Cloud computing is rapidly becoming the default approach for many organisations, but there are multiple variables to the decisions involved. It’s important to consider an approach to navigate these variables and produce a successful strategy to manage its impacts.
IT leaders tasked with establishing a cloud strategy should address five key areas to decrease their organisation’s cloud risks and optimise their investments. In general, the more an organisation can “think like a cloud provider”, the more opportunities it will uncover.
1 - Develop a cloud decision framework
First, develop a cloud decision framework that deals with the enterprise as a consumer of services. At this level, evaluations consider when and how the organisation will consume cloud services.
The key goal is to provide a consistent framework that determines when the organisation will or won’t consume cloud services, using consistent considerations of factors such as security, risks, costs, and benefits.
It is preferable to letting individual teams and planning groups decide cloud service questions on an ad hoc basis, using their own criteria, whenever a new project comes up. Ensure that a common decision framework consistently drives the organisation’s strategy on where it should and shouldn’t consume cloud services.
2 - Establish cloud operations best practices
While the cloud decision framework focuses on specific use-cases, cloud operations focus on best practices across all use cases. These two issues create a dynamic feedback loop. Specific use cases will raise issues to address securing, managing and governing cloud services.
As organisations implement best practices to address these issues across multiple use cases a best practice foundation is created, and the risks for future cloud use-cases tends to go down.
Best practice operational strategies for cloud computing should not be created in isolation. They should be aligned with the existing architecture and technology strategies for each operational area.
3 - Assess the potential for hybrid cloud deployment
The next issue shifts attention away from the enterprise consuming centralised public cloud services to implementing cloud services in a hybrid fashion. A hybrid model is about using a combination of public cloud services with other on-premises options including private cloud and distributed cloud.
With the organisation beginning to use multiple internal and external cloud services alongside traditional infrastructure and applications, the result will be a hybrid and multi-cloud environment but this does raise unique security, management and governance issues.
A key motivation for an organisation to consider on-premises cloud service development or deployment is the potential for gaining the key benefits of cloud service provisioning (such as improved adaptability, flexibility and elasticity) within its own controlled infrastructure environment.
Private cloud offers the greatest control on the internal cloud platform, but at a cost, including the cost and complexity of implementing and then maintaining the full services of a private cloud.
4 - Explore cloud application migration and development
There are several options available, including to re-platform the application by simply shifting it to the cloud with minimal change. While this is often the simplest move, it frequently does not provide the full benefits of the cloud and may raise additional security and operational concerns.
Refactoring or Rebuilding makes more significant changes that take advantage of cloud capabilities and cloud platforms. While it requires more effort, it generally delivers better results.
Rearchitecting the application is a more extensive rebuilding/refactoring that builds the application from the ground up to take advantage of the cloud and delivers the best application performance and security.
A further option is to replace the application with a SaaS offering which does not require any application development at all.
When combined with best practices and new technologies adopted by other IT functional groups, a cloud-aware application architecture creates a cloud-aware and cloud-optimised DevSecOps process for modernising, transforming or replacing legacy applications and processes. It’s important to ensure that you examine all cloud application-related options and their implications under a consistent framework.
5 - Think like a cloud service provider
The final important aspect of a comprehensive cloud strategy concerns the potential for the organisation to gain important benefits by becoming a cloud service provider, which is first and foremost a business issue.
Most large organisations that Gartner encounters are already becoming cloud providers in one form or another. Any company using the web to deliver applications, information services and business process services is essentially delivering a cloud service, if these offerings are delivered as elastic services, in a shared environment, with the technical details hidden behind an abstraction layer with a self-service interface.
Increasingly, the process of becoming a successful digital business will involve thinking like a cloud provider.