Over the past eight years, I have been evangelizing cloud technology to whoever would listen. This has included trying to convince IT companies to sell cloud solutions, migrate on-premise solutions to the public cloud, create cloud-native solutions, and use the advanced features of cloud, like machine learning, artificial intelligence, and blockchain technologies.
I have continuously been amazed by the inherent natural resistance to change that we as humans display. This has kept many great IT resellers, solution providers, and unfortunately their trusting customers behind the technology curve. This will no doubt impede their business growth in the future, as their competitors capitalize on the gains made from their adoption of technology.
Now you may be reading this and thinking, thank goodness we are ok, we moved our servers to the cloud a few years or months ago. This is not what I am referring to when I speak about increasing your competitive advantage when moving to the cloud. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is the most basic level of cloud utilization. While doing this move will certainly reduce your IT pain, it is what you are able to do with the combination of cloud services that is going to be the differentiator between you and your competitors.
The basic cloud benefits are listed below, and while these are fantastic and certainly make a difference to any IT manager or CIO, these will eventually become the level playing field that every company will take advantage of.
Common Advantages of hyperscale cloud technology:
- Economies of scale = better pricing
- Enhanced physical security = fewer worries
- Elasticity = grows or shrinks with your needs
- Speed = deploy new services in minutes
- Reliability = less downtime
The biggest competitive advantage that cloud has to offer, is that it is an enabler of advanced technologies. In order to utilize and benefit from
many of these advanced technologies, you need data. Vast amounts of data in the form of customer data, equipment data, sales data, employee productivity data, environmental data, etc. Unfortunately, many companies are not even aware of the amount of data they generate and are therefore not preserving this valuable resource or storing it in a manner that will ensure its usability in the future. A data strategy is therefore key to capitalizing on many of the advanced features that cloud has to offer. Many companies have not considered this and are currently losing their most valuable asset, their data, on a daily basis. I would encourage all companies, large or small, to give serious consideration to what data they will need in a few years’ time in order to make strategic decisions for the business and your customers. If you are unsure of what data you will need, I strongly suggest the creation of a cloud data lake. This is a centralized repository where you can store all your structured and unstructured data. You will then have the ability to mine this data when you need it in the years to come.
So now you have a plan for your data, what is the next move for competitive advantage? This depends on the nature of the business you operate. For example, online B2C businesses would benefit from readymade artificial intelligence recommendation solutions from some of the hyperscale clouds like AWS and Microsoft. Just add your data, stir and you are ready to go. Well not quite that simple, but certainly not as complex as developing the solution from scratch. A study by McKinsey showed that as much as 35% of Amazon’s revenue can be attributed to their recommendation engine (Forbes, 2018). What many people don’t know is that they have access to this same AI recommendation engine.
Many of these ready-to-use AI systems can be integrated into your current systems and combined with your data, can provide your business with predictability and accurate scenario planning opportunities.
If IaaS is the most basic use of cloud technology, the current most advanced way of architecting, is to utilize serverless technology. While the name itself is misleading (there is always a server somewhere), the benefits speak to its name. You do not have to have a server running your code. It’s a low-cost, scalable, and incredibly flexible solution. The business functionality fires off based on triggers and workflows. Entire business models have been built utilizing this architecture which costs the company nothing until someone utilizes the service. A Cloud Guru built an entire Learning Management System based on serverless architecture. This allowed them to keep their costs to a minimum as they grew their business from a startup in 2015 to a massive company today. How much was this competitive advantage worth to them? Around $2 billion dollars it seems, as they were recently acquired by Pluralsight for this amount.
There are so many more of these examples, where cloud technology has allowed companies to be incredibly creative with their solutions for their customers. The hyperscale clouds technologies are like giant boxes of Lego for creative architects and developers. What’s required is the desire to play, create and imagine what could be next for your business. Then go out and build. Many companies are creating large and small teams that are incentivized to do exactly this. Don’t be left behind, compete in your market by planning and using advanced cloud features.