It wasn’t long ago that experts were confidently predicting a mass exodus from enterprise-owned data centers to the public cloud. Today, however, on-premises and co-location data centers are still incredibly important to organizations, as most owner-operated infrastructure is being re-tooled and retrofitted to form “private clouds” with resiliency, elastic capacity, accountability, and self-service built in. Still, while 65% of data centers remain on-premises, around 67% of data center professionals have seen at least some IT workloads that would’ve previously been hosted in their own data centers move to cloud environments.
The majority of cloud adoption is happening on a workload-by-workload basis. But before migrating any application or workload to the cloud, companies need to fully understand how these transitions can impact their current and future business-critical IT operations, and weigh the benefits vs. the potential downside. Here are five critical cloud questions every enterprise should ask:
1. Which applications increase competitive advantage, and which are basic table stakes?
Some applications enable your business to differentiate itself from the competition, while others are relatively commonplace. A clear delineation between the two can help you determine which applications belong in the cloud. For instance, office support systems such as email, messaging, calendars, etc. are needed, but life can go on without them for a period of time. There are all sorts of third-party solutions that can take the headache away from the company and allow them time to focus on other things. Offloading these types of workloads can enable you to spend more time and effort on innovation, optimization, and customization for those that offer a tangible competitive advantage.
2. Which workloads experience varying demand levels?
Many see the cloud as a solution for applications with major shifts in demand. Public cloud solutions allow increased server support specifically when it’s needed the most. Improve your bottom line by identifying which applications have highly variable demand and which don't. Running workloads with rapidly changing demand in the cloud will improve efficiency and ease the economic commitment of 24x7x365 cloud service.
3. Is customization required?
If you aren’t entirely sure of the requirements for a specific application, a cloud provider might not be able to meet your needs. When considering a cloud transition, you need to determine if the workload needs custom architecture, or if its performance isn’t heavily dependent on a specific configuration. Understanding customization requirements is crucial. In cases where your internal IT organization has limited feature and configuration capabilities, a cloud environment can provide the flexibility and resources necessary to experiment and identify the optimal conditions for a given workload.
4. What regulatory and geographic variables are involved?
Regulations can make infrastructure design incredibly complicated. Prior to beginning a cloud transition, research regulations that might hinder workloads involving patient, customer or payment information, or otherwise prevent public cloud usage. Hybrid architectures can alleviate some of these challenges and allow you to strategically separate where you host sensitive data. Understanding these regulatory hurdles from the get-go can save precious time and frustration.
In the same way, geographic requirements can seriously impact cloud usage decisions. For instance, you might face regulations around data sovereignty and need to physically store your data in a certain location. That said, many major cloud providers likely have a much larger geographic footprint than your organization. Their broad presence can give you the kind of redundancy, content delivery network (CDN) capabilities and support for customers in many different locations you need without having to shoulder the cost and complexity of operating geographically dispersed infrastructure yourself.
5. What security vulnerabilities and requirements might come into play?
Security is a major point of focus for both public cloud providers and enterprise data centers. Internal IT infrastructure provides benefits like established processes, predictable performance and “boots on the ground” administrators. But enterprises have fewer dedicated security resources and a higher risk for vulnerabilities from legacy configurations they’ve grandfathered in. On the other hand, cloud providers simply operate at a larger scale, with more security experts on staff and more experience protecting tenant data from new threats. When contemplating a cloud transition, conduct a thorough assessment of both existing vulnerabilities and potential risks associated with service provider facilities before making your decision.
Cloud transitions can be complex, costly and confusing. When considering which workloads are best suited for the cloud, do yourself a favor and ask these five questions to reveal hidden obstacles and proactively address challenges before they arise.
Chris Brown’s 14-plus-year career in critical facilities includes analyzing requirements, retrofitting existing systems, performing capacity planning, and implementing new facilities design. He has experience managing the operation and maintenance of critical facility infrastructure, managing maintenance personnel and creating preventive maintenance programs. With more than 11 years in data center design and operation industry, he also has valuable experience in the areas of engineering design, equipment selection, installation and troubleshooting.