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How to Implement Large Complex Cloud Solutions

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Cloud Rationalization By @EFeatherston | @CloudExpo [#Cloud]

The real challenge is determining what should move to the cloud. How do you accomplish it?

Moving to the Cloud - Cloud Rationalization

There is no arguing the cloud is hot. In a recent blog post The Cloud - Is it your actual destination? I raise the point that the cloud itself is not the destination.  It's a vehicle, a conduit that can help you solve challenges and provide value back to the business. It is a powerful vehicle. IDC forecasts global public IT Cloud services spending to reach nearly $108B by 2017. Gartner expects that by 2016 the bulk of IT spend will be for the cloud. For all the hype, the cloud and its benefits are real.

The real challenge is determining what should move to the cloud. How do you accomplish it? What benefits provide the best value to the business? Do I go to public cloud or build a private cloud? Is hybrid the right choice? There are so many ‘As-a-Service' offerings, which do I use? Do I move everything? These are just some of the questions that you should be asking yourself. There is no simple one-size fits all answer. No technology, including cloud, negates the need for good design and planning. How does one make sense of this? You need to put a process in place that identifies, weighs and balances the business needs with the technical challenges. Let's talk about some of the things the process should involve.

Are we ready to do this?
Given the hype, many just want to charge right in and start moving things without considering the impact to the business, the organization, the people. Do you have a cloud vision? ‘I want to go the cloud' does not count as a vision. What as a business do you want to get from the cloud? Are you looking to improve the customer experience? Drive operational efficiency and cost savings from pay-as-you-use resources? Maybe you're looking to expand and innovate for greater business agility and faster time-to-market. Are you looking for better scalability, adapt to increase or decreases in resource demands? Defining why gets you much closer to the how and the what.

Once you have a vision, you need to look at your readiness. Is the business in alignment with the vision? Are there organizational changes (almost guaranteed there will be) that need to be addressed and planned for? Is the infrastructure ready for this move? What happens to existing hardware as applications are migrated? What will the new workloads look like? Are there bandwidth issues to consider? What about business continuity, does it change in the cloud? This is why the business and IT must work very closely together throughout this process. These are questions that both organizations need to agree upon, and understand the risks and tradeoffs that are involved for all these decision points.

Okay, once you have alignment on these kinds of issues, who goes first?

Rationalization Rule #1: Take the emotion out of the process
Deciding on cloud migration for existing applications can actually generate a lot of emotion. Change is always difficult. Rationalizing applications for migration to the cloud is really a specialized variation of an application rationalization process. Business owners and IT owners of applications may have very strong views about their applications and what should be done with them. The best approach is a process that identifies measurable criteria for the selection process prior to even discussing the applications. A high-level view of a process we have used very successfully with clients is pictured below.

The first steps involve identifying the criteria that will come from two directions:

  • Top down - The business perspective. Working with the business, identify the goals, objectives, driving principles, and key performance indicators (KPIs) that would determine a successful migration of an application to the cloud
  • Bottoms up - The technology perspective. Working with IT, do the same from a technology perspective. Also identify the technology characteristics that would make migration either easier or more challenging. I should note here, challenging does not necessarily signify it should not be done. The business perspective may provide a strong imperative for accepting the tradeoff of challenges involved.

These two steps are critical in order to remove emotion from the decision process. Identifying measurable business and technology criteria prior to discussing applications allows for an objective, measureable decision process. Once the criterion is identified, associate a score/priority for each item. Once completed, you can then start conducting the analysis, ranking each application candidate across the criteria from the business and technology perspectives. The results of the analysis identify cloud rationalization opportunities. Then, based on priorities, benefits, and level of efforts (again, everything is a tradeoff) you can develop a list of recommendations and a roadmap for your cloud migration.

Not everything will or should go to the cloud
As you go through the rationalization, analysis, recommendations and roadmap, it should become apparent that some applications will not go to the cloud. The reasons will be apparent based on the perspective criteria you defined for the process. This is to be expected. Don't let the hype of the technology blind you to the realities of your situations. Technology is a tool to help solve business problems. No one tool, even the cloud, is capable of solving all problems. That's why we have tool boxes. I raise this point so that you are prepared. You may have some that question when something doesn't make the list. This is another one of the reasons to ensure you remove emotion from the process with the techniques described above.

Make the business case, pilot, measure, assess, move forward
With the list and roadmap in hand, ensure you have a well-defined business case to move forward with. The rationalization should help you identify the first pilot application to start with. The process should have given you measurable criteria to be able to determine the success of the pilot. Measure against that success. Assess the results. Be prepared to challenge yourself and the process. Were the criteria valid? Should there be adjustments? Cloud Rationalization, like application rationalization, is not a once and done process. It should be ongoing, learning from migrations, from changes in business and technology. Always remember, the cloud is not the destination, it is a conduit, a vehicle to help us as technologists provide value to the business. Business value is the true destination.

This post is brought to you by The DNA of The Cloud, Intel and Verizon.

More Stories By Ed Featherston

Ed Featherston is VP, Principal Architect at Cloud Technology Partners. He brings 35 years of technology experience in designing, building, and implementing large complex solutions. He has significant expertise in systems integration, Internet/intranet, and cloud technologies. He has delivered projects in various industries, including financial services, pharmacy, government and retail.

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