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I’m going to show my age here, but 30 years ago, my first computer was a Commodore 64 – a squat, brown, typewriter-looking machine that still holds the record for the single-highest-selling computer model of all time, according to Guinness World Records. I can still remember having to insert the 5-¼ inch floppy of my favorite game – “Dr. J vs. Larry Bird” — and waiting about 30 minutes while the Commodore’s hard drive lurched, whirled and grinded along. Alas, once the game finally booted, two stick-figure game characters started executing a jerky dance across the TV monitor that only slightly resembled basketball. And that was if you squinted.

Fast-forward to today, and my kids each pack smartphones in their hip pockets that, for all intents and purposes, are infinitely more powerful than the little beige beauty that was my beloved Commodore. Meanwhile, I’m penning this piece sitting at a Panera Bread, connected to high speed internet, with a console open to my Amazon Web Services account — quite literally, a supercomputer, at my fingertips.

Okay, enough of me waxing nostalgic. What does this have to do with cloud transformation? I’m glad you asked.

The point of this comparison is to highlight the dizzying pace of innovation. Technology is moving at a breakneck speed — and its only accelerating. Ask any astronaut, and they’ll tell you: Sometimes, you can forget how fast the rocket is going while you’re on it.

This zippy pace has turned the business landscape into one that is uber-competitive, and in which it is truly only the strong that will survive. The industrial internet, connected homes, IoT, Big Data, and AI are driving the technology whipsaw as we hurdle towards a future that I think few of us, if any, can predict.

This all leads me to one simple question that I’d like to pose to you, dear reader: How fast does your company innovate? Do ideas take the form of features released to your customers in hours, days, weeks, months or – gulp — years?

Release cycles that tend toward the latter timeframes, in some limited instances, are still tenable. But for most, the slow-roasted approach to innovation could very well spell the end of the enterprise. The competition, like a hungry alligator, lay just below you, waiting for the scraps to fall. They are gunning for your business, and are pursuing innovation relentlessly.

While they may not have the best product yet, they are taking feedback from existing and potential customers, and acting on it in extremely fast release cycles in a bid to catch up and overtake you, snatching customers from your clutches as they watch you fade into the rear view. In fact, your biggest competitor could conceivably be a company you’ve never even heard of yet.

And it can come from anywhere. I recently attended an AWS MeetUp in my hometown of Raleigh, NC, and in the audience were several individuals who had hung out their own shingle and had set forth upon building a new product targeted at a new or existing market. With virtually no capital expenditure, anyone can take an idea, spin up a low-cost cloud instance, and begin their march toward the Fortune 500 on a shoestring.

You’re kidding yourself if you think you have a handle on your competition.

So what is the strategy to defend against this new threat, driven by ubiquitous technology and access to infinite computing resources? It’s simple: You have to get lean, you have to get mean and you have to defend your turf.

And from where I sit, the easiest, and most well-trodden path, to get lean and mean is a cloud transformation. I’m not talking about moving certain projects, or even specific products, into a cloud-computing environment. Indeed, the true value proposition of the cloud is realized when you embrace it as a platform and take advantage of its virtues, to the fullest.

What do you stand to gain by migrating your entire infrastructure into the cloud? Think sub-15 minute RTO/RPO disaster recovery; a software-defined infrastructure with built in high availability and redundancy; autoscaling; continuous security compliance; automated application deployment with continuous integration and continuous deployment; pay-as-you-go; databases-as-a-service; multiple data choices for the right workloads; serverless computing; machine learning; and anomaly detection. The list is long, exhaustive, and ever changing, but these attributes represent the most game-changing capabilities of the cloud.

If adopted with the right strategy and execution plan in place, the cloud will fundamentally change EVERYTHING about your business. Imagine a world where new feature requests from product managers get delivered to customers in days. Feedback dynamically is incorporated into your process, allowing you to rapidly iterate on the feature to make it better, to the delight of your customers.

Imagine a world where you have no – ZERO — capital expense for hardware or software licenses. Imagine a world where you can scale up and down instantly on demand, with no up-charges for such flexibility. Imagine a world where the barriers between security, operations and engineering cease to exist. Imagine a world with no database to maintain. Imagine a world where you have no servers to maintain or patch. These are truly game changing features of the cloud, and a successful transformation journey will hit them all. Not all at once, certainly, but these are the types of advantages you need to be mindful of as you undertake your cloud transformation. Do these things, and you will be that lean and mean company at its fighting weight, ready to defend its turf.

That said, if you’re not the incumbent — if you’re the one trying to disrupt a market, you also stand to benefit from using the cloud as your platform. By allowing cloud providers like AWS to manage the undifferentiating heavy lifting, you can focus exclusively on your product features, and punch above your weight.

All transformations will be different, and this will be a journey. There is nothing prescriptive about it. So how do you start? Here at Blue Sentry, we follow a time-tested, high-level framework developed in partnership with AWS. We’ll share the details of this framework in part two of our Cloud Transformation blog.

The main point of emphasis here is that if you decide a cloud transformation is right for you, partner up with AWS and consider an Advanced Consulting Partner like Blue Sentry (shameless plug). There is no need to go it alone. Let the experts help.

Okay, now that my shameless plug is out of the way … for the readers my age or older, here is your trip down memory lane.

How far technology has come indeed. Happy computing!