Moving to the Cloud: Get Your House in Order First, MSP Logicalis and Others Say

By Doug Barney

The cloud is clearly a work in progress. Some shops have made no steps, some are partway in, and a small percentage is nearly all in the cloud.

The move is a big one – not like, say, switching browsers, which as trivial as it seems, can be fraught with IT peril.

MSP and IT provider Logicalis US has six areas potential cloud adopters should think about.

First, many shops are halfway there, having virtualized much of their internal infrastructure. Since the cloud is largely based on virtual infrastructure, a virtualized shop faces an easier migration.

“Enterprise organizations are clearly taking the steps needed to become virtualized, and many already have a solid converged infrastructure foundation in place. The problem is, they’ve stalled there; they’ve stopped just short of implementing a cloud strategy that can give them the kinds of IT efficiencies they wanted when they started the virtualization process,” said Brett Anderson, director of Enterprise Computing for Logicalis US.

Here are six more bits of advice.

Assess the State of Your IT

Before you know where you are going, you have to know where you are. “The key is to start with a thorough assessment of a company’s business needs, then optimize the company’s existing IT infrastructure to meet those needs. Fully examining and understanding the current environment will determine a starting point that best suits the organization’s unique situation. Knowing where the company wants to go creates direction, allowing a strategy to be formulated that will take it there at a pace the company can afford,” Logicalis argued.

Leverage What You Have

Once you know what you have in-house, figure out how to use that to your advantage in the cloud. “It’s critical to create a cloud strategy that builds on and preserves the existing capital investments the company has already made in its IT infrastructure, while creating and following a roadmap for enhancements and additions that will work well both now and into the future,” the company said.

Make Security a Priority

Security is still pretty much the number one concern in the cloud. Get your own house in order, then figure out how your provider has its in order as well. “When a company is concerned about security, hosting sensitive data in house on internal equipment in its own data center helps the organization overcome concerns about data security and take that first step into the cloud. Planning should be undertaken at the beginning of any cloud strategy for security considerations that will keep the company’s data safe as well as ensure privacy and compliance,” Logicalis said.

Get Your Arms around Management Issues

Just because apps move to the cloud doesn’t mean it all doesn’t still have to be managed, by you or the provider. Either way you’ll want to have a grip on the key issues.

Items to consider include bill back, making application changes and monitoring, among myriad others. “This means management considerations like orchestration, automation and governance should be top-of-mind when designing a cloud roadmap. Keep in mind, things like chargeback, automation and provisioning are all complex tasks that require best practices and clearly documented procedures for successful implementations,” the company said.

Analyze Apps

Some applications are more cloud-ready than others. The trick is finding out which is which. “While some applications are designed from the ground up specifically for use in the cloud, others require some re-tooling before being deployed; employ a cloud expert to help identify which applications are cloud-ready and which are not,” Logicalis explained.

Build a Flexible Roadmap

The cloud is changing every year, every month, every week and every day. So is your business. Be ready to respond to changes in both. “Businesses are never static, so plan for change while a cloud strategy is being designed. Moving from a virtualized, converged infrastructure to the creation of a premises-based cloud may be a natural next step along the path, but what happens after that? Will the company continue to build out the cloud environment in its own data center?” the company believes. “A well thought-out cloud roadmap will embrace the future by planning for it today.”

Moving on up to the Cloud

Some readers of MSP Today are true cloud vets, some are getting their feet wet and some are total newbies. In any of these cases, it’s important to make the right decision when moving to the cloud or expanding your footprint.

Egenera CEO Pete Manca, whose company assists in cloud migrations, has some advice in an interview with Enterprise Systems Journal.

The cloud is really a set of services that run on top of virtualized hardware infrastructure. First thing to find out is how your potential service provider’s infrastructure is architected and built. What is the hardware, how it is virtualized, how does it handle spikes and how does it protect itself against crashes? “This infrastructure must be reliable, flexible and self-healing if the cloud service is to meet service-level expectations,” Manca believes.

There are two issues you should focus on. “Customers should only care about 1) cost of their service and 2) the level of service or performance the system is delivering from the perspective of the end user. In this way, the crucial metrics of cloud are availability, capacity and response time. When accessing the risks, these three metrics are what is most important to consider when moving to the cloud,” Manca argues.

One of the big impediments to the cloud is the network: egress points in and out of the enterprise net, the wide area with all its hops and bottlenecks and the egress points in and out of the cloud provider. Manca sees a need and progress. “On the networking side, there is a need for a single, secure network that flows from inside the enterprise and back. AT&T, Verizon, and others are now starting to deliver virtual private networks and physical networks that can directly connect a customer to their clouds so the cloud resources look like an extension of their networks,” he says.

Governing Cloud Governance

ISACA, an IT group with some 100,000 members across nearly every country the world, has five bits of advice when it comes to cloud governance.

Here are the five questions, and I quote:

      1. “Do management teams have a plan for cloud computing? Have they weighed the value and opportunity costs?
      2. How do current cloud plans support the enterprise’s mission?
      3. Have executive teams systematically evaluated organizational readiness? For example, are the right skills available? Do cloud processes conflict with other established processes? Do cloud plans conflict with enterprise culture?
      4. Have management teams considered what existing investments might be lost in their cloud planning? Does the adoption of a cloud service nullify already-made technology investments that have not reached their planned end date, and is that noted and approved?
      5. Do management teams have strategies for measuring and tracking the value of cloud return vs. risk?”

If these questions have you thinking, you may want to check out the white paper “Cloud Governance: Questions Boards of Directors Need to Ask,” available here.

The Master Plan

Last summer I co-wrote a master plan to getting to the cloud, covering storage, exchange, identity management, security and SharePoint. Check it all out here.

MSPToday Editor at Large

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