The cloud has been the subject of much hype recently, and with good reason. There are significant benefits of moving to the cloud, including shorter application deployment times and plummeting costs. These measurable benefits make it tempting for businesses to run towards the cloud. Right now the most challenging, important and strategic decision that CIOs face is how to build the right cloud for their business.
CIOs that make the right choices can significantly improve their organisation’s competitiveness, flexibility and IT economics for the next decade or more. Fearing security risks and being locked in to unsuitable arrangements, many CIOs are reluctant to let go of the traditional model of capital expenditure, hardware budgets and data centres. In order to leverage the benefits of the cloud and avoid the risks, new architectures at the infrastructure and application levels are necessary.
To fully benefit from the value that cloud computing offers, organisations should follow these five key steps.
Understand Your Current Situation
Many organisations, especially large enterprises and government IT departments, have long utilised costly proprietary systems. These organisations will need to standardise legacy systems onto modern, standards-based hardware and software before embarking on a cloud strategy.
It is vital that organisations take inventory of and develop a plan for existing IT infrastructure and applications. There may be assets, processes and skills in place that ideally position the organisation for a move to the cloud.
Additionally, it is unlikely that an organisation will achieve strong benefits if it simply transfers imperfect or inefficient solutions and processes into the cloud. It can be worthwhile to review existing systems and plan a migration to a common or standard operating environment. This helps eliminate the complexity created when one-off configurations and siloed systems are allowed to flourish.
Without undertaking this step, it will be very difficult to add the further functions that enable a fully operational cloud deployment.
Know Your Destination
Not everything is suitable for cloud deployment. Moving to the cloud must enable the organisation to react with greater agility and speed to new requirements. While the cloud can deliver cost savings, these will only be of significant benefit if the application will perform well, fulfil customer needs and be manageable within the existing processes and organisational structure.
It is therefore vital to identify a workload that will actually perform in the cloud as Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS).
To mitigate the potential risk of a significant cloud project it can be beneficial to start with a smaller
project such as storing web services, email, intranet projects, data collection or social media in the cloud.
Cloud computing is not a revolution but rather an evolution. There can be a strong temptation to run towards cloud projects with the aim of realising benefits sooner. However, the flexibility inherent in open-source cloud solutions is ideal for a more organic, measured approach.
As with most technology innovations, the costs associated with the cloud continue to drop, giving potential cloud users an incentive to proceed slowly. While cloud can offer significant business benefits, on-premise hardware infrastructure may still be the best approach for some businesses. Organisations should carefully consider their options before pursuing a cloud strategy.
Collaboration Is Key
A “DIY” attitude can put organisations at risk. Companies that can maximise and leverage the work of open source software have the opportunity to experience strength from the power of a network.
Open source software is built on collaboration. It lets organisations reap the benefits of work others have done and further develop that to make it suit the business’s specific needs. It can significantly reduce costs and time-to-deployment because it eliminates the need for organisations to do all of the development themselves.
A new software architecture is needed to fully leverage the agility of the cloud. Open source can be the pathway to that new architecture and offers two key benefits.
First, organisations can run management toolkits that prevent lock-in to a proprietary silo. This gives businesses the freedom to change the cloud strategy where appropriate.
Second is the ability to access the technical and commercial advantages that arise from cloud technology. A broad open-source strategy underpinned by a software stack lowers costs and strengthens independence from software vendors.
The open source approach can also create change for the better in an organisation’s processes and working practices.
Consider An Open, Hybrid Cloud Approach
While it may seem simpler to implement a cloud strategy by completely replacing all existing applications and infrastructure, this is rarely the most efficient or cost-effective approach. An open, hybrid cloud management approach offers an alternative without requiring organisations to just extend the
existing set of proprietary technologies and products into the cloud (an approach that can transfer an organisation from one form of vendor lock-in to another).
Open hybrid cloud combines features of public cloud, private cloud and open source to deliver an environment that is more flexible and efficient and offers more choice through portability.
Choosing open source protects organisations from being locked into a single cloud solutions provider, giving them freedom to switch to other suppliers without incurring high exit costs. This mitigates the risk of vendor lock-in that prevents some CIOs from pursuing a cloud strategy more aggressively.
Open source also provides an adaptable platform, ready to assimilate future advances in terms of capturing, storing and accessing enterprise data. Organisations can adopt emerging technology to fulfil new business requirements and to integrate new applications while protecting previous infrastructure investments.
No matter what approach is chosen, organisations should take into account the ease of management in a cloud and across different clouds, as well as the ability to change cloud providers as and when necessary.
The decisions companies make on cloud computing today will directly affect competitiveness over the next few years. It’s important to choose a cloud strategy that can adapt to changing business requirements.