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Cloud, COVID-19, and the Elusive Measure of Agility

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For more than a decade now, the term cloud has promised agility as one of its primary benefits. Surveys and studies often cited the elusive and nebulously defined "agility" as a key adoption driver of all forms of cloud. 

I have been, in the past, skeptical of such a benefit because it's nearly impossible to define. It's a soft benefit, unlike something like cost-savings that can be calculated, forecasted, and measured.

But what does agility look like, in practice? Success of a cloud migration—of any project, really—requires some goal against which an organization can gauge its progress. How do you quantify agility? How do you test to ensure you've achieved it? When goals are difficult to measure, they are nearly impossible to meet.

Recent developments with respect to COVID-19 and its rapid spread across the globe have, unintentionally, provided that metric. At the very least it's given us something more concrete than "able to adapt to rapidly changing business conditions." Surely no business condition has changed quite so rapidly as that of mandates for employees to work and children be educated "from home." One day we were all in the office. The next? At home.

No matter which end of the technology chain you're on—user or operator—you've been impacted by these mandates. Users have been upended; their working environments radically altered over a single day. Social media channels are filled with stories, questions, pleas for help, and complaints from operators as they try to adapt to the new normal. There are scaling issues. Security challenges. Access problems. The migration from office to home has been difficult for those left to ensure business continues in the face of adversity. If the workforce is disoriented, then operators are surely overwhelmed by the sudden shift toward even greater dependence on applications.

Pundits claimed for years that cloud would provide the agility necessary for business to navigate just such a situation. But until we were faced with a common scenario, none could prove those claims in a way that applied to every business.

They can now.

For organizations that rely primarily on cloud-based software already, this sudden shift was manageable if not painless. After all, the location and methods by which employees accessed that software did not change. Same browser. Same credentials. Same systems. Only the location of the users changed, and for all intents and purposes that didn't really matter. Perhaps we had to log in again. Overall, the process was no more or less painful than mandated quarterly corporate password changes that require reauthentication.

Like many of our customers and companies at large, F5 relies on Office 365 for a significant number of workstreams. Those workstreams continued without disruption even as coworkers migrated to (sometimes hastily set up) home offices. Teams and Zoom keep us virtually connected. Email continues to flow. Because we were able to transition quickly, we have been able to focus our attention on how to help others adapt to this new (and hopefully temporary) normal.

Millions of other organizations and institutions have similarly been able to execute a seamless shift from on-premises to an all-remote workforce, because cloud. My skepticism has officially ended.

Stay safe out there. 

If you need help supporting remote work—not every app is SaaS or in a cloud, after all—we're here to help. We have technology and support options to help with availability, remote access, and security. You can also find free resources from our NGINX arm to help you out. And our DevCentral community—comprising F5ers, practitioners, and experts—is also free and open 24 hours a day to field questions and help you find answers.

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