This month I want to bring to you my first Cloud blog entry, in which I will appropriately discuss getting ready for the Cloud - the first step, if you will. I am quite certain that it will not be my last post on the Cloud as it continues to become increasingly more important and prevalent within IT datacenters and customers of all sizes and types. First of all, let's started by discussing the Cloud in general. The overall concept of Cloud Computing is relatively simple, though there can be quite a bit to the details but Cloud Computing is a standardized and automated way to deliver IT infrastructure.
And it can be delivered in 3 general ways:
Procuring and utilizing IT services from a public Cloud provider through the Internet. You can create and provision services here fairly easily and this model allows you to not be concerned about the backend technology associated with providing the service. You pay for the services you need when you need them. This an OpEx method of delivering services versus CapEx where you do not need to invest in technology and maintaining said technology. This is a pool of computing where everyone would share in those pools of technology and this is what most people think of when they think of Cloud Computing.
A Private Cloud is a method of delivering IT resources and very similar to what you would expect in a Public Cloud except that the technology for the infrastructure is at a customer's location or at a hosting facility but behind the organizations firewall so that technology it dedicated to them - hence the term private. What's the difference between a Private Cloud and just dedicated service, storage, and virtualization technology? We'll anything associated with Cloud provides for a set of standards (and there are many) for ways to provision, automate, and manage IT services. Without those standards, it’s not really a Cloud, just technology as IT infrastructure. This model is focused around CapEx where you need to procure and maintain technology, versus expenditures on operations (OpEx)
This model provides for the best of both worlds in regards to Public and Private Clouds. This allows for companies to build out Private Clouds and create and utilize workloads within these Private Clouds and then move these workloads out to Public Clouds and then move them back within their Private Clouds when necessary. This works very well for organizations that have seasonal demands for IT infrastructure where they need greater computing capacity during certain times versus others. It allows for only paying for these Public Cloud resources only when needed and then reducing those costs when the need has abated.
Make no mistake, Cloud Computing has changed the way that organizations deliver IT infrastructure to users and customers. Since it is a new approach, it can create uncertainty but in the end it's really just another way to create and deliver IT infrastructure in the 3 ways mentioned above.
And contrary to popular opinion or general belief, we believe that the Cloud is not going to replace all of the technology within enterprise IT datacenters. However it will create a new way of doing things and can be a powerful tool if it's used and approached correctly. We feel that IT organizations will take more of a hybrid approach to create the best possible scenario for their IT infrastructures: on premise technology (Private Clouds) with the ability to move workloads in and out of Public Clouds as needed. This is where the power and value of the Cloud lies.
What we find within our customers, there is a need to understand exactly how to approach the Cloud for their specific organization and their specific needs. And much of how they consider a move to the Cloud is dependent up on their business model. Are they are a financial institution that is concerned with PCI and/or Dodd-Frank rules and regulations? Are they a hospital or medical institution where HIPPA rules apply? Are they legal firm where there are major confidentiality concerns of customer and firm data being out in a public facility? Or are they even just small, private business, that is not comfortable in putting their data "out there" in the Cloud? All are valid concerned and must be addressed before any decision is made. And once a decision is made to move some or all workloads to a Cloud environment, how do you get there? How do you get started, migrate your workloads, secure you information, and manage it going forward?
That is where an organization should work and consult with a trusted partner to help them answer those questions to create and execute a plan to move to the Cloud that is specific to their environment and needs. You should look for someone that has a very long history in delivering, maintaining and providing services around IT infrastructure and it may or may not be the VAR(s) that you are currently using. The VAR's that can truly help their customers today are not the ones who just sell them technology for their infrastructure. They need to guide them and what they can be doing and share what other customers are doing in similar scenarios, and take a holistic approach on what is best for that specific customer. And they must take a multivendor approach where they do not and cannot represent only one suite of technology, vendor or Cloud offerings. This is key, as how can one get an honest consultative approach towards what they should be doing if their VAR has only one solution to offer them? We do not recommended a single vendor approach, as that leads to vendor lock in, which makes it very difficult to change if needed. A holistic approach is more prudent way to go.
What we've seen work with our customers is a workshop style approach to help them start thinking about the initial aspects of how to approach the Cloud. And this is for customers of all sizes and types and does not matter where there are currently in the Cloud spectrum: no Cloud at all, or already a heavy Cloud user and is looking improve upon how they are using the Cloud.
We utilize a workshop that we call the Cloud Readiness Workshop and it helps to address that initial approach to the Cloud. This allows for an open session that address the key areas in making a decision to move towards the Cloud.
An organization can help in that decision making process in the following ways:
Consulting & Consultation
What evaluation methods and consulting is offered and used to help create that Cloud plan and roadmap on the move to the Cloud for their specific environment
What resources are brought to the table for you to take advantage of in terms of architecture, presales, and technical to help throughout that transition to the Cloud
What companies are represented in terms of the Cloud and technology providers for organizations to use as part of a proposed solution? Hint: it should cover many aspects of the infrastructure, and be much more than one. It should cover compute, storage, application tuning, DR, etc.
What offerings are available to you from your partner as opposed to just selling you technology, software or access to a Public Cloud provider? Are there additional assessments and consulting to help determine a customer's use of the Cloud in terms of process and maturity above and beyond just helping you to get there? This is key to success in the Cloud
Our suggestion is to work with a trusted VAR or Business Partner to help you in your journey and evaluation of the Cloud. It may be the VAR you have used and trusted for years that has utilized their long history of implementing and understanding IT Infrastructure expertise to provide you with the most appropriate solutions and approach to the Cloud. This is best type of Partner to use. And making the transition from a provider of Infrastructure technology to a provider of Infrastructure overall—whether it's technology or Cloud—is where you'll see the key VAR's that truly will bring value to their customers.
So pick your trusted partner and have them help you evaluate how to approach the appropriate type Cloud Computing - Public, Private or Hybrid, It may be one type or the other, or perhaps a combination thereof. Whichever way you choose to go you in terms of Cloud you need to feel comfortable with the path you've chosen. That's it on the Cloud for now, but much more to come, as we are just getting started.