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Start your journey to cloud, take a 360 degree view (part 1)

on ‎10-02-2013 12:20 AM

journey to cloud.png


Regularly I’m meeting with companies wanting to embrace cloud. Some are focused on increasing the agility and responsiveness of their IT environment while reducing cost, others focus more on improving their business operations, yet others are looking at growing their business, creating new opportunities or going after new markets. The agility/cost discussions are mostly driven by the CIO and the CFO, the business improvement ones by line of business managers and the growth and innovation discussions by the CEO.


Defining a journey to cloud is ultimately the decision of the whole management team and it’s important that all members of the team participate in the definition of the objectives and end-state. But there will always be a driver. And the driver will dictate the main reason for the journey.


Unfortunately in some enterprises, IT is in resistance or denial mode, or does understand what the business is looking for. That results in the LOB teams to go and consume external services, being it SaaS or IaaS. Increasingly having IT literate resources in their teams result in them feeling they don’t need the IT department anymore. The result, information gets split between different environments, end-to-end security is often not properly assessed, compliance may not be met… Ultimately the overall understanding of the IT environment and in particular the information topology is lost.


I can only stress the importance of communication and of looking at the information technology aspects from an end-to-end perspective. Four key areas need to be looked at: the delivery model, the business operations, the application environment and the technology used. Let’s discuss each of those in a little more details. I’ll discuss the first two in this blog entry and the last two in the next one.


Let me start with the most obvious area:


Technology transformation

The first question to answer is whether to start with a private or a managed cloud. In my experience larger enterprises do not consider public cloud to contain their prime cloud based functionality. Yes they may start experimenting with public cloud, they may consume SaaS services located in a public cloud, but when you ask them what cloud they want to base their system functionality in, public cloud is not part of the equation.


If a private cloud is chosen, identifying the platform that will be used is critical. The question at this moment is not so much related to the suppliers chosen, but to the functionality that is required. Despite the fact the decision is taken to start with a private cloud, it is important to already think what external connections will be required. Will that private cloud be complemented with a managed cloud for occasional bursting, will some functionality & data reside in the private environment while other will be in a managed or public one? Is there a need to offer SaaS services right from the portal of the private cloud, is a link with a public cloud required for testing purpose for example, etc.


The one important element is that, even if the start is small and concentrated around one type of cloud, the longer term direction should be looked at. And this direction includes connectivity with other environments. The initial cloud may become a broker to other environments. When speaking about connectivity, security should also be looked at. And here again, make sure you think through future needs when setting up a specific security approach.


If the choice is a managed cloud, make sure you understand the technologies provided. Think about how you can integrate external services. In this case you have less control over the platform, so you’ll have to gain a good understanding of what is available and what you can expect. Make sure you have a conversation about where the service is going, what new features will be provided, how much freedom you have, and what the cost of it is.


Regardless of the choice, there is another aspect to look at. How will you integrate the traditional environment you have running today? How will you ensure end-to-end security across both? As it will take time to migrate fully to the cloud, this aspect is key. You want to make life easy for your users, but at the same time ensure end-to-end security.


To complement the technology transformation, we have the second area, the applications.


Application Transformation

You don’t implement or use a cloud for the stake of having one. You have to use it. So, the first question that comes up is what for? Will you use the cloud for development & test, to host new, still to be written applications, to serve as a gateway to SaaS services or to slowly but surely migrate existing applications, potentially modernized to include support of mobile devices? You’ll probably end up with a combination of several of these.


If you start with development & test, think about the complete application lifecycle, make sure you understand what functionalities you require the platform to help so you can provision the different environments needed during the lifecycle. Feed that back to the technology transformation team to ensure they take it into account. For example, you may want to do stress testing on a public cloud, so you may want easy interaction capabilities. Think about the needs of new development methodologies such as agile. Are you looking at small incremental enhancements rather than large release cycles? Each of those will have specific needs that your cloud environment has to address. Make sure you understand which ones you want.


If you start migrating applications, ask yourselves which are the ones to migrate, and what is their best target platform (private, managed or public).


This brings me to the question why to migrate an application to the cloud? Typically, applications with variable demand, requiring scale-up/scale-down are the best targets for cloud. Now, think about future usage patterns. If you want to mobile enable an application and expect it to be used by many new users, it may completely alter the usage pattern, making cloud an obvious choice.


And then there is the data. How do I integrate data across multiple applications that may run in different environments? How do I ensure end-to-end application security? Take the time to think through each of those before making a decision. Make sure the application and the technology transformation teams have regular communications as decisions made in one place have implications for the others. Way too often decisions are rushed without proper thinking about the longer term needs. And these are the ones that will ensure your environment will satisfy your needs for the long run.



I discussed the first two areas you should look at when planning your move to cloud. These are the two obvious ones, but not the only ones. There are two more aspects, related to the business transformation and the delivery models.

Although less obvious, they need careful planning too. But I’d like to postpone that discussion to the next blog entry to avoid this one becoming too long. So, please hang in there with me till next week. I’ll get the second part ready by then.



Interested in reading more: Application Transformation to Cloud & Converged Cloud Professional Services

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on ‎10-30-2013 01:08 AM

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