Cloud computing is more than just a new model for IT infrastructure. Looking back at the history of enterprise technology, there have been two major shifts that have defined IT operations. The first was the introduction of the PC, moving IT from highly concentrated work in server rooms to broader support throughout the organization. The second was the introduction of cloud systems and mobile devices, introducing the concepts of on-demand IT and work that happens outside a corporate perimeter.
Obviously, these changes don’t happen very often, and companies spend a long time adjusting to the new reality made possible by new technology. The first post in the Cloud Basics series looks at five things IT pros should understand about cloud computing before starting with cloud implementations. This post covers five important lessons that companies are learning as they move past the initial stages of cloud adoption.
- Workloads have a massive effect on cloud costs. For a long time, IT was mostly a tactical function and was often viewed as a cost center. This meant that new models were usually evaluated based on their ability to reduce cost. At first, cloud computing and the pay-as-you-go capability fit into this traditional thinking. However, companies soon realized that certain workloads were not more cost-effective in the cloud. There may still be good reasons to move those workloads to the cloud, but if they consume a steady flow of resources without peaks and valleys, cost savings may not materialize.
- Monitoring is a key part of ensuring cloud efficiency. Even when a workload has cost-saving potential, those savings will not be realized if the systems are not carefully managed. When evaluating management tools for a cloud environment, IT pros say that the two most important features are performance monitoring and the ability to simultaneously monitor cloud and on-prem systems. Especially as applications are housed in a variety of models and providers, efficient monitoring will lead to efficient architecture.
- Policies play an important role in determining cloud usage. One of the reasons that cloud was adopted so rapidly was its high degree of accessibility. Unfortunately, this same characteristic allows nearly anyone to spin up some cloud resources. Many companies have seen a rise in “rogue IT,” where business units bypass the IT department in order to procure cloud systems or software. The problem is that the business units understand their requirements, but they usually don’t know enough about integration or security. Most companies are leaning toward a more collaborative approach, and strong policies will help define when business units can be independent and when it makes sense to include IT.
- Workflow needs to be modified to account for cloud systems. New systems can be installed, but they are no good unless they are actually used. Businesses have wrestled with this for years, investing in new technology only to see employees stick to old habits. Building new workflow, including the elimination of old processes, can be painful. However, given the size of the investments and the potential benefits, short-term pain can lead to long-term gain.
- Architecture must be designed to maximize cloud benefits. Disruption happens when a new technology allows startups to leapfrog established companies. The challenge for established companies is not that they are unaware of the new technology, but that they are unable to transition from their legacy models. Born-in-the-cloud companies build their architecture from the ground up using cloud principles. Existing companies can find benefits from migrating legacy applications, but they will still be less efficient until those applications are rebuilt or replaced. This is a huge effort and one that will not happen overnight, but it is the final stage in becoming a fully transformed cloud business.
The vast majority of companies are working through some or all of these issues. Whether you are just starting a cloud project or moving into a later stage of adoption, there are a range of challenges that often require new skills. The final article in the Cloud Basics series will provide some sources for learning even more about cloud and developing cloud skills, and the webinar on November 6 will highlight research from CompTIA’s recent research, 2018 Trends in Cloud Computing.
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