Cloud computing as a disruptive technology for collaboration and enterprise software

As far as disruptive technology goes, cloud computing is a disruptive market force to traditional IT business operations with its pay-as-you-go consumption model and asset-light delivery of key business applications and services.

As with many new, disruptive technologies, the question now arises as to how organisations embrace – or reject – cloud computing as vital to their business.

Companies must decide whether they will adjust their focus in the name of future relevance, or cling to old models that were successful in the past. How have organisations entrenched in legacy technologies balanced the disruptive innovation represented by the cloud? What can be learned from those that are getting it right?

Cloud as a revolutionary force

Bradley Bunch, General Manager: Microsoft Solutions at Dimension Data Middle East and Africa, believes vendors making the most successful transition to the cloud are those that realised years ago that cloud was set to become a revolutionary force in the industry, rather than a minor innovation.
“In fact, these organisations embraced cloud-like technologies and working styles within the consumer world years ago,” he argues.

In addition, individuals have been comfortable with and adept at using workloads in the cloud for some time.

“It is estimated there are about 560 million Skype users, and we recently saw 35 million users communicating simultaneously. Since the rise of Web 2.0, users have become accustomed to sharing information, opinions and data through websites,” Bunch said.

Versions of consumer tools

Bunch continued: “Microsoft realised these consumer-driven behaviours and technologies would find their way into the workplace. They’ve also learnt that if the interface isn’t intuitive and users aren’t comfortable with a new technology, they simply won’t use it.”

Bunch points out that the result has been in the release of corporate versions of consumer tools.

Take, for example, Microsoft’s collaboration platform, SharePoint. Consumers are used to collaborating and posting content in the cloud. SharePoint adds corporate features such as security, management, and integration with other enterprise tools, he says.
Bunch believes companies that are on track to not only survive – but thrive – in an increasingly cloud-dominated world are those that are finding ways to sidestep potential pitfalls associated with licensing, which the pay-per-use aspect of the cloud model could complicate.
“Dimension Data has worked with Microsoft to enable clients to buy cloud services just like enterprise software or through traditional cloud utility-based pricing models,” says Bunch.
In it for the long haul
Some of the larger technology companies will continue to succeed as cloud moves into the mainstream is because of the fact that they – often publicly – placed their bets on cloud computing, and invested heavily in capabilities that would ultimately enable them to transition their existing services in the cloud.

These companies are increasingly designing their products to be more cloud-enabled from an architecture perspective.
Microsoft Exchange is a case in point: it’s the most widely used messaging system in the world, and the predominant vehicle through which people access it is through Outlook. About ten years ago, Microsoft made it simple by adding functionality that enables Outlook 2003 to be accessed both online and offline, and enabled the platform for cloud. Today, Exchange is the most widely used enterprise messaging system in the world – and, by association, in the cloud.
Furthermore, the company retains a competitive edge with its relatively mature and full-featured Azure cloud platform, Hyper-V virtualisation, System Centre suite of technologies, and increasingly powerful line-up of cloud-enabled applications. This could be why Dimension Data has migrated over one million end-users to Microsoft cloud-based business productivity solutions.
More choice, less disruption
According to Bunch, the move to the cloud by business is not going to happen overnight. This is borne out of the fact that early adopters realised they needed to ensure they understood – and accommodated – their clients’ varied paces of adoption, within their products suites.
“I believe consistency and minimal disruption to business as usual – from a pricing, licensing and user-experience perspective – are critical when transitioning to the cloud,” said Bunch.

According to him, Microsoft, as a Dimension Data partner, emerges as the clear winner.

All users in the cloud at the lowest possible cost is one thing, but many clients are looking for a journey that can only be provided by a partnership like the one that exists between Dimension Data and Microsoft to migrate them at their own pace, on their own terms.
“IT and end-users are already familiar with the technologies they will use in the cloud. That’s because they use them in a similar way on-premise today. Dimension Data and Microsoft’s objective is to provide choice – whether it’s on-premise, in a hybrid model or completely in the public cloud with the goal of enduring that the technology, user experience and management are all largely the same – so organisations can move at their own pace,” Bunch concluded.

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