Before jumping right into the topic of cloud journeys, I’d like to step back in time to look at how many journeys start, including my own. The date was June 5th 2011 and I’d just touched down in New York to attend the Cloud Expo. By this stage I’d been specialising in cloud for about three years. I can even recall when AWS didn’t really have much going on in the web console and it was all about the command line! Like other cloud evangelists attending from across the globe, I was excited to find out about the latest advances in the cloud world.

As usual, there was a lot of buzz and debate around topics such as what’s next for cloud? When will cloud be mainstream? and most importantly the true litmus test of any self-respecting cloud evangelist: where are you on your cloud journey?

To give you some context, back in 2011, cloud only had three service models:

  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) – the most basic of offering, where you retain responsibility for almost everything beyond the basic service availability.

  • Platform as a Service (PaaS) – moves into the realm of cloud provider managed offerings where your responsibility is shared with the provider. Aimed primarily at empowering the developer community.

  • Software as a Service (SaaS) – the highest in the value chain, as a customer you simply consume a service with little responsibility for how the service is managed or delivered.

Whilst the adoption of SaaS was straightforward, the only option as a consumer was to adopt a service on a per user basis. The challenge for most people attending was how to harness cloud to deliver their own services/workloads.

Let’s jump back to the topic of cloud journeys. During this time there were two clear camps emerging trying to address the above challenge: those who were championing the IaaS adoption path, and those who dared to dream and push bravely towards PaaS. PaaS was seen as the holy grail of cloud, where platforms would be born in the cloud to enable workloads to deliver on the NIST cloud principles.

If you answered the cloud journey question stating you were using PaaS on public cloud you were a pioneer and truly embracing cloud. At the Cloud Expo in 2011 few could or did.

As an Infrastructure Engineer by trade, I could see the pathway to IaaS. From a hardware and virtual machine point of view, conceptually the move to IaaS wasn’t that big a leap. The cloud evangelist in me knew that the promise of PaaS was the ‘treasure island’ of cloud, even if it meant the role I was doing would disappear!

Whilst IaaS was the clear immediate direction of travel in 2011, the takeaway through chatting to my peers was that PaaS was the future of cloud and the destination of most journeys. My somewhat bold prediction at the time was that by 2016 PaaS would be mainstream and our default go-to model when deploying to cloud.

Back to the present day and the question I ask myself in June 2020 is:

‘Was I right in my prediction?’

From one viewpoint, yes, but from another, I wasn’t. Confused? Let me elaborate.

Why I can answer yes to that question is that in my experience a significant majority will default to PaaS when building a brand-new service. Starting with a blank page and designing a new service using PaaS is relatively straight forward. The PaaS offerings available today have matured significantly over the past decade, they deliver easy to consume cloud-native capabilities. Out of the box PaaS services deliver robust, secure and performant services that truly enable digital and cloud transformation.

Illustrating the growing adoption of PaaS, Gartner forecasts consumption to reach $40 billion by the end of 2020, up from $26 billion in 2018. For context, in 2016 consumption was $3 billion up from $900m in 2011.

Why I also say no is that the step from legacy to PaaS was a leap too far and for the majority of businesses they have a lot of legacy to deal with. Today (depending on where you read), roughly 75% to 90% of workloads remain on-premise and therefore fall under the legacy category. The most common migration path chosen for legacy workloads was to IaaS, otherwise known as ‘lift and shift’. So, whilst many may be on their cloud journey they still haven’t got to the treasure island.

Lift and shift to IaaS only delivers some of the benefits of the cloud journey but doesn’t deliver on all of the promises. Legacy architectures, by their nature, are static or fixed and lift and shifting to cloud doesn’t inherently unlock true elasticity or on-demand consumption models. In these circumstances, the journey has taken you to cloud but hasn’t delivered the goal of cloud transformation.

Whilst the common path to deal with legacy was lift and shift, we are now of the age where the maturing of PaaS offerings has bridged the gap to deal with the legacy, it is now entirely possible to reinvigorate and rejuvenate a service onto PaaS. This ability to move beyond the lift and shift to cloud-native services not only unlocks the technical capability of cloud but can also have a massive impact on the cost of running and operating. By modernising a legacy service, it is common, in our experience, to reduce hosting costs by 50% on average and operational support costs by up to 80%.

Whilst the maturing of PaaS technologies has been crucial to driving wholesale adoption another factor to consider is people. Enabled and empowered people being able to reimagine legacy services onto PaaS is the final piece in the jigsaw, without people the advances of technology cannot be realised. At Kainos we pride ourselves in developing our talented people and our people work side by side with our customers sharing their knowledge and skills. We enable our customer’s teams to adopt the latest and greatest technology out there to the benefit of their business and collaborate with our customers to support the growth of their people when embracing new technology and ways of working.

So if you find yourself on your cloud journey but you haven’t quite reached treasure island yet please reach out to us and we would be delighted to help you with your legacy modernisation challenge.