Avoid the empty cloud trap

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The benefits of going cloud-first are clear, but there are pitfalls to be avoided on the way.

The benefits of going cloud-first are clear, but there are pitfalls to be avoided on the way. One of these is embarking on the journey without fully understanding the destination. We see too many companies take an infrastructure-first approach rather than focusing on defining and meeting the needs of the business first. The risk is arriving at an expensive cloud solution that doesn’t actually do what users need it to do – what I call an “empty cloud.”

The empty cloud

Many companies believe they are already using a private cloud, when in fact they are using a virtual server farm that lacks the sophistication and capabilities they need. Facing this realization, the instinct is to launch a project to automate the IaaS layer and integrate the technical ecosystem. In other words, to adopt an infrastructure-first approach. This is a mistake because it is a bottom-up solution likely to result in an “empty cloud”—one that has a multitude of features, but not necessarily the ones users need.

Automating the IaaS layer and integrating the technical ecosystems are necessary steps, but they are not the whole journey. Providing a Linux or Windows VM is only a means to an end—users actually want to instantiate advanced services such as a database clusters, application server farms, three-tier architectures, SharePoint sites, or even a standardized SAP landscape.

If the aim is to build a portal that automates the process of end-users accessing the IT services they need, you need to understand what those users’ business imperatives are before you build the portal. Cloud isn’t just about automation—it is an enabler for end-users to access resources. Simply put, going cloud-first should be driven by business imperatives.

The true cost of public cloud

When application owners become unhappy with the lack of flexibility or agility provided by their in-house IT, they turn to public cloud solutions that seem cheap and easy to set up—all you need is a credit card and the number of a cloud provider.

In reality, migrating to public cloud is a complex project that requires the careful examination of many factors, including but not limited to, infrastructure usage and the way development teams are structured. A few months after migrating without considering these factors, we see clients who find:

  • Their IT costs have increased
  • They have security and support issues
  • They don’t have the diagnostics personnel to cope with incidents.

The problems multiply when they try to hand back management of their applications to the in-house IT team. Cloud is such a different platform that this results in increased costs and labor wastage. Most public cloud providers (for IaaS) do not provide managed services on top of the infrastructure, so additional services and partners are required to maintain the IT. Before a cloud strategy is implemented, all migrations and development procedures need to be looked at from multiple angles:

  • Business: Consider the proper target platform (SaaS, or migration on PaaS/IaaS) and service windows to optimize usage.
  • Application: Investigate ways to benefit from innovative public cloud services and implement new ways of working on the development side.
  • Infrastructure: Make sure the necessary infrastructure is deployed securely and with full access to the company’s authentication and managed services.

A Cloud Management Platform (CMP) can help standardize deployment, while also giving application owners and developers the speed and agility offered by a public cloud. Additionally, it can also give a private cloud the same kind of flexibility as a public one. This is useful for enterprises that cannot move to a public cloud for financial or regulatory reasons.

Cloud-first business is better business                     

Moving to the cloud is one of the first enablers of a business’s digital transformation. Like any major shift, it impacts all layers of the organization and needs to be driven by a business-first mindset. Large-scale automation is required in order to achieve true transformation, which leads to acceleration of processes and changes in organization. Transformation means that new methods need to be adopted. These may include pre-approved deployment patterns, security within the code, and resiliency at an application level.

By meeting a clear business imperative, enterprises can help to ensure that their cloud journey is a success. Moving towards a cloud-first approach will not only reduce costs, but also offer the agility needed to compete in the digital era.

To read more about how cloud-first is the new normal, see our recent paper entitled Taming cloud complexity with a Cloud Management Platform

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