Your application developers have been saying they can increase performance by moving your application to the cloud. Your boss is saying, “We should be doing some of this cloud thing I keep hearing about.” Your peers have moved at least one critical piece of information processing to a cloud services provider. Sound familiar? Today it seems everyone at every level begins or ends every conversation with the word “cloud.” So you think it might be time to buy a cloud, but where do you begin?
First, cloud computing is actually a collection of disks, servers, switches, routers, firewalls and Internet connections, much like the datacenter you currently fund. However, unlike your datacenter, you do not choose the hardware and depending on the types of services purchased, you may not choose the operating systems or sign the Internet connection agreements. You sign an agreement to provide the outputs of your datacenter rather than worrying about the inputs or the process. That is, you sign a contract for the what of your datacenter not the how.
Of course, the change in thinking and funding from how your datacenter adds value as an input to focusing on the outputs that demonstrate the value data processing creates (the what), introduces very nontraditional thinking for every level of IT employee as well as your management team. The actions to move value creation to a Cloud Service Provider (CSP) also introduce new thinking about risk. Understanding and mitigating cloud risks requires new knowledge. Whether training for a specific vendor’s cloud offering or learning a how cloud fits into existing security frameworks, you need new information.
Second, identify value creating in-house processes that cannot be replicated in another location or by a XaaS ([X] something as a service) provider. Set those aside and focus your first cloud purchase on services that can be replicated outside of your datacenter. Yes, moving value creation to a cloud service provider counts as moving to the cloud. This is the path many organizations have chosen to test the cloud. How do you find value-creating activities to consider for cloud XaaS? Two accepted ways include looking at applications you want to refresh, asking if there is an XaaS for that and sending in the Business Analysts (BAs). BAs trained in cloud service management can help you identify the low-hanging cloud fruit.
Third, as you prepare to buy your cloud, work to determine the proper CSP scale. Do you need a regional cloud provider? Do you need a national cloud provider? Do you need a global cloud provider? Your current business footprint can provide insight. If your current, or very near future, geographic footprint is global, why would you choose a CSP that is regional or local? In addition, if the outputs of your datacenter or value-creating application cross international borders, your CSP may need to comply with laws or rules of operation in the specific countries your data enters.
Finally, know your security is right. Do not guess, assume or otherwise wing it. A properly trained cloud engineer and a cloud-solutions architect should be engaged to ensure your data are isolated, encrypted and serviced from redundant locations that meet your business Service Level Agreements (SLAs). This is the scary part of cloud today. Proper training along with open communication between you and the CSP, can reduce the fear and help you buy your first cloud to move your organization one step into a new IT future.