Cloud computing is becoming a mainstream part of the IT world, with far-reaching impacts for many businesses. It's crucial, therefore, that IT leaders and enterprise architects prepare an overarching cloud strategy for their organizations.
Where benefits are high and risks low, a public cloud service should be adopted
"Exploiting cloud successfully and safely requires multiple domains to coordinate and develop a business-driven decision framework and best practice IT operational models," says David Cearley, research vice president and fellow at Gartner. "This helps standardize cloud strategy across an organization, while allowing for an approach that will meet the unique needs of different use cases and business units.
Cearley adds, "Gather key decision-makers and stakeholders, and collectively answer the following five questions to define your organization's cloud strategy."
Where and how should our organization consume cloud computing services?
IT leaders must develop a decision framework to systematically examine use-case scenarios for adopting cloud computing. Such a framework forms the backbone of any successful cloud strategy.
The decision framework starts with an understanding of the type of application and its technical characteristics, the needs and constraints of the associated data, and the integration of the application and data with other systems. In addition, one must consider whether it is a new application or an existing application.
Identify the specific issues that are driving risks
The next phase evaluates the benefits and risks of cloud computing as it relates to the particular use case. Where benefits are high and risks low, a public cloud service should be adopted. Where benefits are low and risks high, the cloud should be avoided. Even those with a "cloud first" strategy should consider moving lower-benefit and high-risk use cases to public cloud services as a secondary step.
Additional analysis should be done to identify where the potential benefits of the cloud are high but the real (or perceived) risks are also high. Identify the specific issues that are driving risks and evaluate steps that can potentially mitigate those risks. Mitigation steps include selecting specific vendors with SLAs that address the concerns, implementing best practices, tools or hybrid cloud application architectures to address specific risks, and exploiting various private cloud approaches. Where any of these approaches can address concerns, public cloud services should be explored; where they cannot, a more traditional approach should be maintained.
How will we access, secure, manage, integrate and govern across hybrid environments?
Most organizations will use multiple public cloud services, as well as traditional applications and infrastructure, and potentially private cloud services. This will result in a hybrid environment that raises unique security, management and governance issues. To address this kind of environment, each operational group in the IT department must develop best practices and implement tools. As these best practices and tools mature, they improve the ability to address potential risks identified for individual use cases. The unique challenges identified when evaluating specific use cases can also direct further refinement and extension of operational best practices.
How does cloud computing factor into our application strategy and architecture?
This is not a simple question to answer, given that the cloud can impact an organization's application picture across several dimensions. The starting point is replacing older software with SaaS models. However, you must consider scenarios where you purchase or build software for deployment on private or public IaaS and/or PaaS services.
Application development strategies must evolve
Application teams must consider how and when to migrate existing applications to cloud IaaS and/or PaaS, as well as the value of modifying these applications to take advantage of the cloud environment. However, this approach often provides modest benefits and does not fully exploit the value or address the unique challenges of the cloud environment. Application development strategies must evolve to define new approaches to create cloud-optimized, cloud-native and hybrid applications that deliver maximum value.
How should our existing data center and infrastructure approaches and technologies change?
Although data centers and traditional infrastructure approaches will remain important for many organizations, a strategic shift to infrastructure brokering is needed when embracing cloud computing. Within an organization, an infrastructure brokerage team provides expertise in public, private and traditional infrastructure models, and how best to use them – effectively becoming a gateway for business units to obtain and implement external cloud services when it is appropriate and ensuring agreed decision frameworks are adhered to.
A strategic shift to infrastructure brokering is needed
A key issue for the modern infrastructure team is to determine whether and how private cloud computing should be used. This includes the use of:
- Virtual private cloud services from public cloud providers
- Exploitation of managed private cloud services supported by service providers
- The creation of dedicated on-premises private cloud environments
Where will our business become a cloud computing service provider to others?
The final aspect of a comprehensive cloud strategy concerns how the organization becomes a cloud service provider in its own right. The cloud style of computing represents the best practice approach to delivering any externally facing application, information or business process service as part of a digital business strategy. Often, these customer- and partner-facing systems will lead the way to the creation of new cloud-native applications, and the expertise gained can also be used for new internal custom applications.