Making the right decisions when moving applications and workloads to the cloud starts long before CIOs select the right service provider partner.
By Tim Wade
Cloud is one of the biggest disruptors for IT infrastructures. Most businesses are now dabbling in cloud–whether through using a cloud-based application such as Salesforce.com or for internal data storage, test and dev or other non-core services. Industry experts and analysts predict that cloud will only become more pervasive, and the market is on the brink of a mass procurement of cloud services. Making the right decisions when moving applications and workloads to the cloud starts long before CIOs select the right service provider partner. The IT teams must do their due diligence to ensure that any cloud services are deployed in a structured manner that will allow for an integrated yet simple-to-manage infrastructure. By following the three key stages of enterprise analysis, cloud strategy creation and provider selection, CIOs will best prepare their firm for the cloud.
CIOs must first successfully define the business objective for using cloud before making concerted efforts around cloud deployments. What are the underlying business needs for transitioning to the cloud (i.e., cost, performance, agility)? Without a correct understanding of the business needs, CIOs may not be able to accurately select the cloud provider that is a best fit for the company.
When conducting the enterprise analysis, the CIO and his team must ask several questions related to security, disaster recovery and IT management, including:
*Does the company/industry have complex security and compliance requirements?
Specific vertical markets, such as health care and finance, will define different compliance and security requirements. Most cloud providers ensure compliance with ISO 27001, SSAE-15, SOX, ISO 27017/18 and Star, but CIOs must know now if there are any additional security requirements.
*What is the current IT infrastructure and does it encompass activity across all business departments?
CIOs need a holistic view of the company’s current IT deployments. For an effective, strategic cloud deployment, any siloed business department IT use must be brought under control.
*Is business resilience and availability built into the infrastructure?
Creating the right architecture for the job is critical and design choices can ensure that the underlying services keep running regardless of what happens to a piece of hardware, the data center or the provider.
*What level of control will the internal IT team maintain?
Operations: How do existing processes need to change to accommodate cloud and how many of those processes cannot be changed?
Services: What level of control will be kept for each independent application?
Internal divisions: If the IT department issues chargebacks to various business units, then there needs to be an understanding of the current service cost and how it will change.
The cloud strategy stage encompasses the actual deployment of the cloud including where the cloud will be housed, what type it may be and who–if any–will be providing these services. CIOs should address four main areas that will further shape the selection of a cloud provider.
*Do CIOs want to adopt a multi-vendor approach?
The smart choice is to abstract cloud providers nuances by using an abstraction layer or automation tool (Chef, Puppet, CliQr, Scalr etc.). This acts much in the same way as micro services in software development serve as a layer to reduce complexity and enable use of smaller service while enabling the flexibility to replace services at will.
*Should a cloud service broker be used?
If the CIO chooses to use a cloud service broker, there are two main considerations. First, a dependency on a platform can lead to vendor lock-in. And secondly, cloud service brokers may have an extensive partner network to assist with the transformation to cloud, but these firms may require additional fees.
*Where will the cloud be located?
The on- or off-premise decision is usually driven by the CIO’s perception of cloud. Public cloud can be very secure if architected correctly. However, if an on-premise cloud is required, there are private cloud suppliers that can offer options found in the public cloud environment.
*What version of cloud is best?
While a hybrid cloud model sounds great in news articles, the reality is that these clouds are still immature. CIOs must make smart choices around architecture and APIs when using a combination of private and public cloud services, unless this has been abstracted away with the service broker option.
Cloud provider selection
Research is essential when selecting a cloud service provider to fit the organization’s needs. CIOs can closely compare the guaranteed performance, availability and features for each provider as well as read online customer reviews, comments on social media platforms or speak with their peers for insight.
CIOs can ask cloud providers if an account already exists for their firm. Given the ease of signing up for public cloud computer and storage services, there is a high likelihood that a rogue business department circumvented IT processes. CIOs can then gain input from these business departments as well as work to bring these redundancies under control.
The other main consideration when selecting the provider is determining where the firm’s data centers are based in correlation to the office locations. The connection to remote providers does need to be taken into account and if there is a need for direct connections to reduce latency and bandwidth issues.
After all the enterprise assessment, cloud strategy creation and provider assessment, CIOs should have a clear understanding of what services to use, from whom and in which models. The key here is that one size does not fit all, so CIOs will inevitably end up with a hybrid model that will have a mix of IaaS, PaaS and SaaS services. CIOs with a clear cloud strategy will be in the position to make the right choices for your business and bring the agility and cost efficiency to the IT structure.
Tim Wade is a global cloud architect on the Dimension Data team providing businesses with insight and technical direction related to cloud initiatives.