Cloud is the future of computing. I think we’re all agreed on that. Any business software company that doesn’t have a cloud strategy will go the way of the dinosaur. Having said that there are still conflicting messages centred upon cloud-based versus ‘on-premises’ business applications, where ‘on-premises’ describes a dying technology model, while applications in the cloud are at the forefront of progress. This polarised view is far from the truth.

A central tenet of Darwin’s evolutionary theory is particularly apt here: “In the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals because they succeed in adapting themselves best to their environment.” More evolved creatures develop from more simplistic ancestors naturally over time, with mutations occurring along the way. With this in mind, we could say Application Service Provision and Business Process Outsourcing, for example, were mutations on the way to cloud.

Over the years, companies have invested heavily in their technology infrastructure and built it with their business value proposition in mind. What sense is there in ripping it out and starting again all because there’s a new way of doing things? New business requirements may lead to the introduction of cloud-based infrastructure, a natural evolution to newer technology, but the key to getting it right will be ensuring it works hand in hand with the existing infrastructure.

A hybrid combination which allows companies to use emerging technologies to safely innovate and drive out business efficiencies, while simultaneously making the most of the considerable investment they have already made is a sensible option.

Those CIOs who are able and willing to make the best use of existing ‘on-premises’ applications in harmony with the innovative use of cloud technology will be able to meet the high expectations of their businesses effectively. Cloud is designed in such a way that it can empower businesses to extend the value in their existing applications and infrastructure, delivering insight and new value.

The cloud market is confusing. Some vendors offer a public cloud only approach, some offer products that are either on premise only or public cloud only, but very few provide a quality hybrid cloud model which empowers businesses to develop their competitive systems advantage the way they want.

I am seeing high demand for public cloud applications combined with on-premises to extend value and on-premises extended through private cloud applications – an approach that will need to be applied by more complex multi-national organisations for some years to come. It makes sense for some businesses to consume applications as a service through the public cloud.

Others have greater security requirements, so require applications to be run and managed in a private cloud or in their own data centre. I’m also seeing customers that want one part of their infrastructure to benefit from the scalability and flexibility of the public cloud, and another part to run highly secured in its own data centre. It is mandatory that modern applications support all sorts of deployment and consumption models.

For sustainable competitive advantage companies must be able to adapt quickly to external drivers and technology is the natural enabler. But consider the practicalities of replacing the systems you have built your competitive advantage around first.

IT departments would do far better to exploit new technology that gets the most out of core IT infrastructures built to meet strategic business requirements. This is readily facilitated by a hybrid approach, where cloud provides the Darwinian mutation that enables adaptation and survival, but it’s a natural development over time. The chance to phase out what doesn’t work and optimise what does.