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Agile cloud is the next shift in IT strategy

Remarkable developments in the IT sector have created a vibrant business environment worldwide.

Improvement in fields like virtualization and consolidation has promoted the IT growth rate to an unprecedented level. However, to make the most of these favourable IT advancements, human advancement is vital to create a win-win situation both for consumers and producers. Cloud computing can be quite effective in terms of achieving this common goal, through the reduction of complexity in the IT mechanism. If applied properly, it can create a shared environment and can help any business organization, small or large, save time and space.

Advantages of cloud computing

‘Cloud computing is a better way to run a business’ – This is how, one of the most notable cloud service providers, described the emerging IT trend. It may sound like a slimy sales pitch to you if you don’t consider the ‘Say No to Software’ symbol in the website of Salesforce.

In short, cloud computing is a chance for businesses to operate applications through a shared information centre. It gives organisations an edge over the ones that use conventional software development methods, such as Oracle and Microsoft, which have too many processes like installations, testing and failovers. Cloud computing, on the other hand, is fast and effective. Here are some of the major benefits of cloud computing.

  • Doesn’t require any software or hardware (other than access to a browser)
  • Follows a simple process, facilitating faster integration with different business solutions
  • Allows quick operations and reduces chances of failovers
  • Creates a flexible IT environment, where solutions can be customized as per specific requirements of any business with ease
  • Helps in obtaining maximum utilisation of resources

With all these advantages, cloud computing is steadily becoming accepted among organizations around the world.

The lean-agile approach

Lean and agile are two major production techniques, used widely in businesses. The Lean approach originated from the production methodology of Toyota, post World War II. It’s a biological process stressing mainly on:

  • Producing only what is required
  • Removing irrelevant things that do not contribute value
  • Discontinuing production when something is wrong

The agile approach has contributed exponentially to the developments in the software industry. In this process, the software is built-in parts and is tested individually before proceeding further. The purpose of using this method is to build an immediate feedback loop between the creators and the users. However, the use of the Lean method has become more extensive than the Agile method after 2008. As a result, a new trend that combines both the methodologies emerged. The need for this amalgamation rose primarily due to certain drawbacks in the Agile methods. The Agile method skips any discussion regarding the process of organising the stability of software between different wings of the business. The Lean process can be quite useful in terms of dealing with this. It breaks down development tasks into smaller streams so that the output of one stream can create the next value stream. Therefore, this combination enables to create a more process-oriented approach to software development; thus, yielding better results.

The waterfall approach

The Waterfall Approach has been quite effective for developing software since 1970 when it was first introduced. The method is a combination of various steps. The first stage is, understanding the requirements of the customer. To achieve success in this stage, it is important to communicate with clients. The next stage is to design and implement ideas. This is followed by an evaluation process. The phenomenal success of the Waterfall method has been due to the following benefits it has to offer:

  • Potential changes can be easily recognized
  • Development can be facilitated even in a large team
  • The budget can be easily chalked out, as the process defines stages clearly
  • Time and energy is saved due to the linear approach

Because of its impeccable track record, the Waterfall method has been able to outdo other methodologies of its time, including the incremental and spiral approaches. However, there are some pitfalls to the method as well. The effect of these drawbacks can go all the way to hamper the growth of the software industry. Its name itself is symbolic of its biggest shortcoming. Much like when the water crosses the edge it cannot retreat, similarly, if a fault has been overlooked in a stage, it cannot be corrected.

Agile in a cloud computing environment

There is a lot of similarity in the approaches of Agile and cloud services towards application development. The Cloud approach is well known for delivering end-to-end services in application development. Likewise, the Agile method focuses on the requirements of end-users. To achieve this goal, the Agile method breaks down the task in small parts. This facilitates detail orientation. Planning, developing and testing of each segment is done individually, which helps to remove bottlenecks in the process and maintain high-quality standards. Moreover, the Agile process focuses on building a two-way beneficial environment for developers and end-users. This creates ample scope to obtain and implement feedbacks as well as make the required changes at every stage.

A highly interactive environment can be created for developers as well as users by integrating Agile and Cloud. Once the developers start utilizing the cloud service, the users are instantly able to review it and give feedback on the process. Therefore, stages like patch installations and distributions can be eradicated, which eventually helps in saving time and energy of the organization. One of the leaders in IT consulting and technology outsourcing services, Capgemini, surveyed in 2010 to measure industry trends regarding the incorporation of the Agile process in cloud computing.

In a study which was conducted by Capgemini in collaboration with HP on around 30,000 quality assurance managers, cloud experts, engineers, and IT managers, employed across leading firms in Asia, North America, and Europe. According to the study, as much as 60% of the organizations that participated in the survey are likely to incorporate Agile methods as a part of operations for upcoming cloud projects and services. Some key advantages of integrating Agile with cloud computing are:

  • Improvement in the quality of the application
  • Maximum utilization of available resources
  • Lower time to market
  • More cost-effective

Jonathan Rende, the Vice President and General Manager, Business Technology Optimization Applications, Software and Solutions, HP says

“IT providers are facing intense pressure to develop new applications that provide competitive edge, bring greater efficiency and generate measurable results.”

Agile and Cloud Computing Integration: The Best of Both Worlds

Cloud computing has become a buzzword in the software industry. The immense benefits of cloud technology have even forced Microsoft to invest heavily in enterprise cloud solutions. However, combining cloud computing with the Agile methodology can be even more rewarding, helping make the best of both worlds. If you hire a cloud computing expert for your business, it is necessary to enquire about their know-how of the Agile process as well. Knowledge of Agile is very essential to achieve the optimal results with application development.

As noted by the founder and CEO of Cyrus Innovation (an Agile consultation company), Bruce Eckfeldt, ‘The greatest strength of Agile methodology is that it is self-adaptive’. This is why having someone on board who is experienced with both cloud and Agile methodologies can be a great boon for any business. The cloud technology is experiencing a dynamic paradigm shift, and cloud technology is gradually becoming more demand-focused.

It is time for application developers in the barcoding, mobility and point-of-sale space to adopt these new approaches to application development if they intend to remain relevant in the future.