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The Second Cloud Transformation

A lot of people are talking about what happens when you get to the cloud? What happens next? People have already moved to the cloud. They are in AWS.  But they’re not doing the things that we’re talking about. We’re not being event driven. Or we’re not serverless.  We’ve started to call this, the second cloud transformation. I think it has become a thing. It’s quite close to the flywheel effect in our book. And it’s like the second phase of the flywheel, which is challenge. Do you have the capability to do what you’re trying to do. 

The Second Cloud Transformation

Situational awareness and landscape

It’s a really good observation. Having experienced it a number of times it definitely is a thing. Typically, when you land in the cloud. Or start moving things into the cloud, you follow one pattern. For example with MVC, you have a container for services, UIUX and a persistence tier with a database. There are defined ways to solve it. And you lift and shift into the cloud.

But then you realise the vast majority of services and capabilities available in the cloud, don’t follow that pattern. So you look at different ways of working to benefit from the cloud. And you ask yourself the question: ‘are we maximising our cloud capabilities and doing what we can for the business?’.  What is five years down the line going to look like? And are we ready for that?

When you get into the second phase of the flywheel, it’s looking at how to take advantage of it.  And how to assess situational awareness and landscape. That is why things like Wardley maps are so good.

Making space for innovation

If you lift and shift into the cloud but you still have operations like patching your servers.  Or you’ve made a decision on technology that you’ve brought across, what is that preventing you from doing?

We’ve done talks about making space for innovation. Because you’ve got to be able to start with that degree of challenge.  You might think we should move from this to this. But in order to do that, you’ve got to do certain things like skill up and make decisions. It can be a surprise for organisations that work in traditional ways.

It can be debilitating for people. They move to the cloud, and then lots of options are available to them. They don’t know  where to start looking. And they don’t know how to proceed. They’re almost fearful of making the wrong decision or adopting the wrong technology.  Or taking a wrong turn because it is all so new. And they don’t know what good looks like. 

Stuck with an on premise frame of reference

Their frame of reference is all on premise like big data centres or new mainframe stuff. So this new paradigm causes uncertainty around what can we do? What does a good cloud solution look like? Or what’s a good implementation for your context?

There’s a learning curve that people need to climb and to become more comfortable.  To find where the next best action is and how to proceed to do it. The well architected framework can give you some guidance.And questions you can ask about your org and your solution in the cloud. 

We’ve all been guilty of it in the past.  If you are on prem and you move your workloads into the cloud. But you still map your existing org like ops, DevOps or ops teams provisioning things in the same way. You haven’t embraced a large part of the cloud.

You’re just renting a very pretty data center. It’s interesting, because when you were on prem, someone had to buy the computer. Or someone had to decide which computer to buy, and make an agreement with a vendor to buy Microsoft or IBM. So a lot of decisions were actually already made for you. And someone decides this is the framework you’re going to use.  You are actually very constrained.

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Moving to the cloud and measuring data

But now someone can say we’re going to use AWS. And if they’re not on top of it, you will be faced with a bunch of services. You will have a massive choice. And a lot of the time people  don’t know what to pick.

When companies move to the cloud, it’s usually part of a transformation. But the reason why we call it ‘The Second Transformation’ is because there’s another step change.

The best person I heard describe this is Shaun Braun from 3M. He did a keynote at AWS re:Invent in 2021. He talked about people moving to the cloud and measuring data. And then they transform. I thought it was a great way of describing it. We shift and then measure loads of observability. And then you start shutting things down and redoing other things. And that’s when the actual transformation occurs. And you get value driven.   

You have richer telemetry and observability options when you’re in the cloud. You start to see what things cost. Your dollars, metrics and traces become apparent. And with a little effort, you can extract the data and start to see your performance. You have more telemetry and performance insights for your solution that you may not have had in your on prem solution. 

Orgs are struggling because they haven’t modernised infrastructure

We have a focus on enterprise serverless. And the type of workloads that come with modern applications. I’m finding that enterprises and people from mature companies are struggling.  They are in the cloud but having problems with account creation, observability, security or how to deploy or provision things. There are infrastructure things that they haven’t done. Because they haven’t modernised

A big one is security.  They are having problems with serverless because their CISO won’t let them do it. They want to install an agent on the lambdas. But that’s not going to work. So the CISO says no lambdas! You really need to educate your security team.

There’s a lot of good techniques that you can bring to bear on that. We talk about how Northstar and Threat Modelling can facilitate conversations with those groups. It demystifies and helps you have a common language with InfoSec and your CISO. It’s a great way to remove barriers and identify the threat we want to mitigate.

You need to go back to first principles

It’s a paradigm shift. Sometimes the move to the cloud happens quickly. People have not been left behind. But they’ve been focusing on other things and they haven’t gone back to first principles. To rethink how the software capabilities work. Their way to measure that is by asking: ‘what does good look like?’. And one answer is speed and throughput. And you often see things come up because they are blocking speed or blocking throughput.

You need to move away from big upfront design. And shift design, decision making and architectural decision making onto the teams.  Because they’re the ones who know the business problem and business aims best. They need to be making those decisions. But they’re not used to making those types of architectural decisions. Decisions were made on prem many years before teams were writing any code. But now they have cloud options available.

So the education and empowerment of teams to shift left is big. Have you enabled them? And have you given them learning resources and pace to assess options and make good design decisions? That’s a key part of transformation. You need to enable high performance teams. And you can’t do that by making all the decisions for them. You have got to be able to let them make their own decisions based on their context.

Encourage experimentation  

Safe space is a big thing. Situational awareness and creating an environment that is safe for the organisation. Because teams will make mistakes. But you have got to encourage experimentation in a safe way. A good enabler for that is thinking about and setting up policies for the services you want to start leveraging out of the box. With safety mechanisms built into your SCP and policies in your AWS config.  Without those in place, it’s hard to bring people along to shape things where they should be. 

We call those enabling constraints. Can you give developers and teams a fast feedback loop to show you’re on the right path? And here’s some feedback if you have strayed off the path to demystify it. The organisational setup, the SEP policies, the configures, and things like CFN lint, CFN nag, give you a better competence.  And give the team’s confidence that they’re not doing anything wrong. That feedback is a real gift for teams especially if you’re new to the cloud.  Here are commodity good practices that have been codified to guide you on the journey to a good cloud solution.

You need an honest assessment of your capabilities  

In the second phase of The Value Flywheel Effect you map out your capability. So you do need to have an honest assessment of the capabilities you have and the teams in the organisation.  Because maybe the engineers don’t understand security. At least then you know that you’ve got to level people up. 

‘Shift left’ is a great mechanism, because your teams have to do more and there’s going to be gaps. So in some ways that second transformation is filling those gaps. And you end up with

What does good look like?

well rounded teams. We talk about asking the question: ‘what does good look like?’ One of the best books to answer that question is ‘Accelerate’ by Nicole Forsgren. It’s a brilliant book.  If anybody hasn’t read it, go and buy a copy because it’s a cracking book.

In the book there are four key metrics for building and scaling high performance technology organisations. It’s the throughput and stability to deliver fast in a  stable manner.  There is a concept of elite teams that deploy on demand. That’s a great measure to look at. How many times do you deploy?  A couple of times per year, per month, per week, or in a day? Or on demand?

The four key metrics have gotten a lot of press. And people really focus on them along with 27 practices in the book. So it’s worth reading the whole book. And not just the back cover!

You can rely on proven industry practices

The best thing about this and the whole reason for talking about it in this episode is because the second transformation is a good way to gauge how far you’ve got. Just look at some of the practices in that book. 

It’s a game changer. Because it gives the people who want to pursue this improvement and transformation, the support and a proven path to what good can look like. So you’re not fighting battles on your own or based on a gut feeling.  You have real, proven industry practices that you can lean on. We find it very beneficial in our own journey.

Another go to book for this particular topic is ‘Reaching Cloud Velocity‘, by Jonathan Allen. How to spin up new teams and the mitosis approach? It’s a phenomenally good reference, similar to ‘Accelerate’.

And we reference both those books in our book ‘The Value Flywheel Effect‘ which is available for preorder! So that’s our episode on the second cloud transformation. When you get into the cloud you need to enable real transformation! What we are calling the second cloud transformation.

Visit the blog on Follow us on Twitter @ServerlessEdge and subscribe to the Serverless Craic on YouTube. And preorder ‘The Value Flywheel Effect’ book. Thanks very much everybody.

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