Cloud Computing For Dummies
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Planning your hybrid cloud computing strategy is a journey, not a simple set of steps. The right planning strategy is imperative to getting your plan to be operational. So, you need to look at the technical components, the business strategy, and the organizational plan. You have to focus on bringing all constituents to have a common understanding of how the cloud provides an opportunity for success.

Remember that cloud computing can offer a dramatic change in the pace and style of computing as well as business strategy. Therefore, although costs will, of course, be imperative, you also need to think about the benefits that may help transform the customer experience. Your overall strategy will include a hybrid of different types and models of computing, so planning will be integral to your path forward.

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Here, we give you an idea about what to expect as you begin your journey to the cloud, along with the important issues you need to consider.

At the beginning: the move to the cloud

In the initial decade of cloud computing, very few businesses had a strategy. Primarily, departmental developers tired of having to wait for IT to provide them with the resources they needed to get the job done turned to public cloud services. These capabilities were inexpensive, elastic, and based on a self-service model. This approach to computing caught on across organizations across the globe. While this ad hoc approach to using the public cloud was pragmatic, it began to cause problems.

Because no planning occurred, financial managers began to see the cost of computing skyrocket. While an individual developer wasn’t paying much to build an application in the cloud, when all those bills were aggregated together, the costs began to spiral out of control. In addition, there was little control over security and governance. Business units began to use SaaS applications at an ever-increasing pace.

IT initially ignored the cloud and assumed that its use would not last. Managers viewed the use of this third-party service as a threat to the role of IT in the business. In addition, many business leaders were concerned that security in the public cloud was flawed and would put the business at risk. Some managers tried to sabotage the acceptability of cloud services. This approach was typical of any new technology that threatened to change the status quo.

What changed? In simple terms, the pace of business. Well established businesses began to notice the emergence of a new generation of companies that relied on the cloud and would therefore create new business models without having to requiring the lead time to create a new physical infrastructure. In many competitive markets, there was only one option: Move to the cloud.

Many companies have either begun their move to the cloud or in the planning stages. It can be overwhelming to come up with a strategy that enables the organization to select the right services, the clouds that are best suited for the workloads, and create an environment where change is the norm.

It is not easy to determine what to do first. Do you pick a single product and select a cloud platform? Do you get rid of your data center and move all of your existing services to a public or private cloud? Do you select a single public cloud vendor to support all of your workloads? Do you hire a staff of experienced IT professionals to build a private cloud, or do you hire a consulting firm to make all the decisions for you?

There isn’t simply one option that will handle all of your business situations and all of your workloads. Therefore, there best approach is to come up with a staged plan that will help you achieve your business and technical objectives.

An overall cloud computing strategy is like any other business strategy; it must be planned within the context of your business goals and objectives. So, before you begin your journey to the cloud, we suggest that you take the five steps, outlined as stages, described in the following sections.

Stage 1: Assess your current IT strategy

Your first step is to assess the current state of your IT strategy and how well it serves the business. IT organizations have typically grown in a relatively unplanned fashion. Although they likely began as well-orchestrated sets of hardware and software, over time they have grown into a collection of various computing silos.

You might think of them as being like a typical two-car garage. In the beginning, the garage held two cars and a few necessities such as yard tools. Over the years, the homeowner began to store lots of different paraphernalia in the garage, ranging from unused pots and pans to an array of old furniture. Suddenly, that well-planned, purpose-built space became crammed with so much stuff that it’s hard to use the garage for its initial intent — storing cars!

Today, is your IT infrastructure like that garage, or is it a well-planned and well-orchestrated environment? Does it provide the type of flexibility and manageability that supports new initiatives and business change? Or is it an assortment of different servers, different software products, and a variety of disconnected tools? Do you have many different departments that are taking advantage of a variety of public cloud services from different vendors? Do you already use third party cloud services for specialized needs? Most likely your business has a combination of all of these environments.

Your first step is taking an honest assessment of where you are today. What is working well and what is holding you back? You can’t undertake this process in isolation; you need to create a task force that brings together business and IT leaders along with those who will develop and deploy services across the business.

You should look at what systems are critical to the operations of the business and which applications no longer support changing business needs. You need to consider the flexibility of your existing infrastructure. What happens when the business requires a change in processes? How does the IT organization support partnership initiatives? Take a look at the cloud services including SaaS applications as well as cloud applications built in different divisions. In addition, you need to assess the data that is critical to managing your business. Where does the data reside? Is it tied to a specific application? Do you store your data across various parts of the environment? Does some of your data reside in public or private clouds? You need to understand your data and the process that you use today to control that data.

Stage 2: Imagine the future

Once you understand what you have today and how effective your IT environment is in executing your strategy, it is time to look into the future. What will your business look like in six months and in three years? Who were your competitors two years ago and who are your competitors now? Do you anticipate that your industry is changing dramatically that will impact your ability to compete and collaborate? Are there technological approaches that your emerging competitors are starting to implement that you will have to embrace? Are there opportunities to offer new business strategies that are driven by emerging technologies? It may be that your industry is changing, and without new technology approaches you will not be able to sustain a competitive advantage.

This process, which is imperative to planning for a hybrid and multicloud strategy. You will most likely have workloads that live in your data center or in the private cloud. You will need to prepare for your hybrid cloud strategy so that you are ready for †he unanticipated changes in your business. Through the planning process, both the business and IT organization will have a deeper understanding of both the changes to the business and the technologies that will help manage that change in a predictable manner. This process of imaging the future and tying that future to innovative technologies isn’t a one time effort. Rather you should assume that you will continue to update your plan as new competitors enter your market and as new innovative technologies emerge.

Stage 3: Explore what’s out there

Armed with the knowledge of the current state of your business and the supporting IT infrastructure and where it is headed, now is the time to learn and experiment with cloud computing options. Although plenty of organizations will be happy to do all the work for you, it’s important that you spend the time understanding the landscape of best practices, as well as different cloud computing options that can help the business.

Spend time with your peers and see what type of cloud strategy they have adopted and the type of dividends it’s paying. What are the best practices that have worked well for companies in your industry or of your size? What are the new innovations coming to market from young companies? How can you offer a new approach to business that will allow you to effectively compete with much larger companies in your market?

The wonderful thing about cloud computing capabilities and offerings is that you are free to experiment. Almost every company in the cloud market offers free trials of their technology. There are many open source offerings as well that will give you the opportunity to test out whether different options will serve your business now or in the long run. This education process is critical so that you know what questions to ask. Even if and when you turn to a service provider for help, you will be able to make better decisions about how you approach your cloud strategy.

Stage 4: Create a hybrid cloud strategy plan

At this stage, you’re ready to start creating the actual plan. Again, this should be based on a joint effort between the business and IT. If your company has done planning for a different way to think about your technology services.

You won’t be building monolithic applications. Rather, you will be building microservices that will be building blocks to create new creative services that will keep you ahead of the competition.

While you are spending your time rethinking your business and imaging the future, don’t lose sight of what you actually know about your industry and business. Take advantage of the strategic planning you have already done.

Always leverage the knowledge and expertise inside your company as a starting point. It’s also a good idea to get your most strategic partners involved in the process. Your best partners, suppliers, and customers will help you better understand how they want to collaborate with you in the future. Use all this as the foundation for your hybrid cloud strategy. We use the term hybrid because more than likely you will not leverage a single deployment model for your workloads. You will have some public clouds, some private clouds and a data center. Your strategy needs to take into account where you want to run your workloads.

Where you deploy your workloads will depend on issues related to latency, costs, and reliability. At the same time, you need to take into account your security, privacy, and governance policies that your company needs to adhere to. These issues need to become part of how you approach cloud computing in your company. For example, different industries have different regulations that you will have to conform to. Some countries have laws that restrict where and how customer information can be managed and stored. This must be considered for your hybrid cloud strategy.

Stage 5: Plan for implementation

Now you’re ready for action. However, it’s not practical to try to do everything at once. Most companies will need a staged implementation of a hybrid cloud strategy in which they deploy parts of the overall plan in phases. For example, the first phase might be to support all of the existing public cloud workloads by working in collaboration with business units so they have resources for management and security, for example. You will want to determine, for example, how many departments and individuals are using various cloud services so that you can negotiate better financial terms.

If your company is new to the cloud you may want to begin by selecting a few key projects that are well suited to the cloud. For example, select a SaaS application that is useful across various departments that has visibility. Begin experimenting with creating microservices and managing them within containers. You can also select a software development project that has a short deadline and build and deploy it in the public cloud.

Whatever you do, think of your hybrid cloud strategy as a multi-year effort that will include everything from a set of private cloud services to support emerging internal development and deployment needs to a way to leverage public services in conjunction with your data center.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Daniel Kirsch, Managing Director of Hurwitz & Associates, is a thought leader, researcher, author, and consultant in cloud, AI, and security. Judith Hurwitz, President of Hurwitz & Associates, is a consultant, thought leader, and coauthor of 10 books including Augmented Intelligence, Cognitive Computing and Big Data Analytics, and Hybrid Cloud for Dummies

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