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Get your core workloads in the cloud, cloud-enable your datacenter

on ‎06-07-2013 03:03 AM

cloud-spending-300x181.jpgIn a previous blog I mentioned 5 use cases that can serve as a starting point to think through you journey to cloud. In my last entry I discussed the test/dev. use case, the one that is used by a majority of enterprises as a starting point. Let me now talk about the second one, core production workloads. I’m sure you’re thinking you would never start your cloud journey migrating your core workloads. This use case actually applies to companies that consolidate their IT, for example as a result of an M&A activity, their datacenters or for one or another reason need to replace their existing IT ecosystem. Companies that want to insource their IT again are also targets for this use case.


Actual examples

I remember a manufacturing customer that had a country by country approach in Europe. They had 51 companies, each with its own CIO, datacenter etc. They decided that, in a global market, they should have a consistent European approach and merged their IT department in one, cross EMEA team. The CIO went to visit all the datacenters and came to the conclusion they were old and none could become the datacenter of the future he needed. He actually took a more drastic approach and came to the conclusion he did no longer wanted to run a datacenter himself. So, he approached us to consolidate their environments and transfer his applications to a managed cloud. We started with the migration o their CRM application and are now well down the road, running more than 60% of their enterprise apps. The biggest issue we encountered was to optimize the use of software licenses. This required the provisioning of both physical and virtual machines as the databases licensing for example was not economically viable in a virtual world.


NNIT, a Danish IT service provider and subsidiary of healthcare supplier Novo Nordisk has as mission to be the preferred international IT consulting and services company in regulated industries. It realized that to increase its business globally the company either had to outsource their activities like-to-like to lower cost environments or change the approach of their datacenters drastically. The next step for them was not to outsource their IT operations but to automate their processes. It provided them with two benefits, the first the standardization of the IT processes and the second, faster delivery with fewer human errors. They started with a proof of concept in which they implemented a couple pre-configured solutions in a cloud environment to understand the magnitude of the task. Doing this demonstrated to NNIT there was a market for lower cost, pre-configured solutions addressing the needs of customers with smaller budgets. Cloud not only allowed them maintain their operations and staff, but it also provided them with new business opportunities.


Migrating Core workloads, a high risk approach?

I’m sure you will be thinking that starting your cloud effort with the migration of core workloads is a high risk proposal. And you are right. It’s all about how you are approaching things. I’ve seen two scenarios that work. The first one, I would call the IaaS approach, consists in using cloud to provision the infrastructure on which the application will run, the second one is the collaborative approach taken by companies such as NNIT. Let me discuss both of those approaches in a little more details.


The IaaS Approach

One of the biggest concerns I keep hearing from CIOs is the time it takes to provision infrastructures.  Six to 12 weeks lead times are not uncommon, and that does not include the time it takes to get the infrastructure delivered. Being able to speed this up is of key importance for companies requiring agility and responsiveness. So, providing an infrastructure in which IT environments can be provisioned in a matter of minutes to a couple hours really speeds up the process.

Fundamentally it’s not a big change of what IT teams do these days and there in lays a potential danger. If the organization wants to move to a service oriented approach, it will need to change the mindset of the teams. This approach will not help that transition, so additional efforts will be required to take the organization to the next level.


Rather than giving you a long explanation, why not take a practical example. Vaillant Group, a family owned German home heating company with a worldwide customer base has been growing drastically over its 130+ years in business. They had grown by acquisitions, resulting in a very diverse IT environment. They realized IT needed to be standardized or would become a bottleneck to their growth. Their business is mainly done using their SAP environment. So, they were looking at a flexible IT environment on which their SAP could run. In their case they did not want to own the infrastructure, so it is all running in an HP Data Center, where Vaillant’s  private cloud is hosted.


Once they had their SAP environment up and running, they looked at CRM and choose They did not want to expose their hybrid sourcing to their users, so created an online service catalog through which employees can access and provision these IT services.


What is interesting is that the internal experience with Cloud let them to embrace cloud solutions in direct support their products. The remote diagnostics boxes that sit next to their boilers are now hooked up through a cloud solution, allowing their service partners to track what is happening inside the boiler.


The net results for IT, since 2007, they have spent roughly 12% less on IT infrastructure each year.


Now, to really take advantage of such approach, the core applications need to be made virtualization and cloud ready. For example, to take full advantage of the cloud and its flex-up, flex-down capabilities, the applications need to be able to clone modules in high demand so a load balancer can initiate additional copies when performance goes down. One of the key aspects to analyze is the application license scheme as it may prevent a cost effective migration to cloud.


Even if, in a first instance, end-users are unable to trigger the set-up of an individual service, the automation of the provisioning of the infrastructure required to run the application is a big step forward in increasing the responsiveness of the IT environment.


The collaborative approach

NNIT I mentioned earlier, wanted to go faster. Their objective was to transform the applications and take full advantage of their cloud environment immediately. Realizing they did not have the experience, they teamed up with HP to go through the process. They used a proof-of-concept (PoC) approach to initiate that collaboration, pointing out that “failure was not an option for HP”. And they were actually right. There was no way we would allow this PoC to fail. In this case we combined the implementation of the infrastructure with the transformation of applications (of which I’ll talk more in a next blog entry). And I already mentioned the benefits they gained from doing that.


Migrating Core workloads, a business requirement

Starting the cloud journey migrating core workloads is not the traditional approach taken by CIOs. It’s often imposed upon them as a result of specific business requirements related to innovation and business growth. In the current economic climate taking a drastic approach should allow the enterprise to go after new markets. In NNIT and Vaillant, taking the step to cloud resulted in new business opportunities and ultimately improved the top and bottom line. Taking a risk ultimately paid off.



The first question to ask yourself is whether you have a sense of urgency. Transforming the infrastructure may be required due to a merger, a consolidation of IT, a need for growth, addressing requirements due to an innovation etc.

Whatever the trigger is, take time to understand whether provisioning infrastructure faster will do, or whether you need to go all the way immediately. In both cases, choosing an experienced partner is critical. But do not just think about the transformation of your data center; also think about what functionality you may want to source from external providers. Ensure the complexity of doing this should be transparent to the end-user, so put in place the appropriate service catalog and portal. Thinking and planning this upfront will allow you to implement the right approach for your business. Make sure you are in close contact with the business teams so you understand what they expect from you. And good luck on the journey.

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