• 11/21/2013
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The Cloud Transition Demands 3 Critical Characteristics

IT departments faced with moving to cloud services are looking to solution providers for help. Here's how to choose the best fit.

For most businesses, the internal IT organization delivers the infrastructure necessary to support business operations. To accomplish this task, IT has a long tradition of operating in silos, with different groups of specialized professionals working mostly independently of one another to provide their different technical competencies, including server and systems administration, storage, or networking.

But in recent years, as many businesses have struggled to adapt to a new economic climate, investments in infrastructure upgrades have been delayed. In the meantime, technology has advanced far beyond those incremental IT improvements that were implemented to simply maintain business operations. These forces are leading businesses to adopt cloud services to lower their IT expenses. In many cases, moving to the cloud means transforming how a business builds and supports its infrastructure. The cloud forces a move away from the traditional siloed approach and toward a converged infrastructure in which server, storage, networking, and other competencies all work together to facilitate business goals.

This transformation of the IT organization and infrastructure becomes more pronounced every day. Cloud technology continues to evolve rapidly, with more and more businesses adopting the cloud in an effort to lower operational costs. As a result, we are seeing IT organizations increasingly turn to outside resources to provide cloud-based infrastructure solutions. This trend is changing how these solutions are delivered and managed.

In addition to helping an IT organization implement a cloud setup, an external partner can act as the actual cloud provider or a conduit between the IT organization and the cloud provider, or it can provide cloud management services. This can allow IT to provide infrastructure as a service within the organization, rather than as a system. The company can conserve significant resources and free up room on the budget for other objectives.

In a world of cloud where IT is provided as a service, rather than as a system, it is wise to choose a solution provider that can bridge the gap between IT, business units, and the end user. But how can you ensure you are making the best decision? There are three critical characteristics IT managers should be evaluating in a solution provider as they move their company's infrastructure to the cloud.

  • Skill set: With any potential partner, it is critical to evaluate its cloud strategy and skills against those of your internal team. Are your team's skills keeping pace with cloud advancements, or is it lacking in a certain area? The right provider should have the skills to supplement or substitute your organization's abilities.
  • Mindset: As I already mentioned, in today's economy, businesses need to get more out of their IT infrastructure while working with tighter budgets. When it comes to IT, the new rule of thumb is doing more with less, and the cloud is by definition more with less. When shopping for a solution provider, ask yourself: Will this provider help my business achieve the most for our money? Will its cloud strategy extend the life of my infrastructure?
  • Business savvy: Look for a partner that has evolved from the days when solution providers simply sold and installed infrastructure. Those days are gone. You are evolving as an IT organization. You need a solution provider that has proven its ability to adapt to ever-changing economic conditions, business goals, and technology. Does the provider ask about the needs of your customers and end users? Will it go the extra mile to help your IT organization use cloud services to meet those needs?

Like IT, cloud services exist to facilitate the achievement of business goals. Be sure to seek out professionals who can understand and help you fulfill those goals.


What cloud skills do you have?

One example of what Sudhir is talking about would be whether your IT staff is skilled at working with open source modules versus good at working with a primary vendor, such as HP, VMware, Cisco, Microsoft or IBM. The latter would prefer to let a skilled vendor integrate several pieces for them. The former can tinker and assemble still evolving pieces themselves, building out a CloudStack, OpenStack or Eucalyptus assembly. There are tradeoffs in each approach.

Re: What cloud skills do you have?

Is this perhaps missing the most important question of all: Do you really need a third party involved in your cloud transition?

Mindset is more important

Mastering the related technology is quite important but that's not the most important. The key to cloud transtion is the mindset. As an IT professional, you need to understand the basic concept of cloud computing - changing the physical hardware, infrastructure and upper layer application into a pool. The end user can get the service on demand. The transtion to cloud is not easy and you need to be prepared for the chaos at the beginning.:-)

Re: Mindset is more important

I agree you completely Li, Mindset is game changer here, from on premise to off premise ..its little tough to decide and very important to make yourself satisfied with what cloud commits, keeping fact in mind that authentication and data as a process will be taken care by CSP...

Re: Mindset is more important -- "aha" moment?

I would really like to hear more from Li and Aditshar about the challenges they have experienced getting from an on premise to a cloud mindset. What are some of the practical issues you've grappled with? Did you have an "aha" moment when everything became clear? 

Re: Mindset is more important -- "aha" moment?

Marilyn, good question - here I would like to share an example. As a software development team, every quarter we need to submit our requirement for new PC hardware for development and testing purpose. Starting from the beginning of this year, our IT focal got the feedback from IT department asking about the justification - why your requirement cannot be fulfilled by using our private cloud? At the beginning we call concerned about the availability, reliability and backup of the data on private cloud. Our IT professional comes down and demonstrated how we can easily create persistent VM from our IaaS service, how powerful and easy to use is our SaaS applications, etc. Finally we understood how cloud computing works and got our concerns answered. Now we view IT infrastructure/service more as a resource pool instead of rigid machine farms.

Re: Mindset is more important -- "aha" moment?

That's really interestng, Li. It sounds like your initial reservations were about performance (availability, reliability and backup). But the aha moment -- when you truly saw the benefits of cloud computing -- came after IT actually showed you how powerful and  easy to use the cloud services were. But that didn't happen right away. A acceptance came after months of seeing solid results.. 

Re: Mindset is more important -- "aha" moment?

Marilyn, yes indeed - the real-life example speaks itself.:-) The "Aha" moment comes after seeing demonstration from IT department and becoming comfortable working with VMs offered by IaaS from private cloud. I think this is the normal acceptance curve.:-)

Re: Mindset is more important

Li, I'd like to hear more about how IT pros change their thinking as well. Are there any specific exercises you can recommend for an organization to help it start thinking about its resources in a new light?

Cloud Mindset: Need For Speed

Budget is mentioned more frequently here than agility, but it is the agility benefits of the cloud model that dominate the mindset of many IT leaders today. How will your provider help you -- and your business peers-- move faster and with fewer hoops/steps/blocks? A cloud mindset requires an appreciation for business speed.

That new speed is a powerful story for IT to tell to the business. More powerful than good old savings, in my opinion.