Ten rules for building clouds

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checklistRecent discussions with clients have led me to document these rules for building clouds. I present them as things to aim for in order to realize the maximum cloud benefits (and return on investment):

1. Aim for 100 percent automation provisioning: Part of the reason for installing a cloud is because you want to speed provisioning of new compute power. Putting in authorization check points slows down this process. Sure a cost center owner may need to confirm the cost of the new compute power, but that aside, everything should happen automatically wherever possible.

2. Aim for 100 percent automated testing of new/revised catalog entries: Cloud catalogs contain a list of types of compute power (Linux, Red Hat, Windows) and application add-ons (accounting software, analytics software) that users want. The IT function will have populated that catalog after exhaustive testing. But things change and that catalog will need to be kept up to date using automated testing techniques to handle new releases. That way the testing is consistent and less onerous. This helps to reduce the support costs and protects the enterprise. Automate the deployment of patches and fixes to the deployed systems in the cloud, too.

3. Reuse “Lego-like” building blocks using SOA concepts to build the cloud catalog: If you have more than one catalog entry that requires Windows 7 as the operating system, then try to have only one Windows 7 image in your catalog with constructed workflows that add the applications on top. That way you have a smaller number of components to manage and keep up to date, reducing your costs in the process.

4. Design your cloud to help transform your business: Cloud computing is about reducing costs and making things happen. So instead of waiting weeks – or months – to get new compute power installed, the wait is minutes or hours. That means users have far more power and control on how the power they need is accessed. Business users have another tool at their disposal and therefore the role of IT changes. How this is all implemented takes thought. Without it, cloud is just another IT project that has limited value. Form the cloud vision early and manage it.

5. Get cloud governance up and running early: The cloud vision – and the benefits it can realize – need to be owned by the organization. So governance needs to be in place early on in the development phase to ensure that the vision is true and achievable, and that changes in requirements or the solution are properly assessed and accepted. When the cloud is live, this governance should ensure that it is managed properly using measures in the form of Key Performance indicators (KPIs) and change control to keep the cloud true to a vision.

6. Do not automate manual processes: In the non-cloud world, there will be various processes with manual steps and authorizations required to provide new compute power. All of this takes time and money. In the cloud, none of these real-world constraints exist. So take the time to step back and really work out what is needed from a process point of view. The challenge is to have at most no more than one manual authorization step, for provisioning compute power. Make it as fast and as snappy as possible to provide a fantastic and responsive service to the business users

7. Only monitor, report and manage things that matter: Cloud governance processes will manage the cloud for the benefit of the organization. It will need information to do that, matched to the KPIs. But only measure the minimum to enable both governance and systems management. Do not put huge amounts of effort into measuring things that have no value in the management of the cloud.

8. The cloud is self documenting: with physical things in the non-Cloud world, documentation and records need to be kept of what is where, as well as what is connected to what. Most cloud management software provides a lot of reporting facilities which the cloud uses to effectively document itself. Therefore, there is little value in duplicating these features and spending lots of effort in keeping records outside of the cloud up to date. Let the cloud do it for you and use the power of the built in features as much as possible.

9. Clouds are used by business users who should be protected from technical detail: Business users are good at running the business and not that knowledgeable about IT. IT people are good at managing IT but not at managing the business. So set the cloud up to use common language rather than jargon. This is so that business users do not need to understand the technical detail of the cloud. This is particularly true of the cloud catalog where the entries for selection by business users need to be readily understandable.

10. Use out of the box features as much as possible: It is tempting to think that the cloud should provide some features you deem more desirable than anything else. But proceed with caution. Any add-ons or changes you make will reduce the ease of updating the cloud software when the vendor releases updates. Similarly a lot of effort – and expense – will be used to adapt the cloud which delays the return of investment and pushes that point further out. These extras mean retaining (potentially) expensive knowledge in the enterprise, at a cost. So use as many out of the box features as possible and resist the urge to tweak, extend and replace.

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