The cloud is no longer a new thing. Now, we’re rapidly moving to an “AI-first” world. Even Satya Nadella updated the Microsoft corporate vision recently to say “Our strategic vision is to compete and grow by building best-in-class platforms and productivity services for an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge infused with AI.” Bye bye cloud first, mobile first.


In reality, some organizations still haven't taken the plunge into cloud solutions, even if they want to. Maybe they’ve had to consolidate systems or remove legacy dependencies first. The cloud is still new to them. So, what advice would you give to someone looking at cloud for the first time? Have we learned some lessons along the way? Has cloud matured from its initial hype, or have we just moved on to new cloud-related hype subjects (see AI)? What are we now being told (and sold) that we are wary of until it has had some time to mature?


Turn off your servers
Even in the SMB market, cloud hasn’t resulted in a mass graveyard of on-premises servers. Before advising the smallest of organizations on a move to the cloud, I want to know what data they generate, how much there is, how big it is, and what they do with it. That knowledge, coupled with their internet connection capability, determines if there is a case for leaving some shared data or archive data out of the cloud. That’s before we’ve looked at legacy applications, especially where aging specialist hardware is concerned (think manufacturing or medical). I’m not saying it’s impossible to go full cloud, but the dream and the reality are a little different. Do your due diligence wisely, despite what your friendly cloud salesperson says.


Fire your engineers
Millions of IT pros have not been made redundant because their organizations have gone to the cloud. They’ve had to learn some new skills, for sure. But even virtual servers and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) requires sizing, monitoring, and managing. The cloud vendor is not going to tell you that your instance is over-specced and you should bump it down to a cheaper plan. Having said that, I know organizations that have slowed down their hiring because of the process efficiencies they now have in place with cloud and/or automation. We don’t seem to need as much technical head count per end-user to keep the lights on.


Virtual desktops
Another early cloud promise was that we could all run cheap, low-specced desktops with a virtual desktop in the cloud doing all the processing. Yes, it sounded like terminal services to me too, or even back to dumb terminal + mainframe days. Again, this is a solution that has its place (we’re seeing it in veterinary surgeries with specialist applications and Intel Compute Sticks). But it doesn’t feel like this cloud benefit has been widely adopted.


Chatbots are your help desk
It could be early days for this one. Again, we haven’t fired all of the Level 1 support roles and replaced them with machines. While they aren’t strictly a cloud-move thing (other than chatbots living in the cloud), there is still a significant amount of hype around chatbots being our customer service and ITSM saviors. Will this one fizzle out, or do we just need to give the bots some more time to improve (knowing ironically that this happens the best when we use them and feed them more data)?


Build your own cloud
After being in technical preview for a year, Microsoft has released the Azure Stack platform to its hardware partners for certification. Azure Stack gives you access to provision and manage infrastructure resources like you’d do in Azure, but those resources are in your own data center. There’s also a pay-as-you-go subscription billing option. The technical aspects and use cases seem pretty cool, but this is a very new thing. Have you played with the Azure Stack technical preview? Do you have plans to try it or implement it?


So, tell me the truth
One thing that has become a cloud truth is automation, whether that’s PowerShell scripts, IFTTT, or Chef recipes. While much of that automation is available on-premises, too (depending on how old your systems are), many Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions are picked over on-premises for their interoperability. If you can pull yourself away from GUI habits and embrace the console (or hand your processes off to a GUI like Microsoft Flow), those skills are a worthwhile investment to get you to cloud nirvana.


I’ve stayed vendor-agnostic on purpose, but maybe you have some vendor-specific stories to share? What cloud visions just didn’t materialize? What’s too “bleeding edge” now to trust yet?