob has a BS in Psychology from the University of Westminster, an MS in Computer Science from the University of London and an MBA from Cornell University.

This post was written by a guest contributor. Please see their biographical details at the top of the post above. View posts by .

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