As promised, I am embarking on a loose series of blog posts that should help organizations plan their process for moving to the cloud. There are so many different things to think about, on so many different levels, that giving IT managers and business people a set of bullet-points and topic areas should help them in their process.
This week I wanted to look at some technical considerations that organizations need to think about when developing a plan for a move to the cloud. Let’s break down some of the different issues we might face.
Which Apps – How Do We Decide?
When faced by sometimes rabidly optimistic vendors that suggest putting everything into the cloud, right away, organizations are naturally a little confused when it comes to deciding what to move and how to develop an incremental migration strategy. In one of the CloudU reports I advised organization to make a stocktake of their applications and workloads and look to the following areas as good initial candidates for a move to the cloud:
- Workloads that have significant interaction with external applications or services
- Workloads and applications that are not a point of differentiation between the organization and its competitors
The move to the cloud is something that will occur incrementally over time – an organization should think of this move like peeling an onion – tackle the outside layers first (say e-commerce, email or customer facing parts of the business) and slowly work in to the core over time.
Security Considerations – How Do We Keep Ourselves Safe?
While it sounds glib to say it, security is all about both the vendor and the user doing the right things and being aware. The key piece of advice here is for organizations to take time and understand that it’s all about open dialog between the vendor and the customer, and both parties making sure they do the right things. Yes, a customer should do due diligence on a vendor to make sure they tick all the boxes (secure data centers, regulatory compliance, etc.) but customers also need to look to themselves for some things – the best, most secure data center in the world won’t keep you safe if a users keep passwords written on a PostIt notes on their laptops!
Depending on the type of industry the organization is in, there are a number of different compliance requirements that may need to be met: the sort of acronyms that makes lay people’s eyes glaze over but which are of fundamental importance for the people who actually have to deal with them – PCI, HIPPA, GAAP, SOX, IFRS etc. The very fact that these acronyms sound like arcane mythology to everyone else is a fairly good indication that businesses need to make sure they appraise their own particular regulatory requirements and how that relates to the cloud vendor in question – cloud absolutely can be compliant with regulations, but users need to make sure that they’re ticking all the boxes that are particular to their own organization.
Performance – When Speed Matters
There’s no denying the physics of the speed of light – those bits coming down the pipe need to traverse great distances. While applications can be architected to make them as fast as possible, there are times that particular operating requirements might mean that cloud raises some performance issues. Organizations need to think about the fundamentals of their particular workloads – database transfer rates, high CPU or RAM requirements and high throughput data entry may all prove challenging for cloud applications. But then again they may not; as always it comes back to specific due diligence.
People often look at the move to the cloud as a before and after situation. That ignores the very real issues about cloud migration. Moving to the cloud is a process and like all processes there are peculiarities and issues that arise – things like the bandwidth and time impacts of moving bulk data from on-premise to the cloud. Even more importantly though, as with any change process within an organization, it is the human element that potentially introduces the most challenges – retraining staff, possibly the need to redeploy some staff and the move to generally a “new way of doing things” really impacts on the migration process. We cannot stress enough the need for early consultation with all the various stakeholders in the organization in order to smooth the migration process. A few hours spent explaining things at an early stage can pay huge dividends later on in the process.
Cloud brings real benefits to an organization – but with even the simplest organizational change there are impacts and a move to the cloud can raise some thorny issues. As with any chance management process however, forewarned is forearmed and that is why we strongly advise people to spend a lot of time thinking about the different impacts that cloud computing may introduce to their organization. By doing so, and by planning for those impacts, organizations can do their very best to ensure a smooth and successful migration process.
(Cross-posted @ The Diversity Blog - SaaS, Cloud & Business Strategy)