News/Trends, Tech/Engineering

Building a Cloud Strategy That Works

Unencumbered by the burdens and limitations of legacy solutions, the unique capabilities of the cloud provide enormous cost savings and data management functionality that were never before possible. While the cloud provides powerful on-demand service platforms coupled with seemingly limitless flexibility, it also comes with a fair degree of complexity. Because there are now so many ways in which to accomplish the same business objectives, companies struggle with how to effectively integrate the cloud into their long-term technology vision in a way that provides the most value.

“Almost every day we get calls from C-level individuals trying to build long-term strategies,” says David Cappuccio, VP Distinguished Analyst at Gartner, at the 2016 Gartner Data Center, Infrastructure & Operations Management Conference last week in Las Vegas. “In the last one to one-and-a-half years,” he continues, “the cloud has drastically changed the conversation. Organizations recognize they must incorporate the cloud into their overall strategy but they can’t just move everything all at once. As a result, they are trying to build a strategy for both legacy services, as well as future ones, while making the business happy – and for many, it can be hard to find a starting point.”

According to Cappuccio, organizations now understand that the cloud is no longer just a destination – it’s part of a much larger strategic and operational conversation. There was a time when the business would demand a particular service and the burden of building it would have to fall on IT, but today that is no longer the only options. As cloud services providers mature and provide a greater array of tools, IT teams can now ask, “Who can do this for us?” While the idea of a cloud approach may be new to some organizations, he points out that this is not actually a new service delivery model. One good example of a widely adopted cloud service delivery model is ADP. Companies have been using ADP to manage their payroll for decades – something that has been done within ADP’s own facilities. Executives didn’t care where the servers lived, only that the service was always available and that it provided the functionality they needed. The key to building a successful cloud strategy, Cappuccio suggests, is changing how IT thinks about what it provides. It isn’t about the infrastructure or the data center; it’s about delivering compute resources in the best way possible.

So what is it about the cloud that makes it seem so different? In an audience poll, Cappuccio asked, “How is the cloud positioned in your data center strategy?” 91% responded that it was present in some way – from an integral component to an add-on service to something they’re reluctantly moving toward. The difficulty for many, he suggests, is the complexity that comes with managing cloud services can be overwhelming. Traditional IT is very good at having a vertical focus – managing a single service top to bottom. Once the cloud is included, suddenly there needs to be different processes, not to mention an understanding of how to visualize an end-to-end workflow when it’s not completely contained within the data center.

Once IT has accepted that the cloud must be integrated into the larger strategy, what are the steps that teams need to take actually get there? Cappuccio points out several:

Engage the business: If IT isn’t at the table, the business will still find a way to meet its needs, but possibly in a way that’s more expensive and doesn’t meet the organization’s security and governance requirements. For IT teams to effectively engage, they must be willing to give up some control and take a different approach. IT is often perceived as being self-absorbed, tedious, and slow moving, which becomes incompatible with the needs of the business that require a willingness to learn by doing, as well as a focus on speed and agility in order to be successful. What IT may view as the very best solution is not always what the business needs, especially if it comes at a cost of timely delivery. Good enough is often good enough, for now. The best solution may be to provide what’s minimally required up front and then iterate later to improve it.

Protect the business: Once the business needs have been clarified, it’s up to IT to map risks and dependencies, as well as identify the goals for service reliability and availability. Cappuccio points out that a common objection to the cloud is that it’s more expensive but the reality is that, if used correctly, it’s not. However, while it may be less expensive, the cloud is not a replacement for good data governance practice, and if good practices are not maintained the organization may be opening itself up to a great risk of data breach, loss, or noncompliance with data regulations.

Transform IT’s vision: Cappuccio suggests IT moves to what he calls “outside-in planning,” examining first what the business needs are and then determining the best option to provide those services. Fostering a “data center as a service” strategy can help with this, as the business perspective can be shifted to view IT as a provider of services instead of a roadblock. Adopting the mindset that “it’s about the service, not the location,” Cappuccio says, will help determine the best approach for effectively providing the business with new capabilities. Too often decisions are made based on existing architecture, versus making infrastructure choices based on a review of all options and ultimately choosing what best suits the requirements.

The long-term approach, according to Cappuccio, isn’t just a cloud strategy. A successfully executed approach is achieved by building a model of “service delivery as a service,” with a focus on providing the right service in the right location on the right platform. This not only gives IT a seat at the proverbial table, but also positions the IT function as a critical component of company’s plan for success. More importantly, as IT moves into the role of delivering global infrastructure as a service, business needs also move to the forefront of technology planning, delivery, and support.

To learn more about how Druva can be a part of your cloud strategy, check out this white paper, Shifting Data Protection Strategies to the Cloud for Remote and Branch Offices.