Our long-term relationship with the cloud

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Schuberg Philis
Jun 17, 2021 · 7 min read
04 AR20 Our Long Term Relationship With The Cloud

Founded in 2003, Schuberg Philis is now officially of age. Commonly traced back to 2006, the concept of cloud computing seems to be turning 15. On the occasion of these cardinal years—and because 2020 was one that only accelerated digital technologies—it’s an ideal time to reflect on our long-term relationship with the cloud. To take stock, we’re sharing here which cloud practices, processes, and products we’re over, which we’re committed to, and which we’re still exploring.

Suspenseful value generation

Buyers huddle at an industrial storage facility while a fast-talking auctioneer scans the group and, before long, the highest bidder wins. A unit’s metal door rolls up. What’s inside? How much would that art deco armoire resell for? Did Hendrix really play that guitar? Can we call an antiques appraiser? The classic scene from an episode of Storage Wars makes for suspenseful reality TV, but it reminds us precisely of what makes some companies so cloud-skeptical.

Peering into a whole new system of storage, with its shrouded architecture and endless containers, questions abound: what lies within, what can be cashed in on, what’s worth keeping? For us, it’s simple: every move to the cloud should generate value—and do so suspense-free. We empower customers to pursue that value by applying solutions that combine our IT expertise with our hands-on understanding of the daily business and needs for security and compliance.

The lift- and- shift fantasy

It sounds seductively easy, like “plug and play” or “shake and bake,” but a lift-and-shift approach to cloud migration is rough and tough. In its haste and one-size-fits-all treatment, lifting and shifting just moves existing problems and limitations to a different datacenter. Once there, total cost of ownership usually rises. That’s why before doing any deployment or design, we evaluate the potential that each workload or application, if migrated, would have to lower costs.

Specifically, we seek to reduce the cost of change, which the cloud’s agility very generously allows. We determine which applications make sense to refactor and which to make cloud-native. We make our customers an integral part of this sifting and sorting process because it’s, literally, their business. So together, we define value streams, assign or reassign operational focus, and make technology decisions. In sum, our contemplative, choosy method to migration urges for plenty of sifting before any lifting.

Getting cozy with the whole system in the room

Gone are the days of siloed thinking and thus siloed working. When it comes to the cloud, all parties must have a seat at the table to hold effective conversations that lead to productive actions. Cloud work is necessarily teamwork. It requires multidisciplinary expertise and the simultaneous application of specialized skills. Within our organization and in all our customer partnerships, we therefore nurture a horizontal work culture in which everyone draws from their own knowledge and professional insights to execute a project.

In short: we get the whole system in the room. Even if something was done before, it likely wasn't done in the context of a given organization or an ever-changing market. This makes for a complex system, in which acting within a space changes the space. No one person is capable of holding in their mind such complexity in its entirety. Hence, the whole system in the room.

Certificates sealed with experience

When Dorothy and her crew finally meet the Wizard of Oz, he gives Scarecrow a diploma, Tin Man a heart, and Cowardly Lion a medal. The characters are relieved to get these souvenirs of external validation, while movie viewers understand that they’d already developed smarts, emotional intelligence, and courage through their lived experiences.

Our view on certifications is similarly discerning. Certificates have merit—they honor all that’s gone into achieving theoretical understanding and they facilitate career progress. However, they’re most meaningful when backed by what IT professionals have actually worked through. We therefore measure success not according to whether someone sits though 100 hours of courses or checks off having learned every feature of every service in the cloud, but rather how they apply on the job all the experience they’ve internalized while in the co-pilot’s seat during our educational journey together. In short, we count flight not simulator hours.

Making ourselves redundant

We love our jobs and we love offering training to customers. However, we’re committed to transferring as much of our knowledge as possible to all the cloud specialists we can. Alas, we realize this means that one day we may make our teaching services redundant. Our end game is not to keep enrolling new course participants. Rather, we foster an educational environment that promotes continuous learning among trainees and emphasizes self-correction and self-improvement.

On top of that, we urge IT professionals to share what they’ve learned within their own teams and to train colleagues within their own workplaces. Ideally, they become leaders, or front-runners in their own unique ways. We seek to enable others to grow, even if it means that they might not need us one day. And if they come back to teach us something in return, we are delighted and excited to share that lesson with others.

Missions to the moon

Aim for the moon—if you miss, you may land on a star. That old saying well encapsulates our attitude towards emerging technologies. When it comes to the cloud, we encourage customers to entertain far-out thoughts, to dream big, and to set their ambitions high.

Why wouldn’t we? Once a company has good digital hygiene and feels at home in a hyperscaler’s ecosystem, the cloud promises to be so much more than safe and secure storage space. It’s a playground. Unlike traditional infrastructure, the cloud is elastic, dynamic, and expansive by nature. If an experiment works, it can quickly yet securely be scaled up. Plus, in this context, costs are likely to occur only per cloud-native service transaction. Inexpensive, easy-to-do (and also undo), aiming for the moon has thus become an option for everyone, not just the C-suite, the folks at headquarters holding the purse strings, or black-turtleneck-wearing visionaries.

Stellar discoveries along the way

But just because an out-of-this-world project doesn’t fully launch, that hardly means all is lost. In fact, more mundane discoveries often occur too, and those seemingly small wins can become gains. We saw this scenario unfold years ago, when a retail customer still using monolithic on-premise technology was struggling with Christmas peak costs because its pre-cloud platform was meant for steady loads throughout the year.

We built a cloud-based proof of value running on serverless technology that cut costs since functions would only be billed per transaction. In the end, the company didn’t feel ready to be an early adaptor of what was then new technology, but our proof of value uncovered the scalability problem and showed the power of deploying code without infrastructure. That’s but one example of why we encourage customers to aim for the moon in their cloud journeys, while staying open to stellar discoveries along the way.

Carpe diem, carpe nubes

Emerging technology makes the impossible possible. The cloud has virtually no limits. Such statements capture how exciting and entertaining digital innovations can be. But as our annus horribilis has shown: cloud technology unequivocally saves lives. This became painfully obvious as pharmaceutical companies raced to develop Covid-19 vaccines, and we heard publicly that Moderna, for one, relied on Amazon Web Services’ cloud platform to accelerate research of RNA medications.

From our own healthcare industry experience, we’ve witnessed the power of AI applied with CCTV cameras. On that project, our partnership with a global vision technology leader ensures 100% uptime in caregiving- facility software that monitors patients’ behaviors and comfort levels. So while we’ve always treated the cloud as serious business, today we have even more expertise to explore life-improving, life-saving solutions with our customers, including within vertical markets. And yet for everyone really, seizing the day necessitates seizing the cloud.