Cloud Services – A Decision Maker’s Guide
This blog outlines some of the considerations in cloud deployment to help practitioners make business-beneficial choices.
The first matter to be addressed is to define the problem you are trying to solve and articulate your goals. Some goals that relate to Cloud deployment decisions include:
· Rapid short term or long term capacity provisioning
· Creating intermediate to long term infrastructure capacity flexibility
· Infrastructure modernization/enhancement
· Deployment of integrated applications and infrastructure, such as a salesforce.com deployment
· Managing/minimizing capital requirements
And the list goes on – it is limited only by your creativity.
No matter what your goals are, there are several factors that should be taken into account in the decision process. Among them are the following:
· Transition both to and from the Cloud platform
· Are the savings real?
· User considerations
Security is a significant factor. Your data will be stored outside of your environment if you opt for a public cloud solution. Where is the data stored? How is backup managed? How accessible is it to your user community? What safeguards are in place to ensure that it is protected from mal-use?
Cloud vendors will tell you that their environments are secure and protected. Understanding the details is critical – you cannot let security be compromised and hence a detailed understanding of where data is stored, how it is backed up, how access is protected and how authorities are to be managed are critical questions in selecting a solution. In the case of a private cloud deployment, the same questions apply, although external access is more secure due to your corporate firewall deployment.
Art Wittmann, writing for Information Week recently, noted that cloud costs tend to be decreasing and contracts for cloud services should include that as a consideration. Moore’s law has continually lowered the cost of storage and therefore by implication, the cost of cloud services. Any agreement with a cloud provider would need to include price protection – not only from increases, but also guaranteeing that you benefit from decreases in provider cost and therefore market price of newly contracted cloud services. A favored nation clause can help here, but it is often difficult to quantify and to administer.
Moving to a cloud solution will incur some cost and effort. Is that well understood? Are the resources in place – either on staff or contracted – to effect the transition seamlessly? The analysis of any technology deployment should include all costs and benefits. Moving of any application or data to a cloud provider will incur some costs. That is clear. Equally clear, the costs of moving the application and/or data back to the internal environment – as certainly would be the case in a short term capacity enhancement – should be well understood. What is the process and what are its requirements and costs? Will there be a period where your application or data may not be available for users? What are the consequences of this, and what is a mitigation strategy? There is no need for granular disengagement planning at the point of engagement of a cloud provider, but an understanding of the process and costs of disengagement will inform decision making.
Realization of Savings
In any analysis of change, it is critical to ensure that savings forecasted will be realized. What will become of un-depreciated current storage investment if you migrate to a cloud environment and the current equipment is no longer of use to the business? Will you save labor by migrating? What will happen to those employees whose work will be displaced? Will their capacity be absorbed in departmental overhead? Will they be reassigned to work that would be funded independent of the cloud decision? You get the idea… So often ‘savings’ are defined at the cost study level but no operational plans are in place to realize the savings. The caution – make sure forecasted savings are realized and that someone is accountable for their realization.
As all IT professionals have learned, there is no ‘final solution’ to a challenge. Technology evolves and so do solution options. Hence the Cloud is a current advantageous tool, and it will be replaced at some point in time by something bigger and better. This has always been the case in IT, and I project that will continue to be true in the future.
For that reason, careful consideration of solution lifespan is important. You will be investing some resources to move to a Cloud solution. That investment will have a lifespan – the consideration of full lifecycle costs is a necessary ingredient to any economic analysis.
I am not suggesting that when a new technology emerges, you will necessarily move to it. Instead, I am merely suggesting that you consider the likely lifespan of the Cloud solution you are considering – it will yield insights as to the economic advantage of the steps you are considering now.
Any actions by IT need to be driven by the best interests of the business. Careful consideration of user impacts, both benefits and challenges alike, is essential.
The bottom line is this – Cloud options offer the potential to create business value – potential cost reductions, deployment speed improvements, capacity enhancement, modernization of infrastructure, user flexibility, etc. This is a valuable tool whose benefits and costs should be assessed in a balanced way.