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Over the past 12 years, I’ve been fortunate to be employed by three software companies with terrific products and talented teams.  All three offered on-premise versions of their software, and each one embarked on a common initiative: migration of their software to the cloud.  This required a commitment from leadership and technical staff, careful allocation of financial resources, and significant changes to institutional process, and I’ll be walking through the visions and strategies that were necessary to take their products from on-premise to cloud-based.

What objectives motivated their commitment to making such an involved change?

1. Expand Customer Base

One company provided on-premise, “first-in-class” messaging software to large Fortune 500 customers – customers with very capable operations teams that hosted the software in-house.  These customers could afford maintaining terrific in-house technical talent as well as the physical hardware required to run the software, but had a limited prospective customer base because of the aggregate expense of a complete on-premise solution.  The company wanted to expand their potential customer base with a lower “cost of entry.”  The solution? Migrate the software to the cloud and take responsibility for the software operations of the product.  Providing both private and public cloud offerings allowed the organization to offer much more attractive price points that began to expand their customer base.

2. Improve Scalability

A second company developed software solutions based on complex data science and analytics that were often deployed at major financial firms. Their customer base typically wanted the software deployed as an on-premise solution for security purposes, but these customers also lacked internal technical talent to support the platform.  Because the company needed to support their security-sensitive customers with professional services, they faced multiple challenges with platform access, including difficulty with remote server access through firewalls and the amount of time required to approve security clearances for personnel requiring building access.  This presented them with a clear scalability problem.  The solution?  They leveraged existing IaaS platforms like AWS to provide a highly secure cloud-based offering that allowed them to better scale operational support for their customers.

3. Offer Services as a New Revenue Stream

A third company, also in the messaging space, delivered software to large telecommunication companies and web hosting firms.  This software required large deployments at customer sites with customer-allocated operations staff capable of maintaining and customizing a relatively complex product.  Over time, because of required resources to maintain the software, many of their customers decided it was too costly to provide in-house operational support of the software but, rather, focus on core competencies or services that customers deemed critical.  This created an opportunity for additional service-related revenue streams by offering customers private and public cloud versions of the software.

Some critical tasks faced during these three migrations included:

  • Acquiring an understanding of cloud vendor capabilities
  • Ensuring the security of the cloud platform
  • Writing APIs to match on-premise functionality
  • Introducing Agile development and Continuous Delivery for functional speed-to-market
  • Training DevOps staff to use tools such as Nagios, Jenkins, Ansible, and Docker so that releases could be quickly tested and deployed

Although they had different motivations for migration to the cloud, these organizations all displayed a dedication to planning and a commitment of resources to successfully transform their businesses.

MEET Tom Cain.

Tom Cain is the Program Director for IT Training Programs at UMBC Training Programs. He was a co-owner of an IT training company prior to gaining 12 years of experience in the software industry, including SMTP servers, IMAP servers, and Data Analytics platforms. He has delivered hundreds of Computer Science, IT and Product training classes internationally as well as conference talks in cryptography, SMTP servers, and email deliverability. He has degrees from Penn State and UMBC.

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