By Tim Wade, Global Cloud Architect, Dimension Data
CIOs are ready to move beyond just dabbling with cloud infrastructure. Until now, many companies have used cloud computing for test/dev situations, data backup and other behind the scenes operations. Industry experts predict that the market is on the brink of a change where businesses will move production applications and begin operating significant portions of their infrastructures within the cloud.
But before CIOs make the decision to migrate everyday applications and servers over to a private or public cloud, there must be defined business objectives and a strategic plan in place. CIOs will need to clearly articulate the underlying business need, such as cost-savings, enhanced performance and increased agility to the executive team.
The proposal should clearly outline how the new cloud infrastructure will address security and compliance requirements, disaster recovery/business continuity practices and how the cloud-based services will be managed. Armed with this information, CIOs are prepared to correctly select a cloud strategy and service provider.
Selecting the right type of cloud
A successful cloud strategy is more than just deciding where the cloud will be housed. In addition, the type of cloud (public, private or hybrid) and who will be providing and managing the services are important. Lastly, there are two other considerations that CIOs need to address:
- Multi-vendor approach – If the strategy is to use several cloud services providers, CIOs may need to add an abstraction layer or automation tool to reduce management complexity.
- Cloud service brokerage – Cloud brokerages usually offer an extensive partner network that provide a wide variety of offerings, but this option may come with extra fees and the danger of vendor lock-in.
Choosing the best cloud provider
When selecting a cloud service provider, CIOs are entering into a true partnership with this third-party firm for an extended period. Most cloud service provider contracts encompass 1-3 years and significant investment on behalf of both parties. Switching from one provider to another is not an easy task. Hence, the CIO must closely conduct due diligence on each provider, ensuring that there will not only be a technology fit, but a cultural match as well.
Research into each cloud service provider will allow for CIOs to compare the guaranteed performance, availability and features for each firm. The information gathering period should not be limited to the materials shared by the provider. Make sure to read online reviews, review social media commentary, gather industry analyst insight and speak with peers and current clients as well. Additionally, check with internal business departments to see if they have used the provider for a rogue deployment recently to secure that feedback.
The final consideration, for those offsite cloud locations, that is often overlooked is the network connection to these data centers. Latency and bandwidth issues could affect the performance of cloud services and establishing a direct connection between office locations and the data center may add additional expense.
Implementing cloud services
CIOs are responsible for ensuring that their firms operate smoothly and efficiently. Cloud services are the answer to this need, but it is not a strategy that can be taken lightly. A clear strategic plan that encompasses the type of cloud services and in-depth research into service providers will best position a firm for successful implementation. How a company uses cloud for its production applications, servers and data will need to be tailored to each company’s specific needs. As cloud implementations occur, most firms will end up with a hybrid model consisting of a mix of infrastructure, platform and software-as-service solutions.The success of this hybrid model will rely upon how much upfront planning and due diligence the CIO and IT team originally completed.
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