Attention CxOs: What’s your cloud adoption strategy?

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“Cloud” is one of the 2011 top technology priorities. Its self-service, rapid scaling, and “pay-as-you-go” characteristics appeal to a wide audience of business and technology executives. When deciding where to run your applications – public, private, hybrid, infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and software as a service (SaaS) cloud deployment models expand the choices available to you.

To exploit cloud technologies, my advice is that you need a cloud adoption strategy based on four simple steps:

  1. Create a holistic cloud strategy for your organization.
  2. Plan for the arrival of your hybrid cloud.
  3. Continue your private cloud migration by leveraging existing capabilities and investing in new capabilities.
  4. Start your public cloud migration when you are satisfied that your organization’s obstacles have been removed.

Let me describe each step in more detail.

Step 1:  Create a holistic strategy.

As I mentioned previously, cloud expands your application deployment choices. With a holistic strategy, you will be able to show how your organization can exploit cloud technologies. I have used the following matrix to develop a holistic cloud strategy.

The x-axis is divided into private and public clouds. Each type of cloud includes two subcategories – cloud service provider and cloud service consumer. The y-axis includes the four types of “as a service” – infrastructure, platform, software, and business process. To create the strategy, I place applications in the cell to where it makes the most sense to deploy them. For example, in your organization, CRM might be ready to be consumed in a public cloud SaaS model, but ERP is only ready for a private cloud SaaS model.

The next step is to understand the motivations and barriers for an application or group of applications within the matrix. Using the CRM application as an example, motivations could be lower cost, improved availability, and simplified management. Barriers could be cultural impact, integration difficulty, and vendor lock-in.

Step 2:  Plan for the arrival of your hybrid cloud.

When I refer to hybrid cloud, I mean the cloud infrastructure is a composition of two or more clouds (private, community, or public) that remain unique entities but are bound together by technology. Based on the appeal of cloud that I mentioned previously, I believe all organizations will end up with hybrid clouds within five years. Planning for the arrival of your hybrid cloud depends on where you are today. All organizations will have some sort of internally managed IT services such as ERP. In addition, some will have externally managed IT services such as CRM. Over the next five years, I expect a movement towards more externally managed IT services, which is largely driven by business executives. Part of your hybrid cloud plan will include figuring out all of the speeds and feeds needed to enable your future cloud infrastructure. The more challenging aspects of the plan will be to understand how the IT organization and key IT processes such as governance will adapt and evolve to support your hybrid cloud.

Within the IT organization, there will be changes to the mixture of roles. Creation of hybrid clouds in simple terms is the “integration of two or more clouds.” You will need more staff with skills to define, deploy and operate “end-to-end” integrated services. Examples are service owners, IT service architects, and vendor managers. As clouds automate more tasks, fewer infrastructure system administration skills will be needed. The shift towards more external IT services will require fewer application development and maintenance skills.

As technology becomes more pervasively available in our society, technology further embeds itself into the business services that organizations provide. Today, the CIO and CIO’s IT organization are the focal point for technology governance across the entire organization. In the future, I believe that a holistic view of IT is still needed. However, in hybrid clouds, technology decisions conceivably could be made by business executives, bypassing IT altogether. As part of your hybrid cloud planning, you should develop consensus throughout the organization for how your hybrid cloud will be governed.

Step 3:  Continue your private cloud migration.

Your organization made a substantial investment in technology that you are running today. This investment is a double edged sword. On one side, you have established cloud foundational capabilities that form a stable base to build upon. On the other side, technology modernization projects typically are executed with a lower priority than business initiated projects. That means your private cloud migration roadmap will be implemented over three to five years.

To get started, I recommend that you create a private cloud architecture. If you want, you can develop your architecture based on a widely available one such as the IBM Cloud Computing Reference Architecture. Complete a gap analysis by comparing your private cloud architecture to the cloud foundational capabilities that you already have. The resulting gap identifies the private cloud capabilities you need to develop. To manage your private cloud migration, create a roadmap of prioritized capabilities. Based on my experience doing this with customers, I find that most of them have mature server consolidation and virtualization capabilities. At the same time, many are interested in pay-per-use, but have immature metering and chargeback capabilities.

The other aspect of your private cloud migration is to understand the IT processes that will change with cloud. An example is server provisioning. Many organizations have a labor-intensive workflow where a project manager coordinates the efforts of the server, network, storage, tools, and security groups. The workflow changes with cloud.

Step 4:  Start your public cloud migration.

Public cloud is analogous to a water utility – computing services available at the turn of the tap. If the large scale and low cost of public clouds turns out to be a reality, it will be impossible for your organization to overlook deploying some of your applications to public clouds. However, the same considerations you have used for years to design your IT services still apply to public clouds. Business users’ expectations of application availability, performance and data security must be met when their applications are running in the cloud. You need to do your “due diligence” and consider public cloud only when you are ready.

To get started, I recommend launching a proof of concept project to learn about public cloud. Many of the customers I work with experiment with application development and testing, or email.

In conclusion, I truly believe cloud is here to stay and you should be identifying where your organization can exploit cloud technologies. The four steps I’ve described can help you to create a cloud adoption strategy for your organization.

Distinguished Engineer and Senior Cloud Advisor

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