Organizations are moving to the cloud in a big way. Cloud will become the bulk of new IT spend in 2016, and nearly half of all large enterprises will deploy hybrid clouds by the end of 2017, according to Gartner.
But as CIOs and other executives begin exploring the cloud, they have questions that deserve answers. To that end, here are the most frequent questions I get about cloud computing:
1. What’s the case for moving to the cloud?
Companies that move to the cloud have done so for three primary reasons:
- Lower cost — Cloud providers capitalize hardware and software costs and share those costs across subscribers. The economies of scale mean they can offer infrastructure, software and networks cheaper than you can get on your own. That means lower capital expenses for you, and the pay-as-you-go model also means more normalized IT costs.
- Less complexity — Abstracting the data center simplifies it and enables you to focus on core IT functions rather than infrastructure. That ultimately helps you address the core requirements of the business and business outcomes.
- More flexibility — Public clouds make it easy to scale up or down as your needs change. You can also customize the cloud to suit your needs, like building a private cloud for normal operations and bursting into the public cloud for peak loads.
2. How do I know if migrating to the cloud is right for my organization?
Intuitively, the advantages of cloud are self-evident. But you’ll want to build your cloud strategy on quantifiable data, because one-size-doesn’t-fit-all when it comes to cloud solutions. Quantifying the unknown is a good first step. That means understanding the cloud services already being consumed in your organization. Don’t be surprised if some lines of business are already working with a cloud provider to meet their own needs.
You’ll also want to strike a balance between using the cloud to optimize existing applications or infrastructure versus driving new innovation. Of course, not all of your workloads may be suitable for the cloud. For certain legacy applications or core functions, moving to the cloud may involve unacceptable risk or cost.
3. How do I know when to make the leap to the cloud?
You need the time, tools and expertise to review options and weigh risks and rewards. Such an assessment probably involves both automated discovery within your environment and one-on-one discussions with key stakeholders. You then need a detailed and realistic roadmap to take you from your current to your future state.
Also consider whether you need external help. Does your current systems integrator or other IT providers have the expertise, tools and objectivity to help you evaluate cloud options? Should you bring in experienced help to build a business case to justify your move to the cloud? What are the performance implications, security considerations and data residency requirements involved?
4. How do I identify which workloads to move to the cloud?
Start by capturing business requirements and evaluating cloud options. When we advise clients, we leverage a set of proven processes to simplify and quantify requirements by engaging stakeholders, then comparing their needs with available solutions. We then assess cloud solutions from vendors such as Google, Microsoft and VMware to create a scorecard based on business value.
Some decisions will seem fairly obvious. If you’re a financial company, you might want to keep account and transaction data in a private cloud while placing publicly facing information in a public cloud. But for every situation you need to start with business needs.
5. What are the biggest challenges in moving to the cloud?
Every IT initiative involves risk. Knowing what to look out for can help you avoid problems:
- The cloud can shift the burden of data security from your organization to your cloud provider. Think through the potential risks and compliance implications.
- The cloud also shifts control over hardware and software — and hence, backup and disaster recovery. As with security, there are risk implications.
- “Vendor lock-in” can be an issue, especially if you’re migrating complex infrastructure or large data volumes. Do your due diligence upfront to avoid having to make a change later.
- Once you move to the cloud, the IT department’s role will be to make sure end users get the IT services they need, whether they’re provided in-house or from the cloud. Think about where to place and manage applications to ensure the best outcomes.
6. What should I look for in a cloud partner?
Hardware, software and cloud vendors will all want to give you advice on cloud computing. And their input may be valuable. But bear in mind that each will be inclined to sell you their hardware, their software, their cloud.
So seek guidance from a vendor-neutral partner that has deep cloud experience. Look for a trusted advisor that’s willing to fully understand your environment and your unique requirements, and then recommend the specific solution that’s right for you.
What are the biggest challenges in your company’s cloud journey? Please comment on what you’re doing to overcome them and reap the benefits of the cloud.