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Fighting the integration tsunami of cloud transformation

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The other week I followed a documentary on TV about the Vasa, one of the most spectacular warships ever built. It was ordered by the Swedish king and became one of the most expensive projects of its time. But on its maiden voyage the ship foundered and sank. Now most readers would probably argue about what this has to do with cloud transformation or integration—not much! But perhaps it does. The lessons to be learned here are as relevant to our modern-day attempts to build and control large, complex infrastructures as they were to the art and craft of building warships back in the 1600s.

Cloud Transformation IntegrationThe disaster of the Vasa has later been interpreted by management experts to have been caused by problems with communication, adaptability and goal setting. The actual sinking of the ship has been used by business managers as an example of how to learn from previous mistakes. It all comes down to inspirational and aspirational leadership, which is the Holy Grail for most integration projects. The real danger is when this becomes obsessive, which is then often referred to as the Vasa syndrome.

So, what really happened to the Vasa? Well despite the involvement of some of the world’s leading maritime engineers, the Vasa ended up being built top-heavy and with insufficient ballast. This was most likely caused by the enormous amount of changes made throughout the entire building process. In the end, the obvious lack of stability was ignored and the Vasa was allowed to set sail, only to capsize and sink a few minutes later when she encountered the first wind that was stronger than a breeze. If you are ready to spend five percent of a country’s GNP, you’d better make sure that things work.

So what does this have to do with cloud transformation? Well the essence of my story is more related to how we should prepare for the journey—and what to look out for in that journey—rather than the destination. In the Vasa story, the directions were set by the king himself due to his royal status and supreme power. He probably knew a lot more about the act of war than about building ships, yet no one dared to judge the quality nor tell him about the mistakes when he produced the ship design. The engineers simply blindly followed the king’s instructions—well aware that his design was competing with both math and physics, as well as best practice.

If we project this to a real-world scenario in modern times, I’m quite sure most of you can draw parallels to the story. Most of us have, despite wanting to deny it, been part of a Vasa project,” and you might sometimes ask yourself: could I have done it differently?

So let’s try to put some common structure to your cloud journey, with all the joy and comfort that it might bring along. Here, I’ve tried to list a few traditional considerations:

  • Is your organization really ready to set sail?
  • Have they defined a cloud, business and governance strategy that supports the journey?
  • Do they understand when, how and what to migrate?
  • Has your application portfolio been assessed recently?
  • Have you evaluated vendor offerings and conducted proof-of-concepts?

Embracing cloud computing is like any other emerging technology; everyone wants it. But when it comes to cloud enablement, it literarily comes down to figuring out if the investment is going to yield positive returns to your business both in the short and long terms. If you are in a position where you simply can’t afford not to implement cloud computing, quite often an approach of utilizing a mixed hybrid cloud strategy will strike the best balance of risk, cost and technology. Public cloud and private cloud are useful simplifications of the types of cloud models available, but there are other models that may provide attractive combinations of control and opportunities based on the various vendor capabilities. There is no easy recipe on how to do it, as different workloads have different profiles which again rely on data with different requirements, both in terms of data protection and performance. Just like a captain on any vessel, you don’t plot a course without a destination, but leading up to the journey you go through all possible scenarios and prepare yourself.

In my next blog post, I will go through some of the lessons to be learned from the sinking of the Vasa and how to take the appropriate safety measurements for your next cloud project. As some say, it’s the journey, not the destination, that makes everything worthwhile.

Please share your firsthand cloud experience—which obstacles you encountered along the way and if possible how you managed to solve them. Comment here or connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter @PowerOnCloud.

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