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The Journey to the Cloud

Written By: langdon on December 25, 2013 No Comment

The Journey to the Cloud

Because we are in the early days of the cloud paradigm shift, there is much confusion about the direction of this ongoing transformation. In these articles, we looked beyond the current technology and focused on the underlying economics of cloud to define the destination – where all of this disruption and innovation is leading our industry. Based on our analysis, we see a long-term shift to cloud driven by three important economies of scale:

(1) larger datacenters can deploy computational resources at significantly lower cost than smaller ones

(2) demand pooling improves the utilization of these resources, especially in public clouds

(3) multi-tenancy lowers application maintenance labor costs for large public clouds.

Finally, the cloud offers unparalleled levels of elasticity and agility that will enable exciting new solutions and applications.  For businesses of all sizes, the cloud represents tremendous opportunity. It represents an opportunity to break out of the longstanding tradition of IT professionals spending 80 percent of their time and budget keeping the lights on, with few resources left to focus on innovation. Cloud services will enable IT groups to focus more on innovation while leaving non-differentiating activities to reliable and cost-effective providers. Cloud services will enable IT leaders to offer new solutions that were previously seen as either cost prohibitive or too difficult to implement. This is especially true of cloud platforms (Platform as a Service), which significantly reduce the time and complexity of building new apps that take advantage of all the benefits of the cloud.

This future won‘t materialize overnight. IT leaders need to develop a new 5- to 10-year vision of the future, recognizing that they and their organizations will play a fundamentally new role in their company. They need to plot a path that connects where they are today to that future. An important first step in this is to segment their portfolio of existing applications.

For some apps the economic and agility benefits may be very strong so they should be migrated quickly. However, barriers do exist today, and while we outlined link placeholder  that many of them will be overcome over time, cloud may not be ready for some apps today. For tightly integrated apps with fairly stable usage patterns, it may not make sense to move them at all, similar to how some mainframe apps were never migrated to client/server. While new custom apps don‘t have the legacy problem, designing them in a scalable, robust fashion is not always an easy task. Cloud optimized platforms (Platform as a Service) can dramatically simplify this task.

This transition is a delicate balancing act. If the IT organization moves too quickly in areas where the cloud is not ready, it can compromise business continuity, security, and compliance. If it moves too slowly, it can put the company at a significant competitive disadvantage versus competitors who do take full advantage of cloud capabilities, giving up a cost, agility, or value advantage. Moving too slowly also increases the risk that different groups or individuals within the company will each adopt their own cloud solution in a fragmented and uncontrolled fashion (―rogue IT‖), wresting control over IT from the CIO. IT leaders who stay ahead of the cloud trend will be able to control and shape this transition; those who lag behind will increasingly lose control.

To lead the transition, IT leaders need to think about the long term architecture of their IT . Some see a new role emerging, that of a Cloud Services Architect, who determines which applications and services move to the cloud and exactly when such a move takes place based on a business case and a detailed understanding of the cloud capabilities available. This should start by taking inventory of the organization‘s resources and policies. This includes an application and data classification exercise to determine which policy or performance requirements (such as confidential or top secret data retention requirements) apply to which applications and data. Based on this, IT leaders can determine what parts of their IT operation are suitable for public cloud and what might justify an investment in private cloud. Beginning in this manner takes advantage of the opportunity of cloud while striking balance between economics and security, performance, and risk.


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