Surrounding the Cloud
I've written a few posts around the Cloud over the past year or so discussing various aspects of it and items to consider. What I want to discuss this month is some of the other areas that must be considered and are critical to any Cloud or even an overall IT infrastructure strategy. As it can be easy to just push workloads out in to the Cloud--particularly in a public IaaS model--but where the difficulty lies is in ensuring that necessary and critical items such as management and governance are taken into account.
To illustrate my point, our organization, Vicom, has various practices to help customers and organizations within their areas of need. This includes our Virtualization Practice, Network Practice, Security Practice, and many others, each focused on specific areas that interweave (or sometimes overlap) within needs and environments The 3 practices and areas of expertise that are pertinent to the conversations today are Vicom's Cloud Practice, our EMS Practice (Enterprise Management Services)and our GRC (Governance) Practice. These 3 areas are critical and, we believe, must be addressed when considering any infrastructure and datacenter strategy that includes Cloud. All of these areas intersect and are very much part of an overall successful IT infrastructure strategy.
Off course one of the main components is the platform that you choose for your Cloud, and that's the case if you use a Private, Public, or even an Hybrid Cloud model. The advantages of Cloud are very well known and publicized: the ability to have a quick time to value in being able to allocate infrastructure and workloads when needed. Traditional onpremise (non-Cloud) infrastructure does not generally allow for this. The value is also in the ability to grow (and shrink) and scale the environment quickly as needed, as this elasticity component is uniquely valuable. In addition, for organizations interested in using their Opex budgets versus Capex--not really applicable to Private Cloud--Cloud provides the ability to fund these platforms in different way, utilizing Opex versus Capex. That may be a good thing for some organizations, and may not, as it all depends their perspective on how they want work with Opex versus Capex. This is where Cloud becomes a business conversation, and not just an IT one.
Management - What Vicom Terms EMS (Enterprise Management Services)
As an organization is considering a Cloud platform, being able to effectively manage that platform it is critical. And in our experience while most Cloud providers offer some management tools for their IaaS offerings, most of these tools are not as robust as organizations need and can be very difficult and laborious to integrate into an organizations existing management platform.
The ability to manage your Cloud environment effectively includes the ability to consider and trend performance needs, address capacity for future growth (or even shrinkage--yes it does happen), create and maintain specific SLA's for users both internal and external, and the organizations ability to secure the environment and infrastructure, both at the enterprise level and the end user (device) level. These Management functions in a Cloud environment must be addressed as would other areas within an IT environment.
What do we mean by Governance? We consider four key areas when it comes to Governance: Roles, Responsibilities, Policies, and Procedures. This includes adopting--and just as importantly--following a standardization policy for how infrastructure is deployed and utilized. Also, cost control provisions must be adopted and put into place so that people and departments can only provision the workloads and resources that have been approved by IT. And to make clear to users that "Shadow IT" (swiping credit cards and using AWS or others without IT knowing), is not OK. But it also means having the correct policies and procedures in place so that people cannot do "Shadow IT", or if they do, they are very aware of the consequences of what happens if/when they do.
Which leads to one of the most important areas within Governance: compliance. If your industry is regulated in any way and requires you to have a strict compliance strategy to adhere to, then you know how critical this is. Whether you are a utility, financial institution, healthcare or a retail organization, a comprehensive strategy within your overall IT environments is not a choice, but a critical component of doing business on a daily basis.
What we see within our customers and the organizations we work with is how important it is to consider all of these items-Cloud, Management, Governance--within an overall IT strategy, and particularly within a Cloud environment. As while utilizing platforms and strategies such as Cloud provide many advantages over traditional IT infrastructure, it also creates areas which much be scrutinized much more heavily than previously, especially if data and workloads will reside offsite and not within an organizations datacenter or location.
Given all of this, we feel it is critical to address all of these areas as you develop and refine your infrastructure strategies within your organization. By continually addressing these areas you'll continually refine your efficiencies, which will make you and your IT departments lives easier and allow everyone to sleep better each and every night. That is a strategy and policy that is worth following.