Every year brings a deluge of new tech buzzwords. We check them out around the holidays to prep for the new year’s changes. Cloud trends can ebb and flow, but the core list typically stays the same: AI, machine learning, IoT, and so on. Over the years, the cloud tended to be the steadiest constant on that list; no one questioned that adoption would continue to grow.
What we mean is that we generally focus on the most cutting edge (no pun intended) technological advances like kids in a toy shop—or more appropriately, like adults waiting for the next gaming console drop. And we let the known standbys, in this case general cloud use, remain out of the limelight. But then 2020 hit, and suddenly that reliable standby had its time to shine. Because when we face crises, we fall back to the most reliable tool at hand and make it our lodestar—in this case, cloud adoption. If there’s any bright side to the Covid pandemic, it’s how it accelerated the cloud’s role in daily business and expedited adoption and innovation.
Accelerated Cloud Adoption
HBR found out exactly how expedited that process became while surveying executives on the cloud. Pre-Covid, companies had a comfortable plan to grow from 20% to 30% of work in the cloud to about 80% over eight to ten years. Post-Covid, that timeline dropped to within the next few years. We’ve seen Moderna highlighted in many articles as a beacon of accelerated cloud adoption—it’s how they, a relatively minor player in the pharmaceutical field, were able to get an approved vaccine out the door and into arms so fast. They weren’t alone. From small businesses like local restaurants to corporations like Lowe’s, everyone scrambled to create apps supporting business continuity amid lockdowns and social distancing restrictions. By this point you’re likely thinking, “Sure, this is great, but what does it have to do with cloud resilience?”
Well, cloud resiliency is a multifaceted concept. It’s not just shoring up cybersecurity in the face of new and improved cyberthreats. Nor is it only about switching to VoIP or desktop as a service to accommodate newly dispersed employees. It’s all that and more. The core concept of cloud resiliency is to adopt varying levels of cloud computing to keep business operations going in the face of any disaster. Covid just forced the world to take cloud adoption straight to Ludicrous Speed to meet resiliency demands.
Resiliency in Cloud Management
There are myriad ways to achieve cloud resiliency, and it’s somewhat of a choose-your-own-adventure situation when you get into the details. But for an overview, here are the key components. All of this comes down to developing and implementing the resilience patterns for cloud computing that work best for your business.
1. Get on the Cloud
Okay, yes, this is a bit obvious. And the massive shift to the cloud in March 2020 might make you think this is checked off the list. But not quite. The cloud evolved from the general umbrella term we happily accepted back when cloud adoption was a long-term project. Re-evaluate the snap decisions made in 2020 when immediate business continuity was the only priority. Which cloud services do you use? Are you using the public or private cloud, or a hybrid? Does your setup allow you to observe the entire system, or are there blind spots that could be automated or merged? Start with the basic structure that best fits your needs: Iaas, PaaS, or Saas.
2. Focus on Resilient Software Architecture
You may have heard of application resilience in (hybrid) cloud. It sounds like a lot, but if you’ve heard about cloud native apps, you’re on the right track. Essentially, this means developing the application layer for the cloud platform on which they run, rather than the end-users’ OS.
Like resiliency overall, resilient architecture isn’t limited to the application layer. It means everything from carefully choosing your cloud model of choice to learning to pivot and reiterate with every new disaster. And we don’t just mean pandemic-type disasters but the ones we’ve come to know as normal. Take the exceptional heat waves across North America in summer 2021, for example:
“...Unprecedented weather patterns across the U.S. pushed many IT and business leaders to virtual ‘war rooms’ in order to ensure capacity, networking, and applications were instantly and persistently available. But those rooms were in the moment, rapidly assembled and then rapidly disassembled—just like the technology that underpins the real-time applications and services we all depend on.”—Forbes
Fixed reliability doesn’t exist anymore. The new standard has to be resiliency no matter the situation. If you build for that, you’ll bounce back faster than you would otherwise. Which leads us to the mindset side of resiliency engineering.
3. Chaos Engineering
We’ll bet that whomever coined this term is a huge fan of Jeff Goldblum’s character in Jurassic Park, and we’re here for it. Just as much as we’re here for instituting chaos engineering at work. When you assume your build will succeed, future problems will blindside you. If instead, you accept that failures are inevitable, which they always are in technology, your production team can experiment with the possibilities and implement resilience from the get-go.
4. Prioritize Customer Experience
Namely, design for customer experience and effectiveness. When Covid hit and everyone jumped on apps for everyday needs, we didn’t care about perfection, only that it worked, was intuitive, and value delivery was swift. That’s another silver lining to the Covid cloud, at least from the customer perspective. Before, UX was often on the backburner compared to cost savings and flashy interfaces. Unfortunately, privacy features often got the same treatment. Don’t forget: Focusing on CX expands beyond the end-user interface to metric tracking and roadmaps as well.
5. Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS)
We hope you had a business disaster plan in place long ago. In the past year, particularly with rising cybercrime, we hope you at least looked into DRaaS. A major component of cloud resiliency is preparation for downtime. You just read about chaos engineering, where you plan for failure to nip it in the bud. Implementing DRaaS is another way to proactively limit downtime all the way from the cloud to data center resiliency.
6. Create and Fill IT Resilience Roles
It’s imperative for executives to understand the nuances of IT needs in terms of personnel. This goes from the engineering and developer roles for the steps outlined above, and also for cybersecurity. The United States in particular has a dearth of cybersecurity professionals. Granted, that’s always the case in an ever-evolving field, but it’s particularly notable amid the skyrocketing cyberthreat landscape post-Covid.
Security expert Rita Gurevich put it this way to Dice:
“Up until a few years ago, cybersecurity professionals specialized in a particular field or technology. Today, the role requires a broad range of experience in technology and business to be successful. Evolving threats mean that cybersecurity professionals must also be able to adapt to change frequently. People like this are not easy to find.”
Gurevich is the founder and CEO of the security firm Sphere, so take her word for it that filling roles for your specific business needs isn’t an item for the bottom of your to-do list. That said, each of the steps outlined here requires different skills in different departments, and making the right choices for personnel will go a long way toward achieving cloud resilience.