Selecting a suitable cloud provider to trust with your infrastructure, applications and data can be a complicated process. No two cloud providers are the same, and the lack of a framework for assessment makes selecting the right cloud provider a real challenge for any infrastructure and operations (I&O) leader.
You don’t want to look back with regret, as the choices you make can have a lasting impact
“Choosing and managing cloud offerings is a critical skill for I&O leaders to master, given cloud computing’s central role in next-generation initiatives such as digital business, the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence,” says Elias Khnaser, Senior Research Director at Gartner. “Years from now, you don’t want to look back with regret, as the choices you make can have a lasting impact.”
Where do you begin? Gartner has identified five priorities to help when selecting, buying and deploying cloud offerings.
Priority No 1: Research critical features and capabilities of leading cloud providers’ offerings
When selecting a cloud provider, consider how its technical architecture will integrate with your workflows, now and in the future. Remember, the technical architectures of leading cloud platforms are large, complex and often difficult to understand. Additionally, technical and architectural details about a provider’s offering are often proprietary, with restrictions on use.
“Despite these challenges, it’s important to determine the key components of the architectures, how they work together and how that affects the overall solution. Categories to prioritize include self-service, elasticity, network access, security, regulatory compliance and operational capabilities,” says Khnaser.
Priority No 2: Understand how cloud offerings stack up against your key requirements and criteria
Before choosing a cloud provider, consider how its offerings measure up against your requirements and criteria. For example, when choosing a public cloud service, the standard entry requirements are simplicity, performance, a broad feature set and competitive cost. However, many customers are moving beyond those requirements to choose factors and qualities that will foster a strategic and long-term relationship with a provider.
Effective cloud account governance and design strategy provides I&O leaders with the ability to effectively scale, avoid sprawl, and reduce networking and management complexities
The key consideration areas are a little different when it comes to infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and application platform as a service (aPaaS). With IaaS offerings, feature areas to consider include compute, network, storage, security and support. For aPaaS offerings, key considerations include application architecture components, developer tools, virtualization and hosting architecture, code deployment, life cycle management, scalability and availability.
Priority No 3: Use planning and controls to mitigate security and compliance risks
As organizations increase their adoption of public cloud offerings, the need to abide by regulatory and data privacy rules governing the processing of data increases. For example, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which took effect on May 25, 2018, applies to all organizations that process and hold the personal data of anyone residing in the EU, regardless of location. With this in mind, I&O leaders must learn about their cloud provider’s approach to GDPR and the tools it provides for compliance.
Priority No 4: Focus on a structured framework for acquiring cloud management platforms tools
Thanks to the quick adoption of cloud services, cloud providers are continually releasing new native tools and services. In turn, this is increasing the importance of cloud management platforms and tools. As a result, IT organizations must create a set of criteria for evaluating cloud management solutions, as well as a comprehensive cloud management strategy for guiding their selection and implementation processes.
Priority No 5: Know your process and architecture options for implementing cloud governance
Organizations often prioritize time-to-functionality decisions over planning for long-term scalability and support. However, it’s essential for I&O leaders to take the time to prepare for cloud service governance, as unforeseen steps can have significant impacts and costs later on.
“An effective cloud account governance and design strategy provides I&O leaders with the ability to effectively scale, avoid sprawl, and reduce networking and management complexities. This helps avoid the need for disruptive retrofitting of the infrastructure months or years after it has transformed into a critical production platform,” says Khnaser.