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Cloud-native

Next time you hear someone bandying around the term cloud, stop to ask if they actually mean cloud-native.

What is cloud-native and why is it so important to you?

Cloud computing is changing the way we all consume and interact with technology. Whether this is at home with Netflix, or with devices such as Amazon Alexa, or at work, with cloud-based services like Office365, Google tools, school administration systems, and numerous other specialist enterprise applications. In schools, cloud computing is an enabler; it creates strategic change in the way schools of all sizes work with technology. In short a real cloud-native service is easier, more efficient and less expensive.

With all the benefits and hype that has come along with the word ‘cloud’, many companies claim to have 'cloud' solutions when in fact they are merely hosted software services. How can you be sure that you will receive all the benefits of cloud computing, such as lower cost of ownership, zero maintenance, frequent product updates, endless and elastic computing power and more?

It’s important to know the difference between real, designed for the cloud applications usually called ‘cloud-native’, versus quick fix migrations of legacy code that are called ‘cloud-hosted’. In the rush for new school customers (and to try to prevent their existing customer base from abandoning them), many vendors in the school library management market skipped the hard work of re-building their applications and simply created crude web front-ends attached to legacy application architectures.

 

Concord has invested heavily over the last few years to build our cloud-native library management system, Infiniti, from the ground up. Infiniti was designed for the cloud to take advantage of new software architectures and hardware devices that make it easier and more efficient to manage a modern K-12 school library. In other words, there is no easy short cut to making a real cloud-native library management system. It takes time and costs money, but the benefits to schools, to you, are worth it.

So, what are the key questions you need to ask to find out if a solution is the real deal when it comes to the cloud?

  1. How many versions of the solution are in production with schools?
    The answer should be one. Why? Because cloud-native solutions only have one version of the software used by every school. Infiniti is built as a collection of services on Amazon Web Services (AWS) that can be shared by many schools. By having only one version, Concord can ensure you receive a much better service than that delivered by cloud-hosted vendors.
     

  2. Is the solution a multi-tenant service or is it a multi-tenant server?
    It should be a multi-tenant service because a multi-tenant service is more efficient and lower the cost. If it's not a multi-tenant service, it's not a cloud-native service so you will not get the benefits you are looking for and it will be more expensive.

     

  3. Is the solution entirely device independent (responsive)?
    The answer should be yes. Why? Because cloud-native solutions work on all devices all the time. All modules of Infiniti have been written to operate on any device from anywhere. Cataloguing, searching, circulation, acquisitions, reports and all other functional areas of your library management system should be able to "just work" on any desktop computer, laptop computer, or mobile device without the need for an app (appless).

     

  4. Does the solution use elastic cloud computing for scalability?
    You’re looking for a yes. Why? Because an elastic cloud is will allow your library management system to use more computing power whenever it recognises the need - so Infiniti never "goes slow". Infiniti matches computer-processing capacity with the workload you have. Cloud-hosted software cannot do this.
     

  5. How many software updates are made available each year?
    The answer should be many. Why? Because a modern school library's operational environment is highly dynamic, and therefore the software used to manage it must be equally dynamic. The beauty of a cloud-native solution is that Concord can issue frequent updates to Infiniti. We do so at least six times a year. More importantly, all Infiniti schools worldwide are updated at once – there are no special versions. The upgrade cycle for cloud-hosted software is a painful and costly process - for schools and vendors. With large annual releases, many things must be tested, and versions must be run in parallel. Cloud-hosted needs individual upgrades per installation, with one installation per school. A true cloud-native service just happens invisibly. Smaller, more manageable updates means lower operational risk. It also means rapid and agile progress can be made within Infiniti, allowing Concord to react to client and market demands.
     

  6. Is the solution secure? Has it been externally audited?
    You need a big yes. Why? It may sound counter-intuitive, but cloud-native applications are more secure than traditional on-premise software and certainly more secure than cloud-hosted. Why is this? Application and data security is not normally part of the development process with traditional software. Security is something that is added afterwards after the application has been built (like adding a burglar alarm to a house). With cloud-native applications, data security is designed integrally from the start, not as an afterthought. Because the application is shared between clients, you must have a secure method of managing client data. This approach results in a more secure software architecture. It’s like building a bank vault with safety deposit boxes. Making sure the application security has been externally audited to recognised standards is also important.

 

While there are other important areas to uncover, these six questions will help you to tell the difference between cloud-native applications that come with many benefits, and cloud-hosted imposters that come with many of the issues of legacy on-premise software. In the end, it is less to do with the functionality of a service and more about the technology. Will the technology help you achieve your strategic goals or will it bog you down in endless complexity?