Reinventing yourself for the cloud: Solutions Architects must change or die

The cloud. A chance for solution architects to take a step forward and reinvent themselves so that they can prevent extinction. The role is a grand title. ‘Solution Architect’ or SA as we might know it. Like royalty. They’re in charge of planning, deployment and design. The manager of enterprise solutions. He or she is a warrior. A fighter with an extensive knowledge and an inordinate amount of skills behind them.


So why the contrast or the grand vs possible extinction scenario? Unfortunately, the tables are turning with the development of the cloud-infused, internet world where apple and other providers are now handling all of these same jobs and roles. Infrastructure, data management and core services are now being dealt with by this modern style solution design.


A lot of Solution Architects are beginning to look at moving bases so to speak. The idea of migrating from an on-prem infrastructure to Office 365; so using IT as more of a tool, is a much more up to date and flexible way of adapting to modern technology in this sector. It’s a sensible way for SA’s to ‘move with the times’. Whilst SA’s can use their original skillsets whilst migrating or architecting hybrid solutions that mix on-prem over to cloud, overtime their skills will gradually become less and less resulting in them becoming fully archaic.


A new development that has come into play is that of the ‘Plug in and go’. Smaller businesses benefit hugely from these in comparison to that of the larger as it suits a smaller client base. It is now estimated that since 2015, 'over 90% of UK businesses are using at 'least one cloud service.’ (*1) So, if this is the case, why is it that so many businesses are moving over to the cloud? Well, cloud computing increases efficiency for one. It helps improve cash flow, plus these other ten key advantages:


1. Flexibility

2. Disaster recovery

3. Automatic software updates

4. Capital-expenditure Free

5. Increased collaboration

6. Work from anywhere

7. Document control

8. Security

9. Competitiveness

10. Environmentally friendly


If we take Office 365 as an example of a programme, but simply cut it into pieces and then look at one section of it, then it might be a little more simple to understand. At the centre of this software, the communication and collaboration is the Exchange server running in the cloud (eg. Exchange online) but let's break it down even more.


Let's look singularly at the messaging side of things. We have four parts:


  1. Mailbox Services (which Microsoft deals with through Exchange Online)

Also, How to provide:

  1. Gateway Services
  2. Long Term Data Storage
  3. DR and Contingency Services


Here, a solution architect would step in and use his or her presence and skills to add the ‘best’ pieces of ‘furniture’ to their environment. For points 2,3 and 4 these might not therefore come from Microsoft. However, if you’ve moved on and are using the cloud, it’s suggested that you should. Why? Because Microsoft ‘provides base-level solutions for all of these areas.’ (*4) It simply ensures that the job is done 100% correctly and no human errors are made.


A lot of concern over this change to the cloud is the fear that humans will end up losing their jobs to robots and machinery. Although some jobs may become obsolete, it is necessary for the role of the Solution Architect to actually come into play and switch with the migration over to the cloud. He or she simply switches roles rather than abandons it entirely by becoming more or a ‘risk managed email architect’ rather than a SA.


In the past, it’s been the case of when the SA says ‘jump’, then you jump. Their words are gospel - the all knowing, all seeing. In the world of servers, when the big man or woman said SQL, we know that's the top dog and when we think top dog, we think ‘big data’ right? And when we think of large amounts of data, what servers come to mind? If I said Hadoop to you then I’m sure you’d be familiar. The SA said it’s the right one to use, so we need to go with it right? His or her words are gospel so we start building that in, don’t we?


As the other examples stated in this article earlier, the cloud has an equivalent of all sorts of building blocks and features. This is the case with the ecosystem of the on-prem Exchange. Office 365 which has an ecosystem build within it, mirrors this and adds even further benefits. Microsoft have worked hard to continue to develop building blocks which have been expanded so much, that they are now the providers for others. A change for the cycle within the cloud to keep developing. An example of this is when you draw up your move to the cloud. As a ‘Cloud Solutions Architect’, you have to consider what sort of approach might be better. For example do you need built in security maybe? How about options with regards to availability? When migrating over, do you need some form of disaster recovery as well as availability? Be aware, if you’re using Office 365 then there is not a backup option, this could be a major factor.


All in all, the main aim when considering migrating over, is to look at all forms of computing in reference to cloud. This includes infrastructure, platforms and structure and in a way that means you can reduce the most risk. It’s your time to get with the times. Become the new CSA - a Cloud Solutions Architect and get on board the amazing journey high into that sky.


(*1) - ‘Why move to cloud?’ - https://www.salesforce.com/uk/blog/2015/11/why-move-to-the-cloud-10-benefits-of-cloud-computing.html


(*2) ‘What is cloud computing?’ - https://www.salesforce.com/uk/learning-centre/tech/cloudcomputing/


(*3)Gartner Survey Reveals That SaaS Deployments Are Now Mission Critical - http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2923217


(*4) Solution architect, reinvent yourself for the cloud -



(*5) Hadoop




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