The buzz around the cloud is very real. It offers considerable business agility, cost efficiencies and service improvements. What the buzz doesn’t tell you is that getting to the point where the cloud brings these benefits to your organisation isn’t easy. Mike Martin, Senior Vice President, Solutions & Services for Logicalis asks: What do you need to keep in mind when integrating cloud computing into an IT strategy?
The key to creating a winning cloud strategy is taking a thorough look at your infrastructure, facilities and services—and defining their adaptability to the cloud. And once you’ve done that, you can seek a cloud provider who meets your needs and deserves your trust. It’s about doing your due diligence instead of just jumping in and choosing a provider.
I’d break that whole process down into five broad steps:
1. Classify your applications to create business requirements.
The best place to start in the cloud journey is to look at your applications and classifying them. Rank how your company uses them and evaluate their requirements, including:
- Management requirements—Would offloading increase your ability to innovate instead of fight fires? For instance, do you really want to be in the business of email management?
- Business technicality—Can they be virtualised? If they can’t be virtualised, how can I support and maintain them in the long term? What operating support do they have?
- Mission criticality—What are my business-critical systems and what are the business continuity/disaster recovery requirements for those applications and ecosystems? For apps that aren’t on the top tier, you can develop a lower cost model for outsourcing or hosting in a co-lo environment, or even leave on-prem. For apps in the top tier, you’ll need a higher cost model.
2. Assess your fixed assets and your data centre lifecycle.
Do you have fixed assets that you need to leverage to get as much value as you can? Depending on where you are in your own on-premises data centre lifecycle, you can determine which assets are at a good spot in their lifecycle to phase out or upgrade.
3. Thoroughly define your security needs.
One of the biggest hang-ups people have surrounding the cloud is security. Will the data be safe? Will your services be there when needed? It’s hard for anyone to answer these questions when you don’t know exactly what kind of security you need for each service. The best practice is to firmly establish security policies for each application. The policies then become requirements as you seek a cloud provider and make other critical decisions. You’ll want to know your provider’s security measures, as well—in the data centre itself, in the network and on the application level.
4. Don’t forget ITSM.
It’s easy to assume that moving things to the cloud alleviates the need for an IT service management (ITSM) strategy—but that’s not true. I really do believe that an ITSM strategy is part and parcel with defining your cloud environment. ITSM is about defining policies and procedures around managing your infrastructure and data centre applications, both on-premises and off-site. It includes everything from change management to asset and lifecycle management. It boils down to having a defined process around IT delivery.
It is important that you define it internally and then find a cloud provider to help deliver it. Some cloud providers will offer ITSM as a service, while others will provide the infrastructure on which you can apply your own process management. You have to understand how you are looking to apply ITSM internally, and how your cloud providers work within that.
5. Grill your cloud provider.
Don’t look at your cloud provider as just as another IT vendor. They’re not. Whatever organisation you entrust with your important data and integral cloud services needs to have the entirety of your confidence. So it’s important to learn all you can about the provider, including:
- The physical data centre—What does the environment look like? Is it a Tier III data centre? What are the security policies around that in the physical data centre?
- The network—How is the vendor providing isolation on network traffic coming into my environment? Is my environment a shared multi-tenant? Can I bring in my own private network connections, or can I come across the internet to provide a connection to it?
- Industry requirements—Is the provider certified in relation to any standards and regulations to which your industry must adhere? Leave no stone unturned.
In the end, no two cloud strategies are ever the same, so use all this intelligence to develop your own custom strategy – but there is every likelihood that you will ultimately find a hybrid approach to the cloud to be the most attractive.
Quite simply, the sheer diversity of requirements created by an array of services and applications means leveraging a combination of hosted public and private clouds plus in-house cloud solutions is often the only way to get agility and cost benefits without sacrificing availability and security.