In Microsoft's cloud quest, some will get left behind

Risk of 'technical drift' is especially pernicious when your vendor appears to support the cloud but is only paying lip service

Third-party developers are feverishly trying to keep up with Microsoft going all-in on the cloud with its technologies and its customers. As a result, vendors are slapping "Azure-ready" and "Office 365" labels on their products in the hopes they aren't left behind as legacy tools for a dying age.

Some of these organizations are truly reworking their software and services, making big design changes where needed. But others are preparing shims to help them stay in the game -- quick fixes that often don't do the job right but make the offering look current in name, if not deed. I see what those half-baked tools do to my consulting clients: inhibit the use of the new Azure and Office 365 capabilities or make their usage much harder than it should be. That puts these clients at  a real operational disadvantage.

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That phenomenon is called technical drift, where a development team fails to recognize and adapt to change. The obvious cases involve vendors that completely ignore the cloud -- Azure and Office 365, in the case of the Microsoft ecosystem -- in their product development. But the pernicious cases involve vendors that pay lip service to the cloud trend by making minor tweaks to their products to get by for now. That's pernicious because companies using their products can't tell the products aren't really being evolved as they need to, which could leave those users carried off course in their vendors' technical drift.

They key to survival is either agile development or a big design overhaul. These are the approaches Microsoft has taken with its own products, and third parties must do the same for theirs. If a vendor doesn't want to have to do a complete redesign of its product, it needs to avoid technical drift by continually redesigning week by week using agile methods.

If our vendors don't do this, we in the enterprise may have to replace our current tools. What we don't want to do is find out we should have changed them earlier because the vendor didn't do its job, leaving us technologically behind and perhaps less capable than our competitors.

We need to engage our current providers early to encourage them to embrace the future. And we need to pay close attention to make sure they are not simply throwing the "cloud" label on their marketing materials.

This story, "In Microsoft's cloud quest, some will get left behind," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of J. Peter Bruzzese's Enterprise Windows blog and follow the latest developments in Windows at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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