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10 minutes reading time (1951 words)

How SMBs and Midmarket Firms Can Leverage Cloud, DevOps, and Containers to Boost Agility and Productivity

Over the past two years, organizations around the globe have embarked on a tumultuous journey. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about unprecedented changes, making productivity and agility more relevant than ever. Despite significant economic challenges, small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) have demonstrated resilience and determination. Their survival has been primarily due to the adoption of technology solutions.

As we look to the future, it’s clear that the success of businesses, particularly SMBs, hinges on their ability to enhance speed, adaptability, and productivity. This requires focusing on two key areas: business agility and productivity optimization.

The journey towards improved productivity and agility involves several strategies. For instance, businesses should adopt cloud technology to boost organizational agility to overcome slow resource provisioning – a common issue with traditional IT infrastructures. Additionally, moving away from monolithic legacy systems can enhance both agility and productivity. SMBs should also consider adopting DevOps practices over conventional app development methods to increase their ability to innovate and launch compelling offerings, thereby expanding their market share. DevOps can accelerate the transition from planning to production and speed up innovation – a critical factor for future growth.

However, it’s important to note that adopting these technologies can increase the complexity of IT infrastructure environments and escalate cloud costs. Therefore, SMBs must strategize effectively to manage cloud costs and leverage techniques like automation to streamline processes.

Utilizing the Potential of Cloud

SMBs and midmarket firms are constantly exploring innovative ways to enhance their operations, and cloud technology has emerged as a promising solution, offering agility and operational efficiency. Unlike the conventional practice of hosting applications on-premises, cloud computing enables the deployment of applications across multiple platforms without the need for physical infrastructure, thereby allowing businesses to adapt quickly to changes in their business environment.

Increasingly, businesses are migrating workloads to the cloud to expedite time-to-market, enhance efficiency, and bolster resilience. According to Techaisle’s research on SMB and Midmarket Cloud Adoption Trends, many businesses are shifting their focus toward the cloud. Specifically, 41% of SMBs and 45% of upper midmarket firms are actively investing in migrating more workloads to the cloud. Furthermore, there is a growing trend towards utilizing multiple public clouds, with 39% of SMBs and a notable 55% of upper midmarket firms increasing their usage. They are adopting a multi-cloud strategy to adapt to evolving demands, utilizing various cloud providers and services tailored to their specific needs. Consequently, the cloud environment has become more open and interoperable, ensuring that applications function seamlessly on any cloud infrastructure, regardless of the provider.

Furthermore, cloud-native technologies like Kubernetes and containers have revolutionized application deployment and management. Containers have simplified application development, testing, and deployment across various clouds by encapsulating applications into self-contained units, facilitating smooth migration between environments. Kubernetes is an orchestration framework that simplifies container management by providing automatic scaling, load balancing, and fault tolerance. By embracing containerization and Kubernetes, businesses can achieve application portability, reduce dependencies on specific infrastructure, and enable seamless multi-cloud operations.

For many SMBs and Midmarket firms, the journey towards migration and modernization commences with containers. These tools offer significant benefits, such as faster app deployment and updating, which 44% of these firms recognize. However, it’s worth noting that 66% of SMBs and midmarket firms are still exploring the potential of containers. Among the midmarket firms, 29% are already utilizing containers in various areas, including development, modernization, and migration.

Evolution from Virtual Machine (VM)-Centric Development to Cloud-Native Containers

In the past, virtual machines (VMs) have been instrumental in application virtualization, allowing companies to operate multiple virtual servers on a single physical system. However, VMs have certain limitations that can hinder application mobility and agility. Each VM houses an operating system and runs its own applications, which can lead to resource inefficiencies and elevated overhead costs.

In contrast, containers provide a more streamlined and flexible approach to application deployment. Unlike VMs, containers share the host operating system, which reduces resource demands and enables rapid scaling as needed. This feature endows containers with significant agility, empowering developers to bundle an application and its dependencies into a single container that can operate consistently across diverse environments.

Indeed, Techaisle’s data reveals that a significant 56% of midmarket firms are planning to transition from virtualized environments to cloud-native ones fully. However, there seems to be a divergence in views regarding partners. According to a complementary survey by Techaisle, channel partners believe that only 39% of their midmarket customers are prepared to switch from their virtualized environments to cloud-native ones.

Legacy Application Modernization: Overcoming Scalability Challenges through Containerization

For many organizations, legacy applications are seen as valuable assets, but their monolithic nature can impede agility and scalability. Due to architectural and integration difficulties, these applications are often challenging to update and costly to scale. Scaling the entire application to accommodate the most demanding component can lead to unnecessary resource consumption, load, and performance issues. Furthermore, the complex dependencies of these applications can make managing and updating individual components a daunting task.

Cloud-native technologies offer a solution to modernize these applications and unlock their potential. By transitioning legacy applications to containers and orchestrating them with Kubernetes, organizations can overcome the constraints of monolithic architectures and harness the advantages of cloud-native development. Kubernetes facilitates automatic scaling based on resource utilization metrics, ensuring optimal use. This scalability enables businesses to efficiently manage fluctuating workloads without substantial infrastructure investments.

Addressing and modernizing these legacy applications is crucial as they often constitute a significant portion of IT costs and can create bottlenecks in the long term. Moreover, the modernization of these applications is a considerable challenge as they can restrict a business’s ability to adapt swiftly when necessary.

Benefits of Implementing DevOps

By their very nature, small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) often have limited personnel and, consequently, smaller IT departments. This can make it challenging to design, develop, and deploy new software, let alone discover innovative ways to communicate with and serve customers.

As a result, SMB employees often find themselves juggling multiple roles and responsibilities, from coding to customer service to troubleshooting. While this can lead to proficiency in multitasking, it may not always be the most efficient approach. Implementing a DevOps platform can help mitigate the need for constant context-switching and foster cross-functional work as everyone utilizes the same tool. With automation built into the platform, manual tasks are minimized, collaboration is facilitated, and tech teams are empowered to scale development and deployment efficiently. This rapid transformation of ideas into new features or products enhances agility for businesses of all sizes.

A DevOps platform can offer numerous benefits to SMBs, including streamlined operations, improved collaboration, reduced time-to-market, and enhanced reliability. Managing the entire software development cycle – from planning and testing to launch – on a single platform ensures a smooth transition, accelerates the deployment of new features and updates, and helps businesses gain a competitive edge across various industries.

Techaisle’s research indicates a growing recognition of the value of DevOps among businesses of varying sizes. Specifically, 34% of SMBs, 42% of core midmarket firms, and 47% of upper midmarket firms acknowledge that DevOps can bolster business objectives, foster differentiation, and facilitate optimal IT and business architecture.

Moreover, a DevOps platform incorporates security scanning early in the software development lifecycle, quickly resolving security issues. By minimizing the time between designing new features and rolling them out into production, application security, and customer satisfaction are ensured. The platform also eliminates data silos and promotes collaboration between IT teams and non-technical teams across the organization, further boosting the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the development process.

Techaisle’s channel partner survey reveals that over 50% of partners find that security, cloud performance, data warehousing, application, and DevOps management are midmarket challenges and are in-demand cloud-managed services.

Committed Spend Programs: Managing Cloud Costs and Maximizing Benefits

As businesses increasingly transition to the cloud, managing cloud costs becomes critical. To address this, numerous cloud providers have introduced committed spending programs. These programs incentivize customers to pledge a specific amount of cloud expenditure within a set timeframe, and in return, customers receive discounts as part of the program.

These programs represent a shift from the traditional pay-as-you-go model, as businesses agree to pay a predetermined amount irrespective of actual usage. While the eligibility requirements and terms of agreement vary among cloud service providers, most typically focus on annual or multi-year commitments and necessitate monthly or yearly reporting on spending and cloud usage.

Committed spending programs offer several benefits, including access to more services and improved predictability and consistency in cloud costs. They benefit businesses of all sizes, allowing them to secure more significant discounts, exert better control over cloud costs, and tailor services to their needs. By making an upfront payment for a portion of their commitment, businesses can avail higher discounts for annual subscriptions and on-demand pricing, deriving greater value from the software and services that best align with their cloud infrastructure and workloads.

Minimizing costs and maximizing the benefits of cloud investments enable effective budget allocation, optimizing infrastructure, and enhancing overall business productivity. Furthermore, participation in committed spending programs fosters robust partnerships with cloud providers, ensuring a reliable and efficient cloud environment.

Managing the Complexity of IT Infrastructure Environments via Agility and Productivity Strategies

While the growing adoption of multi-cloud infrastructure, DevOps integration, containers, and Kubernetes platforms enhances productivity and agility, it also significantly heightens the operational complexity of IT infrastructure environments. IT teams are thus tasked with maintaining application performance, security, and reliability while optimizing costs. Traditional manual and script-based approaches to IT infrastructure configuration and application deployment are increasingly unable to meet the demands of today’s environments, making automation an option and a necessity.

Many organizations initiate their journey toward automation by turning to open-source solutions. Tools like the Red Hat Ansible Automation platform provide many reusable automation building blocks, known as playbooks and roles in the Ansible Galaxy community. These readily available playbooks and roles can be customized and integrated to create templates and workflows that can be centrally managed under source control and easily reused across the entire organization.

Another strategy for managing complexities involves leveraging the partner ecosystem. Forming partnerships with established vendors and service providers can be transformative for SMBs. Collaborations with well-established vendors and service providers have the potential to revolutionize SMBs’ operations. Partners are vital in delivering services and solutions that facilitate digital transformation for individual organizations and entire industries.

In fact, Amazon AWS has embarked on a strategic endeavor, amplifying its dedication to partners focused on small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). This move aims to bolster agility, resilience, efficiency, and productivity among their SMB clientele. Partners like Caylent play a pivotal role in this initiative, assisting SMBs and mid-market firms to transition to cloud-native platforms, modernization efforts, and DevOps services.

Conclusion

High ambitions and constrained resources mark the journey of SMBs. To successfully navigate business challenges and swiftly adapt to market shifts, these organizations must foster agility and enhance productivity. This can be achieved by leveraging containerization and utilizing Kubernetes as an orchestration platform. Furthermore, adopting DevOps practices can bolster software development and operations, enabling SMBs to deliver high-quality products and services.

However, it’s essential to approach the migration of legacy applications to Kubernetes and containers with a comprehensive action plan. Understanding the complexities of application architecture, dependencies, and resource requirements is crucial. This insight will aid in making necessary modifications or refactoring to ensure seamless integration with containerized environments.

Finally, improving business agility and productivity requires significant time, effort, and investment. As the saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” the small, incremental steps taken over time led to monumental changes. While the initial investment may seem substantial, the SMBs will ultimately reap the plentiful rewards of their transformative efforts.

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