3 questions CIOs need to ask to determine the right cloud strategy

With the proliferation of cloud, there’s been a lot of talk around the death of the data centre and how organisations should be aiming to achieve ‘data centre zero’. Rather, an enterprise’s data centre needs to be optimised so that it operates at peak performance, and architected in a way that it is able to take advantage of the cloud.

For those CIOs resisting cloud, it’s only getting harder to make a case against it. Providers are becoming increasingly competitive cost-wise and are constantly adding to their service sets. Since it is up to CIOs to facilitate agility and innovation within their organisations, they cannot afford to be held back by lethargic legacy infrastructure, and the cloud is a sure-fire way to alleviate on premise data centre pain.

  1. What are you going to move?

Before you can determine the where and the who of a cloud implementation, you need to know the what, as identifying the workloads you’re moving will likely influence where you move and therefore, who, moves them. This requires CIOs to have a deep understanding of their IT environment; only then can they identify the data and applications that are best suited to the cloud whilst also delivering a consistent ROI.

A couple of points to consider when deciding on the what:

  • Business impact – Starting your cloud journey with an application that is mission critical to your enterprise is a risky move. CIOs are better off testing the waters first with less critical applications such as email servers and intranets.
  • Low hanging fruit – Not so critical development and test workloads are better off in the cloud as it’s unlikely that running these yourself makes any financial sense. CIOs should think about moving their production workloads into the cloud using the same configuration and infrastructure.
  • Cost benefit – Though the financial advantages of cloud strategies are much touted, some applications would realise little to no cost benefit upon migration. Perhaps your organisation has already invested significant capital in on-premise infrastructure specifically configured to a high performance database, in which case, it’s not commercially viable to move it.
  1. Where are you going to move it?

Much like the real life version found in the sky, not all clouds are created equal in the IT world. CIOs have a choice between three models – private, public or hybrid – and understanding the differences between them is critical as each cloud drives unique requirements and suits specific workloads.

The following should come into consideration when deciding the most suitable cloud model for your enterprise:

  • Cost – If you’re on a tight budget, the public cloud is by far the most cost-effective of the clouds (if used with caution) as it cancels out the need for physical infrastructure altogether. It has its downsides, however, in that enterprises relinquish much of their control.
  • Data sovereignty – Although organisations are generally becoming more comfortable with the idea of cloud, there is still an entrenched distrust of public clouds with the issue of storing data offshore. This is becoming less of a concern for enterprises, however, with major US players Amazon, VMware and Microsoft establishing local presences. It also doesn’t hurt that large corporations such as Qantas and the big four banks are jumping on the public cloud bandwagon.
  • Applications – While private cloud environments can be configured to support any application, this is not always the case with the public version. Certain features in legacy applications prevent some applications from operating efficiently in the public cloud. If this case in your enterprise, a private or hybrid model is the way to go.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be an ‘all or nothing’ debate. A hybrid cloud model offers the best of both worlds – the security and performance of on premise IT and the agility of a third party cloud. There are a few things to be aware of though. For many organisations, latency issues can arise if their cloud and infrastructure is not co-located in the same facility. Hybrid environments are only as strong as the technology that links them, so an integrated network is ideal and will require less performance monitoring and testing.

  1. Who is going to move it there?

CIOs must then decide whether they want to manage their cloud strategy themselves or outsource it to a managed services provider. While DIY cloud migrations are tempting if you have the internal IT resources, it can be bewildering for architects who have little to no experience in cloud deployments.

Security, knowledge of cloud services and 24/7 contact availability have been cited as critical factors when selecting a cloud provider. Equally important aspects to consider include:

  • Robust migration strategy – To minimise risk, CIOs must ensure a potential cloud provider has a robust migration methodology. This would typically involve an assessment workshop, a design and build phase, pilot testing, and then full scale commissioning.
  • Exit strategy Vendor lock-in is a common issue with public cloud models, but it can be avoided by clarifying the exit terms upfront. CIOs need to make sure they can obtain physical access to their data should they choose to move. A legal review of the contract is recommended to ensure nothing is missed in the fine print.

What the cloud will do for your enterprise is entirely different to another. For that reason, consultation with cloud experts or a managed service provider is suggested to determine the best migration sequence. This ensures that the benefits of cloud to the enterprise can be delivered within an agreed budget, timeframe, and with a clear understanding of any risks involved.

For a more in-depth, step-by-step process to determining the most appropriate cloud strategy for your enterprise, download our whitepaper, ‘Selecting the right cloud’.

Tags CIO, CIO Leadership, Cloud, Data Centre, cloud partner, cloud provider, cloud strategy, managed service providers


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