The technology around cloud computing has proven to be very beneficial to many organizations. Surrounded by virtualization, cloud computing is a means to consolidate and create a more efficient environment.
Many IT environments have seen a reduction in their data center space requirements and are deploying fewer hardware components to support their infrastructure. Still, there are administrators and managers out there who, although not confused by the cloud, aren’t seeing any direct benefit to moving to such a platform.
The fact is simple: Almost all organizations are using the Internet in some way or another. In using the WAN, they’re most likely transferring data between multiple points. Many can argue that, by the definition, these organizations are already using cloud computing. But what about actual cloud platforms? Creating your own public, private or even hybrid cloud? Although cloud computing can have powerful benefits, some companies just don’t need to move to that type of platform. And, in those cases, maybe it makes sense to hold off.
Prior to moving to any cloud platform, an organization has to do some due diligence to understand what goes into the process of developing a cloud environment. Here's some important points for consideration.
- Creating a use-case. Far too often an organization will jump on the cloud bandwagon without really understanding why they need it. Planning meetings with all business and technology stakeholders have to take place. This will create a better understanding of the need for a technology, which may solve a pain point for the organization. Cloud computing has to offer some sort of improvement to the business process and has to make sense from an ROI perspective. Remember, the cloud isn’t just one platform – it’s a combination or tools and solutions which all work together to more effectively deliver and distribute data. This is why sometimes adding a cloud component can actually increase the complexity of an environment.
- Understanding the current environment. As mentioned earlier, using cloud components can actual add moving parts to an environment. When thinking about moving to some type of cloud platform, it’s important to understand where the current infrastructure sits. Are there enough resources to move to the cloud? Can the environment handle the needs that cloud computing demands? There are times where an organization has to invest in computing equipment above and beyond just the cloud components. In those cases, it’s important to make sure there is still value in the cloud solution. This is where a cost breakdown and an investment analysis can really help.
- Evaluating the impact on the infrastructure. In many cases, organizations are already using some element of the cloud. Whether that’s simple email to phone delivery or just off-site backup – it’s important to know what is invested now and what investments are needed in the future. The simple question to ask is this: “Do we need this technology?” If the current environment is capable of delivering a good solution and computing experience, then the answer may simply be “no.” This doesn’t mean cloud computing is a bad technology, just that there is no current fit for it in the existing infrastructure. Whenever a cloud component is deployed, there will be other pieces that are included. Whether this is a new type of application delivery controller or a desktop virtualization broker – all of these technologies can add complexities to the environment. Having the right resources in place to support this infrastructure is important as well.
- Impact on the end-user. Moving to the cloud can have positive results for an organization. The same can be said for the end-user experience. However, in many cases, the user will now have to learn or use a new platform or tool to access their data. This might mean moving to a new type of Web interface or accessing their workloads from a new location. Although many times a migration plan can help move users from one platform to another – in some cases it’s just not worth it. If a cloud platform is being considered, always take the end-user into account first. You can have the best cloud solution in place, but if it greatly affects the user – the project might be a failure. If serious user push-back can be anticipated or training is not a current option, moving to a cloud platform may not be the right step at this time.
By no means is this an anti-cloud perspective. Like any technology, there has to be a fit for there to be business successes. In designing a cloud solution, one of the most important pieces is to understand how the platform can successfully fit into the existing environment.
A big component of moving to the cloud is researching and understanding how the cloud computing environment will operate in the near future. Forecasting around technologies helps organizations position the right tools in in the right places moving forward. This holds very true for cloud computing as it did for other computing innovations. Although numerous organizations have seen direct benefits form a cloud solution, some have taken a less involved approach. In many cases, just a small cloud adoption takes place in place of a proposed larger one. For those organizations, it’s simple – there is just no direct benefit from moving to a cloud environment right now.
Bill Kleyman is a Virtualization and Cloud Architect, MTM Technologies, who enjoys writing about technology and cloud.