“How many of you are using the cloud anywhere in your organization, for any reason?” asked Bob Gill, Gartner Research VP, to the crowd at this year’s Gartner IT Infrastructure, Operations Management and Data Center Conference in Las Vegas. Almost every person in the room raised a hand. Gill then asked a follow-up question, “How many of your organizations have a defined cloud strategy,” and nearly every hand went down. This, Gill said, was the issue — many organizations are now trying to figure out a strategy around something that’s already in process. In other words, the horses are already loose and IT departments are now struggling to get them back into the corral.
In the Absence of Strategy
Several dysfunctional behaviors and operational challenges emerge as the result of an environment within an organization where there is a lack of clear strategic guidance. Without this guidance, those beginning or in the middle of migrating will face several cloud service-related challenges:
- Shadow IT – Anyone in the organization with a credit card can spin up a cloud instance. The ease and speed this provides can be a boon to business units — but a nightmare for IT,which is charged with ensuring all data is secure and properly governed. In many cases, IT teams are contacted by affected users about application services they didn’t even know existed.
- Talent Gap – The proper teams haven’t been built to address the unique challenges of the business and align critical business needs with the appropriate cloud initiatives. The existing employee base is ill-prepared, running the risk of asking the wrong questions, making the wrong assumptions and ultimately leading the company down the wrong path.
- Poor Methods – A lack of understanding of how to best assess the right cloud implementation model can lead many organizations to simply forklift their existing environment into the cloud without really having clear goals or to simply not know what the right path is to reach those goals. It’s not uncommon to compare cloud, hybrid and on-premises environments as if it’s apples to apples, when in reality they could not be more different.
Creating a Strategy
Developing a cloud strategy means much more than just selecting AWS or Azure as the destination for your data or application environment. It requires an understanding of the underlying business needs of a project and then examining and understanding the possible options in order to realize the value that you expect to gain from leveraging a cloud platform. Before signing a contract or moving data to the cloud you need to be able to answer questions such as “If we move this workload to a SaaS provider and our network slows down, what do we do?” It also means having the ability to effectively identify what services will move to the cloud — and who will be responsible for supporting them.
Before signing a contract or moving data to the cloud you need to be able to answer questions such as, “If we move this workload to a SaaS provider and our network slows down, what do we do?”
Here are the key components for building an effective cloud strategy:
- Know why – Gill points out that it’s important to be able to clearly articulate why your organization is moving something to the cloud. If you can’t explain why, then there’s a good chance that you’re not only making the wrong decisions in the implementation – you may also be trying to move something that isn’t even suitable for the cloud in the first place. Organizations that are good candidates for cloud migration are those that require IT agility to move the business forward, that actively engage in software development, rely on Windows- or Linux-based applications, or are approaching a significant hardware refresh period. IT organizations can do a lot with the cloud, but, as Gill explains, they must be able to map these tactics to business requirements and monitor the results to ensure they meet expectations.
- Collaborate – Creating a cloud strategy can help centralize efforts within the organization. By putting in place a cohesive strategy, business units are forced to come together and work collectively with the IT organization for their cloud projects, instead of procuring and implementing on their own. This not only saves the organization countless headaches and dollars spent managing separate resources, it also provides a central point of oversight, and it ensures that IT is able to protect and manage critical business data as required.
- Tailor – The cloud needs to be treated as a unique environment, and not simply as another datacenter. Gill points out that cloud migrations fail most often when an old service is simply moved from an on-premises environment into the cloud without any customization or optimization, and done so with an expectation of cost savings. In reality, the cloud is a different environment and the services that are moving will often need to be re-architected or re-factored for the cloud. Simply lifting a service into the cloud will not take advantage of the cloud’s native capabilities, such as scale and elasticity. Employing architectures that can leverage the cloud’s unique capabilities can allow the organization to leverage the performance and cost advantages that inspired them to move to the cloud in the first place.
Today’s organizations are moving to the cloud — maybe not entirely, maybe not all at once, but that move is in process. So now is the time to figure out where the cloud can best be leveraged to move your business forward. If IT takes the reins, they can help the business to increase agility and growth — and drive the horses in the right direction.
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