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Cloud integration: How to treat your physical and virtual infrastructure as one

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By: Ben Lovejoy

 

The benefits of cloud computing are undeniable. Reduced capital expenditure, lower running costs on "pay for what you use" models, scalability, and flexibility are among them. But cloud computing also introduces new challenges, not least of which is how to achieve cloud integration: ensuring that your local and cloud-based infrastructure is viewed and treated as a single system.

 

Cloud ComputingDoing so isn't easy. One reason is that no enterprise has the luxury of starting its IT planning from scratch. There are always legacy systems, and most businesses have multiple layers of IT infrastructure introduced at different periods in their history.

 

IT infrastructure has many layers

One CIO of a bank told me that the IT infrastructure was like an onion. At the center, still largely untouched since the middle of the last century, are the core systems used for the overnight batch processing of transactions. ATMs sat on the top, doing sums to reconcile yesterday's balances with the card transactions made since. Telephone banking was another layer on top, Internet banking another, and mobile banking yet one more. When customers asked their smartphone for a live balance, multiple systems were queried to come up with a calculated answer. Many other businesses have similar layers.

 

Cloud systems have been an extra layer. Cloud integration with local hardware can be tricky enough at the best of times, but another IT trend adds dramatically to the difficulty: the huge growth in shadow IT—external services purchased directly by lines of business (LOB) without the involvement of IT.

 

Does shadow IT harm cloud integration?

Each LOB makes what seems (to them) to be sensible decisions based on the needs of the team. But popular as the approach may be to LOBs, viewing it from their individual silos, it effectively amounts to delegating important IT purchasing decisions to people lacking the necessary expertise. At best, it results in inefficient choices; at worst, it carries the potential for disaster as LOBs choose inadequate services.

 

Shadow IT also runs completely contrary to one of the biggest changes we've seen in IT management: the move towards automation and orchestration. IT teams learned the hard way that, even with experts running the show, if you leave anything vulnerable to human error or omission, it's not a question of if it will go wrong, but when. Automation and orchestration remove entire layers of potential errors.

 

If any elements of your cloud infrastructure sit outside your automated, orchestrated bubble, they reintroduce all the old risks that the bubble was designed to remove. And the risk isn't just a theoretical one. A report by Dynamic Markets revealed that more than half of businesses—54 percent—had missed a project deadline in the previous six months due specifically to cloud integration problems.

 

Achieving cloud integration is no small challenge, but it's one that today's CIOs recognize urgently needs to be tackled. To learn more about making smart decisions to benefit IT, watch the webinar Application transformation: The difference between Heirloom and Legacy IT.

 

 

About the author

Ben LovejoyBen Lovejoy

 

Ben Lovejoy is EU Editor of 9to5Mac and 9to5Google and a freelance tech writer whose published credits include the Guardian, the Telegraph, the Sunday Times, the Express, and many regional newspapers. He's written for more than 30 computer & technology magazines, as well as numerous businesses, websites, and corporate clients.

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 Follow me on Twitter @benlovejoy

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