Getting Your Head And Heart In The Cloud

Head In The Clouds

Currently you still see a lot of companies look to the cloud just as a commodity, driven by the IT department with the aim of solving one specific application pain point such as Dev/Test or storage. These are of course areas that the cloud can assist with and there is no need to go back over all the benefits of the cloud, but what about the bigger picture?

A piecemeal approach to cloud utilisation can be inefficient and lead to problems in the future with unnecessary costs and disruption to systems if consolidation is required, or even performance issues in the solutions due to increased latency.

For me, one of the key things companies need to do is change their vantage point when looking at the cloud. After all, any IT implementation’s ultimate goal is to solve a business problem in order to increase profits, and there are only too ways to do it which are either cuts costs or increases revenue. Whether those systems are hidden, for internal or external use they must improve the experience of their users and ergo the rewards for the business.

Business problems are not solved solely through the cloud, they are solved through business transformation leveraging the cloud as a tool (one of many) for the delivery of that transformation. Because of this Aditi believes it is the role of Business Transformation teams and not only the IT department to assess where and how the cloud should be used and establish the drivers and benefits they want to achieve. These teams should have representation from across the business, including IT and a senior executive sponsor.

Once a team is formed I believe the following steps offer the most effective route to long-term success with the cloud.

  • Start to look at the full portfolio of the company and understand exactly what the most important attributes are in order to improve the services. Attributes like Self-service, Pooled Resources, Pay as you go, and others. By doing this you should be able to produce a full business case to prove exactly why and how the cloud is going to be used as well as how the process will be funded. We’ve seen that most of these transformation processes are actually self-funded exercises as through a well-designed strategy you’re able to save costs and potentially improve revenue, which will pay for the transformation.
  • Then start looking at every application and map the cloud attributes that would be required to make it more effective: This might be self-services, speed, flexibility, availability or scalability. Another attribute to consider is resource pooling, where there may be overlaps in the needs of applications.
  • Once these needs are mapped out it is possible to see which applications need (or you desire) to have stay on-premises and those where the cloud might offer an opportunity for business improvement, for example through cost savings, improved customer experience or a new way of delivering services. A review can then take place against the offerings of the different cloud vendor solutions such as Windows Azure or Amazon Web Services. At this point don’t corner yourself by only looking at certain types of cloud services, look at the full breadth of what each vendor you would consider has to offer now and as part of their future service roadmap.
  • At this point it should be possible to shortlist vendors that can meet your needs, and select applications to go to proof of concept. At this stage a formal roll-out plan and cloud strategy can be developed for the implementation of cloud within the organisations and the measures that will be used to gauge success. This plan should also detail the response commitments that will be needed at each stage.
  • One key area often overlooked is the operationalisation of cloud applications. Take time to think about the metrics that each application must perform to, as well as its support needs. Often putting an application in the cloud also creates opportunities to package it, or its data in new ways. For example, giving customers access to real-time data or even creating new applications that sold on a subscription model basis.

By this stage the hard work should have been completed in terms of giving the business confidence that the cloud will be addressing specific business needs in the organisation, with low risk and a long-term measurable view of success.

Getting your business using the cloud is not something to put on the “to do” list, it has to be looked at now. Cloud services are enabling the democratisation of compute power, giving start-ups and small business the scale and power to compete with the largest enterprises, with a fast time to market and no capital investment. In the same way that web levelled the playing field, the cloud is doing the same with raw computing power; those companies that drag their heels will suffer the same problems as those that procrastinated over the web.

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Nuno Godinho

Nuno Godinho is a Windows Azure MVP and Director of Cloud Services, Europe for Aditi Technologies. He has been an MVP for the last 6 years, first as an MVP in ASP.NET and the last 3 years as a Windows Azure MVP. His is also a speaker at some of Microsoft's key events such as TechEd North America, TechEd Europe, Tech Days Worldwide Online, TechDays Netherlands and at other community events such as GASP - Grupo de Arquitectura de Software Português, Windows Azure UK User Group, Azure BE UG and so on. He is a prolific blogger and community creator.