Every month we explore the various tools and technologies that impact individuals and organizations. The technical space is ever changing with a lot of shiny new tools, technology and software appearing on the block almost daily. This poses challenges for companies across the tech landscape to fully understand the technology, while constantly adapting to remain up to date. In short, this leads to asking the never-ending questions: “Does your company need it” and “How do you choose between the various tools and software”? In the tech series: “New Tech, New Landscape” a perfect comparative example is the massive sense of urgency and desire to move to a cloud-based platform for many organizations in the public and private sectors.
As the first part of a three-part series: “New Tech, New Landscape” Series 1: A Morphing Landscape: Technical Desires, will primarily focus on how the changing technical landscape came to fruition through the cloud movement. The main players are well known heavy weights in Microsoft Azure and Amazons Web Services (AWS) which both bring similar, yet varying capabilities. In my opinion, the new desire to move to the cloud has morphed the technical landscape in both the public and private sectors. Additionally, this desire to shift to the cloud has also begun defining the way each sector operates and handles data storage for various tools and future software acquisition. To better explain my opinion, I think is helpful to talk through a few questions, including: What is Microsoft Azure & Amazon Web Services, What exactly is “the cloud”, How does the movement change the tech landscape between Public and Private sectors, and lastly technical flexibility.
Heavyweight matchup: Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS)
To understand what each company represents in cloud computing, let’s quickly summarize each company’s claim to fame in the cloud platform space. Microsoft Azure, formerly known as Windows Azure, is a cloud computing service created by Microsoft to be an all-encompassing directory that can provide hundreds of different services that can easily be scalable based on need. This includes services such as virtual machines, databases, file storage, backups and mobile and web app services (Hoffman, 2018). Amazon Web Services is a cloud computing service subsidiary of Amazon that provides on-demand cloud computing, data storage and packages of services to help businesses easily scale and grow (Yadav, 2018). Cool, that’s all great you say, but why is any of this important and how does defining Microsoft Azure and AWS show how the technical landscape was morphed?! That brings us to the term “the cloud”.
“The Cloud” & Cloud Computing
In this new tech age, it’s almost impossible to not hear the phrase “Migrate to the Cloud” thrown into a conversation in haste, especially during business meetings or technical discussions. So, what’s meant by the phrase? Coined by George Favaloro in 2006, “the cloud” is simply cloud computing (Regaldo, 2011). However, cloud computing is a vague term used by many to reference storing data on a remote server in some unknown place that isn’t explicitly defined. That’s not the whole story, it actual means computing of services for organizations and their desire to leverage a collection of computing resources aside from just storing data on a random server. In other words, think of it like Microsoft suites that has Microsoft word, PowerPoint and excel all being part of Microsoft Office 365. It’s all in one place and each software easily works with one another. That’s what the premise of cloud computing is and what organizations desire to have when it comes to access to resources in the cloud.
Historically, until late summer of 2006, businesses generally focused on establishing their own infrastructure, which typically included all the hardware in house. When more power was needed, the only option available was to purchase more server hardware, which takes up valuable office space. This and the cost of administrating the hardware and establishing a solid internet connection often outweighed the needed hardware. With the birth of cloud computing, business growth in many technical areas began to be more manageable.
Morphing the Technical landscape: Private, Public and Federal
This innately began a change in technical initiatives and aspirations throughout this new tech era. Instead of needing to purchase specific hardware in a random data center, businesses were able to access pools of computing resources provided by private sector businesses, namely Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services. This collection of resources provides businesses the ability to host various servers, databases, virtual machines, directories and essentially a labyrinth of technical software at a fraction of the time, space and cost. Additionally, cloud computing allows for greater scalability across many areas with a “pay as needed” mantra which began changing the technical landscape in private, public and federal spaces.
In all spaces, “it’s already changing organizations, by moving IT from a cost center to something with a place at the table in a lot of different meetings” (Hardy, 2018). This alone has helped begin to morph the technical landscape across organizations by enabling technical personnel to be in the room to make more important decisions from the beginning of adding new software, technical exploits, integration with legacy systems and more vs. being folded in later in the process.
In the private sector, cloud computing has seen a higher rate of acceptance and adoption due to more leniency in the resources that can be utilized and security requirements around data transmission. The private sector organizations have simply been more flexible and agile in technical growth opportunities. With AWS and Azure, cloud computing in this sector began changing the landscape simply by allowing private business to grow more feely. Information in this sector can travel more rapidly across computing systems with resources that allow for ease of scalability depending on size, need and workload of a company.
This includes automation of security patching across thousands of machines, more flexible work structure, rapid data collection and analysis, and quick additions of new product software regularly. For the private sector, especially small companies that need to get off the ground, this reduces the need for proprietary data centers to be operational and expands opportunity to provide services to customers successfully and quickly. In short, cloud computing for this sector helped morph and re-define how products can be designed and how data can be collected, while promoting closer collaboration between IT departments and business units changing the technical landscape and organizational operations.
Public Sector & Federal Space
In the public sector and Federal space, the requirements to secure data and what aspects of the cloud computing resource pool that can be utilized, are inherently limited due to the context and nature of the information that is shared. Many public sector and Federal agencies must support mission-critical operations with agile and innovative cloud deployments that incorporate mobile, social and analytical technologies (Perepa, 2018). What this means is there isn’t as much flexibility to freely incorporate new forms of technology without unique requirements to protect various classifications of data and support systems that fall into realm of national security.
Unlike the private sector, the public sector and Federal space can leverage some characteristics of elasticity in a public cloud platform that is scalable, but the platform needs to be rock solid to support critical missions. Take, for example, a space shuttle launch and all the intricacies, security requirements, and pre and post launch needs required for a safe and successful launch and return. Cloud computing platforms will need to support these aspects of the public and Federal space at a 99.99% uptime.
With all the resources available in AWS and Azure cloud offerings, this has slowly started to become a reality. Some agencies (e.g., U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, DOJ, USDA, Department of Education) have been early cloud adopters, setting a wave of acceptance across the sector (Perepa, 2018). One of the more prevalent driving factors to shift to the cloud has been the ability to deliver services efficiently and achieve cost savings across the public sector. Even with this benefit, the public sector has a long journey to retire its legacy systems and fully become cloud agnostic.
Nonetheless, cloud computing has morphed the landscape specifically in the public sector in a couple major ways; 1) simply through eradicating the need for any future development of on-premises infrastructure and associated costs, and 2) it helps balance the public demand for more efficient and transparent government processes while operating on a limited budget (Figueroa, 2020). Still, the challenge for the public sector is to simply pull the trigger and close the vast technical gap that is exists between private, public and federal space or the changing landscape will leave them behind.
The Wrap- Up
In the end, this morphing landscape doesn’t slow down for anyone, but the desire to remain efficient and relevant in the new tech era continues to grow across sectors. Even though adoption of cloud computing platforms may be easier for a company in the private sector to implement vs the public sector with numerous mission critical legacy systems, a few undeniable beneficial points remain consistent across sectors. Cloud computing is the future of technical expansion due to the scalability, available technical freedom and flexibility, effectiveness and efficiency in information collected and transmitted, reduced overhead hardware needs, and increased cost savings and greater collaboration with IT departments from inception for future growth. However, with all the flexibility and growth opportunities that cloud computing brings, a major question remains. How do you decide between which is the best for your organization? Look out for the next addition and find out in Series 2 of “New Tech, New Landscape”.
Have you noticed this shift in technology in your industry? Share your thoughts with us about it on LinkedIn!
- Figueroa, G. G. (2020). How Government Agencies Can Get Started with Their Cloud Journey. Forbes. [Web Blog]. Retrieved January 31, 2020, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2019/06/25/how-government-agencies-can-get-started-with-their-cloud-journey/#332769c5d8c8
- Hardy, Q. (2018, February 08). How Cloud Computing is Changing Management. Harvard Business Review. [Web blog post]. Retrieved January 28, 2020, from https://hbr.org/2018/02/how-cloud-computing-is-changing-management
- Hoffman, C. (2018, January 04). What is Microsoft Azure, Anyway?. How to Geek. [Web blog post]. Retrieved January 26, 2020, from https://www.howtogeek.com/337961/what-is-microsoft-azure/
- Perepa, S. (2018). Why the U.S. Government Is Moving to Cloud Computing. Wired. IBM. [Web blog post]. Retrieved January 31, 2020, from https://www.wired.com/insights/2013/09/why-the-u-s-government-is-moving-to-cloud-computing/
- Regaldo, A. (2011, October 31). Who Coined ‘Cloud Computing’?. MIT Technology Review. [Web blog post]. Retrieved January 27, 2020, from https://www.technologyreview.com/s/425970/who-coined-cloud-computing/
- Yadav, K. (2018, July 3). What is AWS and What can you do with it. Medium Noteworthy- The Journal Blog. [Web blog post]. Retrieved January 28, 2020, from https://blog.usejournal.com/what-is-aws-and-what-can-you-do-with-it-395b585b03c