By: Jim Blizzard
DISCLAIMER: Impact Makers is a consulting firm focused on Mid-Tier Enterprises (MTEs) as well as Fortune 500 companies offering services that enable our clients to realize the benefits of migrating to cloud computing. Impact Makers offers services that get our clients established in the cloud in 4-6 weeks, plan migration and support their engineering efforts. We help our clients move quickly from planning to POC and into production while preparing their teams for operating in the cloud and transitioning to “cloud-first” thinking.
Cloud Computing Challenge for Mid-Tier Enterprises
Without a doubt the advantages of migration to cloud computing and operational adoption have been a foundational game-changer for large organizations. However, cloud computing is fast becoming a change agent for Mid-Tier Enterprises (MTEs) as well. Many MTEs have begun their journey to the cloud using Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) – typically migrating their employees to cloud-based email services (Office 365 and Gmail are the giants in this space). Where the rest of the cloud journey becomes more complicated is in using cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). Questions to answer begin with: ‘Do I go “all in” with the public cloud, leverage a private cloud, or consider a Hybrid Cloud model?’.
|Software-as-a-Service is a software licensing and delivery model in which software is licensed on a subscription basis and is generally hosted centrally.|
|Infrastructure-as-a-Service is how most people think of cloud computing, where elastic cloud infrastructure scales automatically based on demand and usage. It provides elasticity (often referred to as the Elastic Cloud) – allowing for automatic scaling of infrastructure where needed.|
|Platform-as-a-Service provides a framework and cloud components for developers that they can build upon and use to create customized solutions; leveraging advanced cloud services related to cloud application development.|
|Hybrid cloud refers to is a cloud computing environment that uses a mix of on-premises, private cloud, and public cloud services with orchestration between the various platforms.|
If cloud adoption is done thoughtfully, small- to medium-sized businesses can realize powerful benefits. In this article, we’ll explore why companies are moving to the cloud and what your smaller organization should be aware of if you choose to move to managed services.
The List: How the Cloud Enables Your Organization
Speed to Value: Rapid innovation in the business world requires that core technologies are available. Businesses want to take an idea and implement quickly in order to succeed/fail quickly. This approach reduces wasted investment. However, traditional IT is reactive – waiting for the ask, building upon requirements, and demanding long lead times that conflict with the “succeed/fail fast” mantra. Ideally, IT must have a service catalog that provides infrastructure and services in a proactive manner. MTEs have smaller budgets and staff – making the movement to proactivity with “service-on-a-shelf” even more of a challenge than at large organizations.
Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC) becomes a key enabler for smaller organizations, allowing them to build infrastructure with scripts – reducing lead-times and increasing quality through re-use. This allows you to put the infrastructure build into your development pipeline, further maturing your DevOps practices.
|Infrastructure-as-Code is the means by which cloud infrastructure is automatically provisioned on demand by ways of pre-coded infrastructure architecture.|
Key advantage: Cloud adoption and use of IaC allows IT teams to jump toward proactivity because the services are already defined and “ready at a mouse-click”.
Key Considerations: IaC is powerful, but it requires a new skillset for your engineers and infrastructure support staff. Take care to contemplate the re-skilling impact in your cloud migration planning.
Scalability and Flexibility
Every industry and business have their own unique times of peak demand. Providing physical infrastructure to accommodate those spikes in demand is costly and ineffective. Cloud managed services provides automatic scalability that flexes when needed (elasticity); this scalability optimizes costs. In addition, working from the cloud provides robust Infrastructure as Code (IaC) that allows you to script an entire data center or specific areas requiring scale.
Key Advantage: Cloud services provide flexibility by providing easy-to-manage solutions to meet High Availability (HA) needs.
Key Considerations: Not all applications can take advantage of the scaling features of the Cloud. It’s valuable to proactively perform an application assessment in your migration planning.
Many believe that the cloud is inherently cheaper than on-premise; sometimes this is true. The cloud will ultimately enable you to spend your dollars in the right place (optimize). As an example, organizations that have software development investments in flight can have non-prod environments in the cloud that can be shut down when not in use. In this scenario, organizations are not paying for compute when they don’t need to. One big cost benefit is that budget allocated to technology refresh cycles can be reallocated to other needs because a managed cloud environment is always up to date.
Key Advantage: The cost optimization is real! Thoughtful planning and migration will absolutely allow your organization to spend your technology dollars in the right place at the right time. You pay-as-you-go and can shut down unused infrastructure with a click.
Key Considerations: When considering the cost implications of cloud consumption, it is important to align to your CFO/Finance organization. In the cloud, your infrastructure will change from a capital (depreciable) expense, to an operational expense. Check with your financial leaders to determine the impact of reducing depreciable expenses.
You can read more about cloud economics in our Cloud Educational Series.
Business continuity and disaster recovery are critical to an organization’s resiliency. The public cloud eliminates the need to have full-blown disaster recovery sites with high value assets sitting idle until needed. With IaC and easier-to-use consoles, the whole data center can be recreated in a matter of hours and only when it is needed – freeing up maintenance and budget to create more business value in other areas. Reliability of continuity infrastructure is increased due to the fact that your IaC scripts used for production can be re-used in the recovery site. Because the IaC is frequently tested, the number of Disaster Recovery tests required may be reduced.
You can also use the cloud as to facilitate backups. Each public cloud provider offers online storage solutions that can grow and scale as needed and is perfect for an online backup solution. Once your data is backed up to the cloud, recovery is simplified and accelerated.
Key Advantage: Traditional disaster recovery scripts are subject to change rapidly in an agile environment. The use of IaC allows recovery scripts to remain relevant in times of change – increasing quality and making recovery tests more successful.
Key Considerations: The best way to ensure the quality of IaC scripts is to incorporate them in your DevOps practice so they get tested throughout the application lifecycle. The power of IaC for business continuity is decreased when used outside of a DevOps practice.
Work from Anywhere
Additionally, public cloud services includes Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) which provides Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) – cloud hosted virtual desktops that allow users to work from anywhere, access their data, and not skip a beat in the event of a crisis.
Key Advantage: DaaS also supports business continuity by allowing access to standardized corporate desktops that can be accessed from any laptop or desktop.
Key Considerations: Cloud providers’ virtual desktop solutions often have constraints around Identify and Access Management (IAM). When planning your consumption of DaaS, ensure you reserve time and contingency to evaluate your needs against IAM constraints.
Access to Enterprise Tools
Once established in the public cloud, MTEs can now have affordable access to various enterprise IT tools that they were financially prohibited to obtain previously. MTEs can now have access to key management, operations control, encryption, and automation tools, just to name a few.
Key Advantage: MTEs can now have access to tools that help mature operations, protect assets, automate IT tasks, and improve quality – providing increased business enablement.
Key Considerations: All these enterprise tools require new skills be developed or obtained. Any retooling objective must be factored into the cloud migration strategy.
Agility and Innovation Acceleration
Innovation is the name of the game in 2020 and beyond. Being able to meet the demands of customer and employee experience is critical to long-term survival. Once in the cloud, you can add innovative services such as Machine Learning (ML), Natural Language Processing (NLP), and other automation that can be provisioned quickly and allow you to test the waters in a “success/fail fast” approach.
Key Advantage: Infrastructure lead times can be deadly to any project. With cloud consumption, weeks and months turn into hours and days – increasing the speed to achieve intended business value. Additionally, using cloud-native services like NLP and ML can enable solutions that greatly improve the customer and employee experience and provide market differentiators.
Key Considerations: Although the speed to provide infrastructure and platforms can occur at breakneck pace, there are changes required in IT operations to manage cloud services, compliance, and cost. Your cloud journey to Enterprise cloud consumption should incorporate the new skill and process requirements for resilient operations.
A Word on Disadvantages of the Cloud
There are none! Just kidding! All jokes aside, most businesses will benefit from moving to online to the cloud. I don’t like to use the term disadvantage to describe attributes of cloud computing, but there are often overlooked impacts that can be classified as disadvantages in hindsight.
I’ve mentioned several things to consider as you plan your journey into the cloud. One of the most important things that is often overlooked and can be even more impactful to MTEs is to realize that moving to the cloud is replacing technology. With all its benefits, replacing technology cannot be done without some impact to process and people. In the case of cloud, the impacts can be disruptive.
Where is my data center?: The whole model of cloud computing is big change for IT – we can’t see/touch the infrastructure. This model means that IT processes (commonly called IT Service Management or ITSM) will be impacted.
Everyone is accountable for costs- not just the infrastructure team: Operational cost consciousness must increase all the way down to the system administrator and developer level to ensure unused resources are not consuming billable cycles.
The Downside of “IT’S EASY”: Because cloud consumption is, at its core, self-service, some level of cloud governance should be implemented to ensure operational costs are contained and predictive.
So…Where Do I Start?
I’ve provided both benefits and things to consider as you plan your cloud consumption journey. These considerations can still make this objective look overwhelming for MTEs. So, how do you start?
Find an experienced consulting partner who will help you:
Start with business value. Determine which drivers above enable the most value in achieving your strategic business goals.
Inventory your cloud computing scenarios (use-cases) that you think are core drivers to migrate to the cloud. This will create a backlog of items to iterate through on your journey.
Start small and scale fast: In as little as 4-6 weeks, a cloud-foundational infrastructure can be realized, and the first use-case implemented.
Iterate through use-cases and apply learning at each iteration.
Remember: Cloud adoption is a journey, plan your course and navigate through it – learning as you go.