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Cloud Native or ‘Cloudwashed’? Why it Pays to be Picky When Sourcing Software

By Hugh Scantlebury, co-founder and CEO, Aqilla

Anyone old enough to remember buying computer software that was supplied on CDs, or going further back in time, on floppy disks, will understand how much the way we buy and use business applications has changed in recent years. More recently, many vendors have adapted their approach away from on-premises installations to provide their products ‘as a Service’ over the Internet, charging for them via the now familiar subscription-based model.

This has become a successful approach for a number of reasons. Not only does it allow users to spread the cost of software, it has also given rise to a huge array of highly specialised, bespoke services that can be tailored and adapted by customers according to their needs. Indeed, the success of software vendors is often judged by the amount of ‘Monthly Recurring Revenue’ their services generate.

And that helps to explain why, in the rush to adapt products for the dominant, cloud-based delivery model, not all ‘as a service’ software is created equal. Some traditional software vendors have adapted their approach to offer their legacy on-premises solutions online. Until relatively recently, these applications were installed within the user’s own IT infrastructure, but migrating onto cloud-based servers makes them accessible through a web browser and allows the vendor to position themselves as a modern cloud-based software provider.

The problem with this approach can be that migrating a legacy system to the cloud means it can’t take advantage of the service, cost and convenience features cloud customers are looking for. It can also result in  significant improvement costs, and due to the inflexibility of older systems, can be more difficult to update, creating problems around compatibility and integration with newer systems. That’s where the expression ‘cloudwashed’ comes from, and it reminds businesses to carefully assess the capabilities of ‘as a Service’ software before investing.

Designed for flexibility

We can see more clearly why this matters by looking at why ‘cloud native’ software has become such a success story. By offering ultra-convenient access to the software, data and services users need, businesses can embrace important trends such as remote and flexible working, and bring your own device. And by reducing on-premises resources (including hardware and in-house team IT teams), especially for businesses with limited physical space, technical expertise and budget, users can focus technical expertise on revenue generative priorities.

Cloud native software also offers the advantage of continuous development, as software vendors keep  working on incremental improvements and major updates, allowing them to quickly address bugs and improve their technology based on user feedback. These updates can be rolled out at short notice – a process familiar to any smartphone user –  often avoiding downtime and the need for on-site IT technical expertise. This is a major issue for ‘cloudwashed’ legacy software, where existing bugs and performance limitations often remain in place when the software is re-released as cloud ready.

Additionally, cloud-hosted legacy software does not have the inherent ability to scale that well designed cloud native services can easily offer. And it’s this kind of flexibility that also means cloud native services can offer  enhanced security protection over traditional  on-premises solutions.

If a user does not require all of the functionality available in the solution, for instance, designed-for-cloud vendors are able to facilitate different types of access for a variety of organisational needs, meaning that each customer is more likely to experience a tailored solution. Consequently, fewer resources are wasted on unwanted and unneeded aspects of software development, resulting in a more streamlined solution for the customer.

Furthermore, the use of Application Program Interface (API) technology within cloud development enables customers to integrate their software with other compatible systems, enabling a “best-of-breed” approach and increasing their ability to tailor and streamline numerous key business functions.

This flexibility also extends to pricing and payment, given that cloud native services can allow users to move from an up-front capital expenditure payment model to a subscription-based service which can be assigned as a monthly operational expense.  By providing clear pricing structures, usually per user as a subscription model, they work in contrast to  cloud-hosted legacy software, which often retains the inflexibility of the legacy pricing model, which can include considerable setup and maintenance costs.

As the adoption of cloud technology grows, so the gap between legacy and cloud-based software widens. Trust in cloud-based services has increased significantly, and the modern workplace is increasingly populated by a generation of cloud native professionals for whom the outsourced, service-based approach to software delivery is the only way they know.

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