This article follows on from my recent blog outlining the first three key steps to data centre optimisation, which included the necessity to create a clear strategy as a first step; the need to embrace new delivery models, including cloud services; and understanding risk, both short term and long term.
Which brings us neatly to:
Step 4 - Integrating public cloud
You know how this discussion goes. When it comes to supporting an outsourced solution versus your on-premise data centre, including the migration of workloads to public and private clouds, the argument still often boils down to total cost of ownership (TCO) for outsourced managed and cloud services. Which is OK. It makes a lot of sense to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of both approaches in those terms. Especially with the board. After all, the idea of only paying for what you need as you use it, and lowering total cost, is unarguably an attractive proposition, as is scaling the spend up and down in tandem with the demands of your business.
Beyond ‘spend’, there is a whole layer of potential and incremental business benefits that should also be considered – along with the risks mentioned in my previous article.
Public cloud has become very attractive for a number of reasons, but very few businesses have elected to move their entire IT infrastructure to public cloud; and there are good reasons for this. With smart planning, it is possible to get the best of all worlds and to utilise the advantages of public cloud when it makes good sense to do so.
There is no doubt that public cloud offers incredible convenience. It's relatively easy for businesses to set up, use and access. Generally, it delivers reasonable performance with high performance options at additional cost. There are no unexpected infrastructure, maintenance or service costs to pay for, though data transfer charges can be unpredictable, and being able to spin up and spin down capacity quickly (and pay only for what is used) is perhaps its most attractive trait.
And there are risks too. Public cloud outages can and still do happen, although they are extremely rare, often caused by human coding error rather than hardware failures. As a result, they’re usually quickly fixed but can have wide impact. However, some businesses still prefer to ‘own’ an IT issue than have it outsourced, particularly when their business success depends on it.
Cost is generally seen as a driver towards public cloud, but unless the use of public cloud is carefully monitored and managed, costs can quickly spiral. Like for like cost savings are also difficult to calculate when there are so many hidden costs associated with on-premise. It’s certainly not just about the hardware.
Another understandable area of concern, and possibly still a barrier for some enterprises considering public cloud, is security. Public cloud computing is a multi-tenant environment that relies on shared resources, and it may be perceived as more susceptible to hacks. But the reality is that leading public cloud providers spend more on security and reputational protection than most of the world’s largest enterprises could ever afford to.
However, some public cloud providers reserve the right to shift data from one region to another without notification and with the complexities of European data protection law, that can cause real issues, especially for those in heavily regulated industries like finance, insurance and legal.
This weighing up of advantage versus risk can be better assessed with the help of an independent outsider, which is why so many companies now choose to outsource management of part or all of their cloud infrastructure services as an integral part of their business transformation programme.
Step 5 – Implementing the plan
The final step, after due diligence (auditing existing IT systems and applications; planning a transition or transformation) it’s time to implement the plan, one step at a time. That will probably mean moving less critical applications to the cloud first and assessing that against your KPIs, which should include performance, cost and risk. From there, more critical applications could get transitioned depending on the benefits associated with doing so.
The truth is that, during the course of Step 5 (Implementation), Steps 1 to 4 should remain in review. This is a journey that demands constant re-evaluation. When Heraclitus, the ancient Greek philosopher, said that the only constant in life was change, he wasn’t kidding.
But the good news is that, through transitioning to cloud infrastructure as a service, you will inevitably be moving to a much more flexible, scalable approach to IT which will allow for increased agility and speed to react to ever changing business needs.
We live in exciting and constantly changing times. Some in IT might say stressful times too but a well-executed transformation journey, where the most challenging parts of the IT infrastructure are outsourced, using a combination of managed services, public and private cloud and SaaS applications, could leave you free to focus on the important stuff. Like revenue generating ideas that will transform your IT function from being a cost centre to a profit centre - not a bad aspiration, after all.