Critical factors for successful cloud journey

Rising adoption of cloud services by enterprises, mid-market companies and startups is signaling that ‘Cloud services’ has finally transformed from hype to a market reality. The increased maturity of cloud technologies in transparency, security and best practices of use and adoption have been the key enabler of this growth. Cloud services have matured significantly and become mainstream with the market stepping forward from the ‘Test and Experiment’ phase to the ‘Adoption’ phase, from “what” to “how” phase.  Enterprises are now converting their stratrgy and assessments  into implementation roadmaps and rollout plans. According to Gartner, by 2016 more than 50 percent of Global 1000 companies will have stored data in the cloud and the global cloud market will grow from USD 37.8 billion in 2010 to USD 121.1 billion in 2015.

The real value of cloud services lies in improving the alignment between IT and business by increased IT agility. Traditional IT with its typical nuances of procurement, maintainance and management of the physical infrastructure and associated services, has been firefighting and struggling to keep up with business demands. On the other hand, cloud services help enterprises not only streamline processes but also increase innovation and productivity by enabling IT to focus on the enterprises’ core businesses rather than be concerned about scalability of infrastructure.

Key challenges to cloud adoption-

Even with a compelling business imperative, the journey to cloud is not a cakewalk for any organization. Before taking the plunge, enterprises need to assess and evaluate the readiness to move to a cloud based delivery model. Given below is a list of the typical risks and challenges faced during adoption of cloud services:

Data Governance & Security – The sensitive data in every enterprise requires monitoring and protection. This security compliance is mandated primarily through regulations that require data governance. By moving the data to cloud, the capability to govern this critical data is transferred to the service provider and dependence on service provider increases to ensure the safety of this critical data.

Technology/Vendor Lock-In – Technology based cloud solutions may often lock enterprises into a specific storage vendor or a specific network vendor. Since the global standards for cloud services are still being formalized, switching to another vendor may involve substantial costs due to difference in underlying architecture.

Interoperability & Scalability – Easy migration and integration of application and data between in-house infrastructure and the cloud (Interoperability) is a critical challenge for enterprises. Also, the agility of the cloud solution is to support sudden bursts in requirement of cloud infrastructure (scalability), without being entirely dependent on just a single vendor is a matter of concern.

Monitoring & Management – Monitoring the dynamic nature of the cloud and detecting performance problems that need to be quickly isolated, diagnosed and assigned to the appropriate group for timely resolution is another highly specialised activity. This demands proactive and business-centric management to provide transparency and depth of visibility to assure performance and scalability in the cloud environment.

Operationalization – Precise assessment and adoption of suitable methodology can address issues such as data governance, security, vendor/technology lock-in, interoperability and scalability. However, operationalization and management of heterogeneous cloud environments still remain major challenges.

The complexity of operationalizing the cloud is a huge challenge for any enterprise, even after carrying out a successful Proof-of-Concept (PoC).  The cloud journey is a transformation for an enterprise where the end result could be a combination of managed data centers, managed infrastructure and managed platform components delivered through a mix of public and private cloud services and traditional managed hosting. While architecting cloud delivery model is of prime focus, enterprises also need to consider key Critical-To-Quality (CTQ) parameters that are essential for operationalizing the cloud model for effective and efficient service delivery.

Crticial success factors for cloud deployment

Even as cloud services change the way enterprises create, share, consume and dispose information & data, not every workload can be moved to the cloud. Determining which cloud delivery model fits is a decision driven by business needs and desired functionality depending on the size of the enteprise and the kinds of data, applications and processes in the enterprise. Enterprises need to evaluate and choose the right cloud deployment model taking into consideration the following critical factors for successful adoption of cloud and its operationalization within the organization:

1.  Identify the right strategy: A structured architectural framework and transformation strategy for the cloud journey will ensure optimal utilization of cloud technologies and maximization of business benefits. Key factors to keep in mind while building this strategy are:

  • The keenness to move from CAPEX to OPEX model
  • The willingness to allocate a budget for investments in the cloud
  • The budget for monitoring and managing the cloud deployment
  • The right cloud model
  • The technology platforms
  • The cloud vendors and cloud services partners

2.  Design for Future: The roadmap to cloud has to be based on the business growth plan for the next 3-5 years. Assessment has to be performed to determine requirements for scalability and flexibility and to evaluate whether the current infrastructure can support these requirements. An in-depth understanding of the existing infrastructure based on current assets and refresh cycles is an absolute necessity.

3. Business Processes: It is important to evaluate the processes and technologies that make logistical sense of moving to the cloud. Whether workloads such as email, accounting or sales solutions have to be moved to cloud or cloud deployment is needed for more mission-critical operations? The impact on end-users such as developers, sales, IT or other departments, must be determined beforehand.

4. Integration: To check compatibility with current on-premise systems, the interfaces between the cloud services and on-premise systems need to be integrated by upgrades in data flow unification, transformation and consolidation. Forward-thinking enterprises need to choose integration solutions that can address not only the needs of today but of the future as well.

5. Management & Support: It is crucial to decide whether an out-of-the-box solution fits the requirements better or whether customized applications, platforms and infrastructure be needed. Similarly, it has to be determined if the IT staff has the capacity to monitor and manage the cloud or would it be preferable to outsource cloud management. Enterprises must know the kind of payment and billing model that suits them, for e.g. consumption based or pay-per-user. Service Level Agreements (SLAs) are strictly necessary to negotiate, finalize and document the expectations of the service.

While each of the above factors are important in the cloud journey, it is also essential to understand the business value of this transformation. To be successful, it is critical for the enterprises to select the right technology and business partners, the right cloud offerings and execute it as flawlessly as possible.

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