From the Blogosphere
Five Things to Do Before Moving to Cloud Computing
Determine your cloud objectives: what are you trying to accomplish?
By: Ellen Rubin
Dec. 16, 2009 06:15 PM
Before moving an enterprise application to the cloud, you need to be sure that your expectations are realistic and your objectives match what the cloud can deliver.
In this post, I’d like to share what we’ve learned from working with our beta customers, from their initial exploration of cloud possibilities to going live with a specific application they’ve migrated to the cloud.
The following steps can help guide the thought process when considering a cloud deployment, and provide a starting point for moving forward.
1. Determine your cloud objectives. What are you trying to accomplish? Is the cloud a solution for reducing costs, faster provisioning, data center consolidation, all of the above? Sometimes all goals align, where the cloud allows you to save money, be more responsive and avoid huge infrastructure investments all at the same time. But it may not be possible to realize all the benefits for a given organization or use case. For example, if there’s extra capacity in your data center there may be no obvious consolidation advantage to putting an application in the cloud. However, there could be other issues at play that justify the move, such as high operating costs or an infrastructure that makes it difficult for users to get the support they need.
2. Pick an application that makes sense. For example, how much latency is acceptable to users? The laws of physics slow things down over the Internet and network performance will vary, so if you need millisecond response the cloud may not work for your application. How critical is the application? You may not want to put an application in the cloud upon which the business depends even if infrastructure limitations (scaling, support, response time, etc.) make it seem like an attractive option. Get your feet wet before diving in -- a safer approach might be to start with a low-risk, back office (not-strategic) application before setting your sights on more ambitious targets.
3. Involve the CSO/risk management team from the beginning. The cloud, perhaps even more than other technology shifts, has raised red flags about security since your applications and data will potentially be moving outside of the enterprise firewall. Engage your company’s security experts and decision makers from the beginning to understand their perspective and address their concerns directly. Get them involved in the discussion early so they’ll understand why the cloud is important to the business and how you want to use it. Give them a chance to review their security concerns with potential vendors before you sign up.
4. Decide which cloud(s) are acceptable. Finding a cloud that’s best suited to your needs is as critical as identifying the right target applications. Cloud offerings vary widely—in their APIs, configurations, storage infrastructure, networking options, pricing structures and SLAs. Some of the variables will be essential for your requirements, while others are simply nice to haves. The process is like evaluating any other technology offering, except the environment is probably new and unfamiliar. You may want assistance from a partner with cloud expertise who can help you qualify the various cloud options to make sure you make the right choice.
5. Create a sandbox where people can experiment. All of the different user groups should be able to see how a cloud-based application compares to a traditional one. Give business users, administrators and developers a chance to evaluate the benefits of the cloud from their perspective, as well as the limitations. Application experts can use the sandbox to run functionality and performance testing on the application in the cloud to see how it behaves compared to the traditional environment, and if any differences are acceptable.
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