Cloud consumption should be like Lego

This is a shortened version of my previous blog post Cloud is like a box of Lego. You never know what you’re gonna get updated with new insights and made more crisp for easy reading.

Let’s face it; the IT department needs drastically improve their agility in being able to add value to the business  WHEN the business needs it. Currently the IT department fails in doing so, which is one of the main reasons for “shadow IT” in organizations. And it should not be this difficult when using these three phases in starting to utilize and compose cloud services.

Lego your way into the cloud

The process of getting there is quite standard architecture, only the lingo is a bit different. In cloud the word workload has been added, see it as an abstraction of the functionality you require without going into the deployment model. This is where the analogy of Lego bricks comes in, cloud is allowing all sorts of standardized bricks to be created, used and combined to build new functionality. The difficulty however is that there are no universal building instructions — yet.

Whatever way you look at IT projects and whichever terms you use, there are three main phases: Design, Build, Consume. Let’s go over each phase shortly to describe the key activities.

Design

Basically, first figure out WHAT you need before you start HOW you will get it. Seems like an open door, but it only happens too often that organization units skip this phase or only do part of it. This results in organization unit deciding on a specific vendor or even cloud service, without looking at the broader picture. Not only functional requirements, but also non-functional requirements like security, resiliency, availability and data privacy should be taken into account. The Frost & Sullivan white paper Stepping into the Cloud offers great value for this phase with its workload assessment tool

  1. Create an IT Roadmap
    Start your journey into cloud computing safely by first establishing a cloud strategy and implementation plan. Think long term before you act short term basically.
  2. Assess the workloadsWorkload assessment tool
    Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all cloud solution that will fit all your IT landscape requirements. Split up your IT landscape into chunks of unique functionality, called workloads, to be able to determine to get the best fit between each workloads requirements and cloud services out there.
  3. Define the best (mix of) delivery model(s)
    There are many cloud services out there, from multiple cloud service providers each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Use a scoring mechanism to determine which delivery model best fits each workload. I suggest using the definitions from NIST as these are most widely adopted and known.
  4. Define the business value
    Don’t get all tight-up into just the IT part of cloud computing, actually look at the business value of each workload and how IT can increase this business value by focusing on specific aspects of cloud services out there. Think of rapid provisioning (have your in a matter of minutes) which increases business agility, the possible reduction of CAPEX (no upfront investment) or pay for use (stop paying for a service once you don’t need it any more) making it possible to expand/reduce your IT landscape without penalties. More can be found in my Wired Insight blog post 5 Cloud Business Benefits.
  5. Establish the architecture
    A common mistake is that a journey to cloud reduced the need for proper architecture designs, actually the opposite it true. Think about it, you are widening your IT landscape onto cloud services, this requires a well defined architecture that includes where which unique data is placed and how this data integrated with the rest of the IT landscape.

Deploy

Start your transition into cloud with low hanging fruit, workloads that have lower non-functional requirements and/or are a one on one functional match with your requirements. Low hanging fruit can be development and test environments, which has lower non-functional and data privacy requirements than production workloads, or CRM functionality as a Service.

Once you have defined which workloads to focus on first, start composing the selected cloud services and integration mechanisms. Test the build cloud composite application and make sure it is integrated with your service management environment which should monitor key performance indicators, both functional and non-functional. This should allow you to manage and optimize consumption of cloud services.

Consume

Now we’re all done designing and deploying, we can start consuming the cloud composite services. Keep in mind that new cloud services, your building bricks, are created daily and evaluate if more can be gained from altering the composition regularly. More on this is part 2 of the blog.

By Edwin Schouten, find out more on edwinschouten.nl or follow me via @schoutene.

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