How do I approach the cloud?

Assessing a cloud infrastructure solution is similar to traditional IT infrastructure evaluations, but needs to include specific aspects which are main drivers of cloud computing: scalability, agility, cost flexibility among others. Learn more about the potentials of cloud solutions in our article on cloud benefits for your business..


To help you with your cloud assessment, we provided this process overview of steps leading to a comprehensive and well-informed infrastructure decision. The ASCAMSO platform provides appropriate tools to support your decision along your specific case and requirements. If you have questions on the process, please do not hesitate to reach out to our customer support.


Process of Cloud Adoption

We modeled a sample cloud assessment and adoption process below to lead you from a proper concept based on a thorough analysis to a controlled implementation of your solution.


Overview

  • Identify core and support business processes
  • Assess current solution (if applicable) in terms of features, quality metrics and cost
  • Define requirements of appropriate IT solution (users, interfaces, dependencies, seasonality of demand etc.) for your application (Use Case)
  • Assess in-house solution vs. cloud solution
  • Assess stack tailoring (see below)
  • Define target architecture
  • For cloud solutions: Research market and identify appropriate vendor
  • Implement solution
  • If applicable, control achieved results (features, quality, cost) with legacy solution

 

Identify core and support business processes

Core business processes are the source of your competitive advantage and hence need other treatment than support processes. The latter are similar for many companies and hence can more easily be procured off the shelf and are often candidates for SaaS vendors. Core processes on the other hand, are usually highly customized and need to be under your control down to every detail. Hence, they are more likely candidates for IaaS or in-house infrastructure.

 

The following table lists criteria to help with the sorting: 

core business processes delivering the competitive advantage   supporting processes that do not deliver the competitive advantage
mission critical not mission critical
highly customized  "off the shelf" with little or no customization
contains sensitive data  contains less sensitive data
core business application no core business application
affected by network performance less sensitive to network performance
applications in an early lifecycle stage applications approaching the end of lifecycle

 
 
Assess current solution

When you migrate a current application to the cloud, you already have legacy systems in operation. To have a clear understanding of their requirements, quality and cost is helpful for the further evaluation process and important for a fact-based decision. Hence, we first evaluate the status quo in all relevant metrics as a baseline. It also gives an indication on the resource demand associated with your operations which helps to derive more solid cost estimates for your cloud deployment. Analyzing your current solution delivers the information to base your decision on facts instead of vague assumptions.

For greenfield approaches, i.e. implementing new applications directly to the cloud, comparable setups can yield input to validate assumptions on requirements. For example. when you plan to create a new travel booking system, you could look at the current expense management application to derive number of users, usage patterns, workload seasonality and so on.


In-house vs. Cloud


The next two steps are closely connected. You know the traditional outsourcing question: do we operate the systems on-premise or with an IT operator? This question is still valid for cloud assessments on a strategic level. Moving services to the cloud reduces your physical control over your infrastructure and makes you dependant on your provider. Therefore, a thorough selection of your provider is essential and needs to consider your service requirements carefully. However, the self-service character of the cloud today still gives you more direct control over your infrastructure than traditional IT operations outsourcing. By using the software-defined virtual infrastructures under your remote control via the Internet, you have more influence on your machines and networks than with physical machines located at some datacenter which is only accessible to you by operators on premise.
At the same time, when moving to the cloud you gain the strengths and economies-of-scale of a large professional data center operator. Their core business (and, subsequently, their survival) depends on being successful in areas such as security, efficiency and reliability. Thus they need to put a lot of attention and resources towards this main focus – probably more than your internal IT department is able to do. So the question of in-house vs. cloud deployment of services is a thoughtful balancing of benefits, trust and caution. Again, the selection of your solution provider is crucial.


Stack Tailoring: IaaS, PaaS, SaaS?

 

A difference compared to traditional outsourcing where the infrastructure was either on your or premises or not, with the cloud there comes another dimension of out-sourcing granularity which we call "stack tailoring". The different service models (see Technology Basics for an explanation) provide a finer distinction of systems that run under your control and responsibility and systems provided to you by a service provider. Some examples on how you might slice your systems:

  • You procure IaaS systems and deploy your own software applications which run under your administration and control.
  • You have on-premise applications which access your cloud-based web and database servers (PaaS) for your web portal, leading to better scalability for these parts.
  • You access a Software-as-a-Service, but export the data included in these systems to your local infrastructure on a daily base.

You see that the optimal split of infrastructure has become more complex including way more options for deployment and integration. The advantages of the cloud such as flexibility and scalability come with a greater complexity of IT deployments. Standard processes are likely to be better served with SaaS solutions (because they provide the direct functionality and are probably comprehensive solutions, but might also be expensive). Core processes on the other hand, need tight control and customization, are critical to business and scale more correlated with business activities which makes IaaS a more likely candidate for a cloud deployment.
At the figure below, you can see how some solution properties of the service models relate. IaaS products are more standardized (and thus substitutable) than SaaS, while providing more flexibility. When you just get a server instance you can use to install any software package you like, but you also need to configure and setup the system and its connections (increasing conceptual and administrative effort). A SaaS solution would you deliver with an out-of-the-box application for your process (high Solution Readiness), but also require a large amount of conformity within the process as it is a standard application targeted at many different businesses. You can use these factors to evaluate a suitable model for your process at hand.

 


In addition, do not forget cost when choosing service models. While SaaS solution usually scale with each seat, i.e. the number of users, IaaS is usually paid by time of usage. These are different cost scaling dimensions and depending on your load scaling properties, costs can develop quite differently. Conduct a sensitivity analysis to see how costs behave when your load increases or decreases.
Using the optimal solution for every single system leads to integration needs for many different deployments. The art here is to keep a manageable balance of system deployment optimization versus integration and governance efforts on the other hand. The ASCAMSO knowledge base and use case library provides you with best practices and solution knowledge to find your right approach to tailor your IT infrastructure. In case you need further assistance, please contact our customer support.


Define target architecture

When you decided the best deployment type of your solution, i.e. which parts should be hosted in-house and which parts in the cloud, it is time to write everything down in an architecture specification. Here it is important to consider and add all details like:

  • User access and access management
  • Interfaces to humans and systems
  • Dependencies of data sources or other systems (in-coming or out-going)
  • Seasonality of demand: Is your application suitable to exploit the scalability of the cloud to save cost or increase performance? How can this be achieved in the drafted architecture? Which systems are load-sensitive and when should they be scaled?
  • Time and migration plan (When should users switch systems? How and when do you transfer data? Big Bang introduction vs. smooth migration etc.)

We assume you are familiar with these steps for in-house deployments of IT solutions. Therefore, we will focus on cloud-related deployments in the following parts.


Research market and identify appropriate providers

When you identified your need for a cloud solution, you need to research the market for providers who are able to match your requirements. Therefore you need to:

  1. Identify providers in the market
  2. Research each one of them for his product portfolio, the service properties, performance and datacenter configurations
  3. Match those characteristics with your requirements
  4. For the providers who meet your requirements, retrieve and understand the tariff information
  5. Calculate the costs for every provider on the short-list according to your resource demands
  6. Compare providers using their service criteria and the associated cost and decide with which one you want to go

Alternatively, you can start a request for quotation (RFQ) process with your short-listed providers. Then you would need to prepare the documents by describing your requirements thoroughly and send it your candidate providers. Usually, the results of replies will differ, providing you with different levels of information or suggesting alternative solutions to your requirements. Large-scale providers like AWS will not reply to your RFQ unless you bring an enormous tender size. In any case, you need to process all the information to understand what you will get for your money.
ASCAMSO was designed to make this process more efficient. We have a frequently updated market database and the tools to use this information for your decision. We unify and analyze provider and product properties and prices and help you to make an efficient decision based on hard facts and deep market insight. Contact our customer support to learn more.


Implement solution

You now have your architecture plan and you know which partner you want to use for the implementation. The implementation phase conducts the plan to either establish the target architecture or transform the current system into the target layout. As this step is highly specific depending on the results of the previous steps, there are hardly any general recommendations.
However, in case your IT team is not familiar with cloud services, you should certainly allow enough time to get used to the paradigm and handling of cloud services. Allow time to establish small test cases and let your IT organization get familiar with the idea to procure IT as a service. Today, many providers still have very individual (web) interfaces to control the hosted infrastructure, some of them are unfortunately not very intuitive. To get the best amount of control, your responsible IT experts have to get familiar with the features and control of your selected cloud provider.
If you need support to conduct your IT transformation project, the Enterprise Architecture Consulting Group is able to provide you with IT project management expertise and experience from many successful IT implementation projects. See http://www.eacg.de for more information.


Control results


You decided to change your infrastructure to reach certain goals. To ensure your transformation project yielded the expected benefits, you should make the effort to compare the resulting actual cost and performance to the projected figures. If they deviate substantially, there might still be technical issues to solve or assumptions to re-consider.


Use the ASCAMSO platform to support your cloud sourcing efforts. Find the best fitting tariffs in our global tariff database. Look behind the Marketing messages with deep dive cloud provider reports generated by our analysts. Use the ASCAMSO test suite to benchmark and monitor performance of your cloud resource.

ASCAMSO provides you with the information, the tools and the services to support every phase of the cloud purchasing process as well as continuous optimization.

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