By Hugh Scantlebury, co-founder and CEO, Aqilla
As organisations around the world continue to shift IT infrastructure, software, services and data to the cloud, many traditional software vendors have adapted their approach to offer their legacy on-premises solutions online.
Previously, these applications were installed within the user’s IT infrastructure, but migrating onto cloud-based servers makes them accessible through a web browser and allows the vendor to jump on the cloud bandwagon.
Critics of this strategy often refer to it as ‘cloudwashing’ because the technology is not designed for cloud deployment, and migrating a legacy system to the cloud doesn’t mean it takes advantage of the service, cost and convenience features cloud customers are keen to use. Additionally, this approach can incur significant improvement costs, difficulties with system updates due to the inflexible nature of older systems, creating problems around compatibility and integration with newer systems.
But, providing ultra-convenient access to the software, data and services users need — wherever they are in the world — is one of the key benefits of a cloud-enabled IT strategy. Additionally, reduced reliance upon on-premises resources (including hardware and in-house team IT teams) is a major plus point, especially for businesses with limited physical space, technical expertise and budget. Software vendors are fully aware of the revenue opportunities this creates, and cloudwashing legacy solutions offers a convenient, if flawed, shortcut.
In contrast, ‘designed for cloud’ software has been specifically developed and deployed to utilise the benefits of the cloud. These include continuous development, where software vendors constantly work on incremental and major updates, also allowing them to quickly address possible problems and improve their technology based on user feedback. Updates can be rolled out at short notice, often avoiding user downtime and the need for on-site IT technicians.
Designed for cloud software is also highly scalable and can offer enhanced security protection over legacy on-premises solutions. It can also allow users to move from an up-front capital expenditure payment model to a subscription-based service which can be assigned as a monthly operational expense.
A cloud that’s fit for purpose
Software and services that have been ‘designed-for-cloud’ from the ground up allow developers to not only drive technological progress, but to address outdated and broken elements of software with minimal interruption to the end-user. This is a big problem for ‘cloudwashed’ legacy software, where existing bugs and performance limitations remain in place when the software is shoe-horned into cloud architecture. Additionally, cloud-hosted legacy software does not have the scalability that designed for cloud software does, which is often reflected by the pricing model used by the vendor.
In contrast, designed-for-cloud vendors are able to provide clear pricing structures, usually per user as a subscription model, whereas cloud-hosted legacy software retains the inflexibility of the legacy pricing model, which can include considerable setup and maintenance costs. Legacy software also presents a variety of modernisation issues for developers, the main problem being that software updates are significantly less-frequent than their designed-for-cloud counterparts, reducing the value to the end-user.
If a customer does not require all of the bells and whistles available in a software solution, for instance, designed-for-cloud vendors are able to facilitate different types of access for a variety of organisational needs, meaning that each customer is more likely to experience a tailored solution. Consequently, fewer resources are wasted on unwanted and unneeded aspects of software development, resulting in a more streamlined solution for the customer.
Furthermore, the use of Application Program Interface (API) technology within cloud development enables customers to integrate their software with other compatible systems, enabling a “best-of-breed” philosophy at the heart of their infrastructure and increasing their ability to tailor and streamline numerous key business functions.
The cloud goes beyond simply storing and hosting, and is at the forefront of a wave of new technological progress. Developers often work together, sharing information through open-source collaboration, creating new solutions to old problems and improving the experience for customers. As the industry and technology matures, so the gap between legacy and cloud-based software widens. Trust in cloud-based services has increased significantly, and the modern workplace is increasingly populated by a generation of cloud-native professionals for whom the outsourced, service-based approach to software delivery is the only way they know.