- Identify the business processes that will benefit from the cloud
- Identify the data that is touched by each IT process
- Have a trusted partner
Businesses looking to embrace the cloud sometimes try to find a solution that will allow them to make the transition from in-house services to the cloud as effortlessly as possible. Most of the successful examples that we witnessed in our practice, though, embrace the cloud as a driver of change, forcing the changes in the underlying IT processes and finding new sources of effectiveness and opportunity on the path of doing so.
Acknowledging the necessity for change to get the most of the cloud is the first step that an organization should make. We propose a simple framework that can help businesses make the most of the cloud:
- Identify business processes that can benefit from using the cloud. For each process, keep in mind the reason to use the cloud in the first place. Possible reasons include:
- Cost: for the workloads where volume of processing varies significantly from month to month or even day by day, switching to a pay-as-you-go model can provide significant cost savings over the TCO of an in-house infrastructure;
- Business agility: most of the cloud offerings provide a great degree of automation, greatly improving turnaround time of IT-related processes;
- SLAs: even though cloud providers may provide weak SLAs in one area, it can be actually compensated by much more generous SLAs in others. For instance, time to provision virtual hardware on the cloud usually is orders of magnitude less than to provision physical hardware through in-house IT departments.
- Break down the IT processes and applications that support your business processes identified in the previous steps into classes according to the benefits you want to receive from transition to the cloud. Depending on what the goal is, the approach also will vary.
- Analyze the following items to avoid potential road blocks.
- Identify the data that is touched by each IT process. Is there any data that has to stay in-house for security or compliance reasons? You may need to change IT processes so the sensitive data is not affected by the transition.
- Analyze data access patterns. Data-intensive applications usually are not the best fit for a cloud, unless you plan to put all of your data in the cloud.
- Identify security domains. As with any external provider, one should always treat the cloud as a separate security domain. What is less obvious is that there are different security domains within cloud itself. Do you need to satisfy PCI DSS requirements? Can your cloud provider give you guarantees on the data boundaries?
- Determine availability and reliability targets. Not all of the cloud providers provide strict SLAs on availability and even when they do, those can be misunderstood (as happened with the notorious Amazon outage earlier this year). However, applications that are more tolerant to weaker availability SLAs can be a good fit.
- Calculate total cost. For some applications, cloud actually can be more expensive than an in-house solution. Licensing models of the major cloud providers usually work well for smaller players, but can be prohibitively expensive when the business starts to scale.
With a fast-growing industry such as cloud services, the landscape is certain to change every year. Our general recommendation for the businesses looking to embrace the cloud is to have a trusted partner. Whether it's a consultancy, an SI or a VAR specializing in cloud services, having a party that can help businesses define and implement multi-year roadmap is something that can immensely simplify transition to the cloud.
Stan Klimoff is Director of Cloud Services for Grid Dynamics. He is responsible for the management of Cloud Services, which includes business development, pre-sales support, partnerships and community engagements, as well as R&D in the cloud space.