Are you going to cloud for the right reason?


Many companies have established a cloud first strategy. Many clients tell me they are moving to the cloud. But are they doing that for the right reasons? Are they thinking through all aspects of why it makes sense to go to the cloud?

Why ask the question? Transforming applications and infrastructure is a complex endeavor, takes time and costs money. Optimizing the return on investment for the enterprise is essential. This leads to having to reflect on why the migration takes place and what benefits the company can gain from doing it.

There is often a feeling in enterprises that cloud, and in particular public cloud, is cheaper than running a datacenter. In a blog entry titled “Costs Wars: Data Center vs. Public Cloud” highlights the point clearly. It depends. The difficulty to calculate the true cost of running the data center on the one hand and the fuzziness of predicting the cost of running workloads in a public cloud makes this discussion useless in most situations. Fundamentally two reasons remain on why companies want to go to cloud:

  • They prefer OPEX to CAPEX, which is not the case for all industries. For example telecommunication companies prefer CAPEX typically.
  • Infrastructure does not need to be managed anymore, so those headaches are going away. Assets no longer need to be owned. But how different is that from infrastructure outsourcing and colocation?

This discussion only focuses on the infrastructure debate. And indeed, I see many companies recreating their datacenters in the cloud. Physical firewalls are replaced by virtual ones, LANs by vLANS etc. The inefficiencies that grew historically in the datacenter are found back in the cloud environment. Is this the right approach? Well, if you have to move out of your datacenter at short notice, this might be a good interim step. It should not be the final objective.

Start by rethinking the “why”

Before you take a decision, I would strongly recommend you go back to basics and asks yourself what you need from your IT environment in the future. Here are a number of topics you may want to look at:

  • What needs do I have for fast responsiveness to changes in the market?
  • Do I have to change the way I do business? Is my business being disrupted and I need to react? How fast?
  • With whom and how do I want to interact through digital means? Do I want to address customers, prospects, partners, suppliers, employees directly? Should that happen through a web site, system to system communications, mobile, service aggregators or any other mean? How much can I predict the request pattern and how stable will it be?
  • How often do I want to change the functionality I provide? How quickly should such change be implemented?
  • What level of security do I require? Are there compliance issues that limit my capability to host applications and/or data in other locations?
  • Will I have to create a lot of new functionality to address the evolving needs of the business over the forcible future?
  • How much of my existing application functionality can I reuse in my future business models and can that functionality easily be exposed through APIs?
  • How much is your company willing to experiment?
  • Can my IT department change to address these challenges?

These questions are at the center of the debate as they portray your future needs for cloud environments and how your IT department works with the cloud. They however cover a larger base than just the decision associated with cloud. They also involve automation, the use of agile development methods and DevOps.

Private Cloud

Virtual Private Cloud

Public Cloud

Cloud Hosted

Cloud Aware

Cloud Native

Agile Dev.

DevOps

Faster Response

X

X

X

X

X

Business Disrupted

X

X

X

X

X

Interactions

X

X

X

X

Speed of change

X

X

X

X

X

X

Security & Compliance

X

X

X

X

X

Need for new functionality

X

X

X

Expose functionality

X

Willingness to Experiment

X

X

X

X

IT embraces change

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

You can find further explanation of Cloud Hosted, Cloud Aware and Cloud Native in following blog entry.

The above table tries to highlights the key topics to look at for each of the questions above. This does not mean that the other subjects are not important or not an option, but in thinking through the key ones you build an understanding of what needs to be done and why. In my next couple blog entries I will discuss each of the questions in more details, but let’s identify some key principles.

Cost cutting only leads you so far

Optimizing the use of different platforms to address your development, testing, pre-production and production needs helps you reduce the amount of servers you have to control directly. You only pay for what you use, as long as your developers, testers and release teams are disciplined to release infrastructure when they don’t use it. Running production applications only used at particular times in the cloud has similar benefits, keeping in mind the same caveats.

The business will however gain little benefits from this move. Yes, IT may become somewhat cheaper, but new functionality will not be implemented any faster, applications will not be capable of supporting large variations in amount of users and little is put in place to enable new business models.

It’s not just about cloud, it’s about services and transformation

To address any of these requirements, deploying to cloud is not enough. You need to review application architectures, how functionality can be exposed, development and release cycles and the IT operating model. Too many companies lack key functions in this space, which results in them not addressing the needs of the business. Let’s go through the details so I can show you how you can transform your IT department and prepare you for the digital enterprise.

Tell me what is going through your mind.

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