Preserve your flexibility in the cloud


With 78 percent of companies embarking on DevOps-style agile development, the focus for the future is on flexibility and innovation. CIOs should formulate core principles for technology decisions that preserve critical business flexibility.

Robert Haynes Miniatura
Robert Haynes
Published July 14, 2017


When companies move to the cloud—or change their providers—it often lays bare an uncomfortable truth: in the rush to quickly field an application, developers are often put in the position where they make business decisions for companies without realizing it. These decisions, formerly the sole domain of the CIO or CTO, can greatly impact the company’s future.

Worse, management often does not realize that fundamental design decisions were made by developers until something changes. Switching cloud platforms, pursuing customers in new countries—which brings the need to comply with additional regulations—and moving from public clouds to private or hybrid clouds are all changes that can expose the inflexibility caused by previous decisions, possibly resulting in immense technical debt.

With 78 percent of companies embarking on DevOps-style Agile development, the focus for the future is on flexibility and innovation. Yet, developers are having a greater impact on how applications are architected, and in many cases, making unilateral choices that impact business flexibility.

This is the emerging disconnect between developers and business executives. While nearly two-thirds of enterprise IT managers believe they should be the deciding vote in selecting a public cloud service, moving apps to the cloud, or creating a private cloud, business units disagree about 40 percent of the time.

To respond, CIOs should formulate core principles for technology decisions that preserve critical business flexibility. This includes choosing elements that are compatible with multiple platforms.


Seventy-eight percent of companies have a DevOps program or initiative in place.

Recommendation 1: Play ‘What If?’

Managers and executives need to run exercises to illuminate how potential business and regulatory scenarios could impact their development. The goal of these “what-if” exercises is to identify potential problems.

What if new privacy laws are passed, or the company and application has to deal with data from European customers? Nearly three-quarters of managers with responsibility for the cloud believe that the management of privacy and data-protection regulations are more complex in the cloud, according to a recent Ponemon Institute report.

What if the company moves its applications to a new cloud-infrastructure provider? While few good numbers exist that measure the cost of moving cloud providers, the top challenge for businesses is optimizing the cost of using the cloud. Failing to reduce the cost of moving from one cloud provider to another serves to lock a company into their existing provider.

Pull quote/interrupter: 53% of companies are trying to reduce costs by optimizing their usage of the cloud.

These what-if games will help the company decide how much flexibility and abstractness needs to be built into their development and operations platforms. While developers are typically tasked with how something is done, and operations with how it is managed, both need an overarching framework to reduce overlapping efforts and avoid future pitfalls.

Recommendation 2: Look for decision points

Executive management and cloud architects need to look for points in the development process that may require a particular technology or process be replaced. Identifying these points of fungibility will allow a company to be prepared for the future.

To stay flexible in the future, companies should architect their their entire design, including security, performance, and monitoring tools, to work with different services. While Amazon Web Services dominates the market today—and continues to innovate—Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and others are coming on strong with powerful, differentiated offerings that are proving compelling. Microsoft’s Azure cloud services, for example, have attracted 34 percent of companies to the service, up from 20 percent in 2016.

Recommendation 3: Identify services that allow flexibility

After identifying potential pitfalls and mapping those to technology and policy decision points, cloud managers then need to identify technological solutions that can solve their problems. In many cases, infrastructure can be abstracted and control points added by using additional layers, such as an application delivery controller.

Sixty-nine percent of companies have used the cloud to re-engineer a business process. Companies always need to make choices regarding whether a service provides more security or a better feature, but executives need to balance those considerations with the need for flexibility and to be ready for an uncertain future.

Developers left to their own devices will often not think of the bigger picture. As such, enterprise architects and CXOs need to enforce business priorities through architectural principles that protect against dead-end development choices. By brainstorming what-if scenarios, identifying fungible points in the development process, and finding flexible solutions, companies can prevent significant headaches in the future.

Having a cloud architect can help push application development in the right direction. It’s a role that more companies are utilizing. More than 56 of respondents to the annual cloud survey identified themselves as cloud architects, up from 40 percent in 2016, according to RightScale.

Developers can’t—and shouldn’t—engineer inside an organizational vacuum. Instead, they should be provided with a framework that allows them to develop to the future.

Developers can’t—and shouldn’t—engineer inside an organizational vacuum. Instead, they should be provided with a framework that allows them to develop to the future.

In the end, cloud adoption comes down to a value calculation: while use of a single platform may provide some positive benefits, the future of your application is longer—and more challenging—than you might expect.

Robert Haynes is a solutions architect with over twenty years experience in IT. Starting at the bottom as a helpdesk analyst, his lackluster career has lead him through UNIX systems administration, backup and storage, and finally application networking. Having supported, designed, and sold complex IT systems across a range of industries and a number of continents, Robert’s focus is always on the practical implementation and real world use of technology. While this may seem utterly at odds with his current role in marketing for F5 Networks, he likes to think that he is primarily employed to bring balance to the Force.

Robert holds a B.Sc. in Applied Biology from the University of Wales College Cardiff, and a certificate in “Avoiding Collisions While Backing and Parking” from the Driving Dynamics Interactive Advanced Driving School, the latter of which has proved considerably more useful than the former.