The term “cloud first” refers to a strategy in which one is designing new software products and services to be delivered via a cloud model ahead of traditional software delivery methods. Microsoft has widely publicized their adoption of this model the past year. This shift at Microsoft has placed agile delivery methods as the priority over the traditional software launches of the past. The “cloud first” strategy was a key theme at the 2015 Ignite conference in June and it affects virtually all software products at Microsoft from Exchange and Office to SQL Server and IaaS. Debate will continue whether a cloud-first vs cloud-only strategy is optimal but cloud first is the current state of the Microsoft ecosystem so an enterprise needs to take a careful look at what this strategy means for their IT operations.
Shorty after the “cloud first” announcement, Microsoft released Exchange Online 2016. The update came with plenty of perks including features like Clutter, which separates priority mail from “gray mail.” This feature was only available to those who use Exchange Online which is a part of Office 365, Microsoft’s SaaS delivery option for productivity software. Customers with on premise Exchange deployments continue to wait on this feature, and this delivery approach is now the reality at Microsoft.
Adopting this new delivery model was a necessity for Microsoft to deliver solutions at the rapid pace that now expected in the cloud landscape. Plus, Microsoft can test new features and products via cloud customers at a lower investment and risk before rolling them into on premise application versions. For Microsoft products, this means that the traditional, on premise systems will lag behind the cloud in terms of new features.
Microsoft is not alone in adopting this model. The “cloud first” model represents an industry trend for technology service providers – CTOs and IT managers will need to adjust their plans accordingly. The cloud allows for agility and flexibility, with the opportunity to gain rapid feedback on new services while spending fewer resources on hardware or the data center. TechTarget’s Beth Pariseau notes that organizations benefit from a cloud first model by easing compliance tasks and implementing automation of infrastructure and code deployments. To these organizations the benefits are clear, but not everyone is ready to put every workload in the cloud or embrace every product with a SaaS delivery model. For these enterprises, a hybrid solution can be an intermediate option allowing a cloud strategy to be adopted in a cautious and deliberate fashion.
“Cloud first” policies, like Microsoft’s, signal a larger change in the IT industry. As cloud adoption continues to grow and its benefits become more widely understood, more IT managers are realizing the need to develop and implement their own cloud-first strategy. Implementing any kind of cloud strategy can be a complicated process for technology providers and organizations alike. Make sure you have the expertise in-house or partner with a trusted third party to ensure your “Cloud first” strategy is the best fit for your business.