As cloud and IT-as-a-Service-based solutions continue to command mainstream adoption, we are gaining insight into what goes into an effective cloud strategy. In the past, the term cloud strategy was, at best, ambiguous. No one knew what it meant, what went into a cloud strategy or how it would fit into their organization’s strategic vision.
Now more than ever, a clear cloud strategy is imperative to an organization that wishes to position itself in a rapidly growing marketplace and provide evolving options and solutions as time goes on. Having assisted many customers on their cloud journeys, I’ve been able to identify two general groups when it comes to moving into hybrid cloud IT.
2 Ways to See the Cloud
Let’s call the first group “nearsighted.” Nearsighted individuals view things clearly at close distances. They can see and process things effectively as long as they aren’t too far away, which equates to being able to see a smaller number of things very well. This is considered a tactical approach.
We’ll call the second group “farsighted.” These folks see many things at a distance. Seeing things further out allows the individual to assess and process many items at once. This type of person is considered strategic. Now you might be asking yourself, “What does any of this have to do with my cloud strategy?”
The correlation is this: If we look at crafting a cloud strategy from a nearsighted (tactical) standpoint, we end up bolting individual cloud products onto our existing ecosystem over a period of time. In the end, the organization will likely have a hodgepodge bucket of cloud providers, each having a hand in how the organization functions. As such, the IT staff needs to understand:
- Each cloud provider and what they do
- How they interact with the IT ecosystem and other business units
- How they interact with all other cloud services on the network
- Each cloud provider’s SLA — they all operate by different standards, regulations and policies
- How they all come together to make the organization more agile and scalable
To put it lightly, this is a tall order, and it can end up costing the organization vast amounts of money and resources in the long run. One of the areas where large costs are incurred is what we at CDW like to call the “Cloud U-turn.” This can happen when the cloud strategy is taken on internally without any guidance from an outside source. It involves shifting from an on-premises footprint to a cloud footprint. The new cloud solution or solutions don’t function the way they are supposed to, causing the organization to do a U-turn and pull their resources back on-premises and start over. Quite frequently, the result is a strategy that hasn’t been properly thought out or planned. A survey of CDW customers shows that 40 percent of those who choose to move to the cloud without the guidance of an outside source end up making this U-turn. Now consider these numbers:
- Gartner predicts that almost 50 percent of medium/large organizations will be engaged in a combined, public/private cloud operation
- Only 11 percent of organizations have had no plans for cloud
- The majority of private and community cloud services will evolve to hybrid services by 2017
The need for a well-crafted cloud strategy is imperative for these implementations to succeed. Cloud products and services are purchased and implemented. Somewhere down the line, someone recognizes that the new ecosystem is not performing as anticipated. Much worse, the new ecosystem can cause the organization to be less productive and agile. Enter the U-turn, as the staff now needs to back out of whatever solutions were put in place and go back to the footprint they had in the beginning, thus returning to square one. As you can imagine, and as stated above, this costs the organization dearly in time and money.
Now, let’s take our farsighted (strategic) approach. In this scenario, before we go bolting best-of-breed cloud solutions onto our environment, we have to ask ourselves a few things:
- What are the organizational goals?
- What are the top organizational challenges that exist?
- What is the cause of these challenges, and how can the IT team help improve functionality?
- Of these challenges, which are most appropriate to consider a cloud or service provider for?
- What is this organization going to look like from a functional standpoint in five to seven years?
- How can this end result render our organization more agile and competitive in the marketplace?
A Prescription for Cloud Success
These are all questions that can be answered before we even consider a specific solution provider’s name. An effective consultative approach will identify which segments or workloads are best suited for existence in the cloud and which are best suited to be managed internally. We then consider cloud providers and solutions that focus specifically on our findings. More often than not, we will have providers that cater to several workloads that we’ve determined are a good fit for cloud.
As you can see, there are challenges and benefits to both approaches. At CDW, we consider our consultative approach akin to providing organizations “bifocals” as they pursue their cloud journey. We want to provide you with strong cloud vision, both tactical and strategic.