By: Joseph Pampel, Director, Enterprise Architecture & Cloud Computing, SunGard Availability Services
Interest in cloud services is growing rapidly. Companies want to leverage these services to address the needs for increased scalability and flexibility, driven by the demands of the organizations’ business units.
One recent survey (among the many that are appearing almost weekly) found that 92 percent of CIOs and IT executives surveyed believe the adoption of cloud technologies is good for business.
However, to fully realize the potential benefits of using cloud services, companies need to develop a thorough cloud strategy to ensure the right services are selected, the migration goes smoothly, and problems are avoided.
Where do you start?
Most discussions about using cloud services begin with an examination of the business justifications for making the move to the cloud. As you might expect, the business issues center on the same common themes that have challenged IT in the past. The only difference now is that cloud services represent yet another choice to consider.
For example, IT budgets have been tight for years and companies have constantly looked for ways to reduce costs. You need to ask yourself: Is this an area where cloud services could help? In some cases, the answer is yes. A cloud service for recovery test and development workloads might offer costs savings through the provider’s use of automation and proven best practices versus a do-it-yourself approach.
Similarly, IT departments have had a persistent problem allocating resources to new projects. Here again, you need to evaluate whether a cloud service might help. In many cases, moving to acloud service will let you offload common tasks such as server administration or providing backup and recovery services to your business units. By offloading this work to a cloud provider, you can quickly scale, while reducing the burden on your staff so they can work on projects that are designed to improve or grow the business.
Other common business drivers to use cloud services include the need to:
- Quickly refresh infrastructure, upgrading to more powerful servers to run today’s more demanding applications without the Cap-Ex impact
- Flexibly scale capacity to meet peak workloads and to support new business opportunities
- Manage and secure the growing volumes of data, which are increasingly subject to regulatory demands on availability, privacy, and protection
Assessing your cloud readiness
Once a business justification for moving to cloud services is established, the next step of a cloud strategy is to assess what operations and which applications should be moved.
Are budget constraints limiting your ability to meet IT service delivery needs? If so, you might look for a provider with an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) offering. With IaaS, the provider is responsible for managing servers and other IT equipment. Using an IaaS cloud service also means that the provider incurs the cost of data center space, electricity for running and cooling IT equipment and the management costs to ensure the IT equipment is managed and maintained properly.
Does your IT infrastructure need to be upgraded to support new technologies (virtualization, for example) and new versions of common server-based business applications? Again, an IaaS cloud service might be the right choice. A provider should offer access to the newest server hardware on the market today. You can take advantage of this hardware by running the applications either natively or as virtual instances on this new equipment.
Do your applications have high availability and uptime requirements? Production applications have little tolerance for downtime. When evaluating a cloud service provider, check to be sure its application and infrastructure service level agreements (SLAs) match the characteristics of the production applications that will use the service. For applications that can accommodate some risk and downtime, see if a provider offers a choice in availability options based on the recovery time objectives (RTO) and recovery point objectives (RPO).
Does your IT infrastructure need to handle occasional increased workloads or will it need to scale up to seize new business opportunities? A suitable cloud service could help in a few ways. While old hosting solutions let you add capacity, they take time to implement and frequently lock you into long-term contracts. Most cloud services offer a pay-as-you-go approach that gives you the flexibility to not just scale up to meet those peak workload times, but you can also cut back when things return to normal. Additionally, when needing to bring more capacity online quickly for a new business opportunity, most cloud services offer an easy way for you to request and provision resources.
Does your organization need to free up IT staff to work on new projects? A suitable cloud service could offload the day-to-day tasks such as server management, backup and recovery, security and data protection, and recovery planning to the provider. This would free up your IT staff so they can work on the new projects.
Are there regulatory issues (security, availability, etc.) that you must address? If so, a suitable cloud service provider might be able to help you meet compliance regulations such as PCI-DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard), and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accounting Act).
Take the next step
Working through such a cloud readiness assessment will bring you to the last step in the development of your cloud strategy: selecting a suitable provider.
In particular, after running through this readiness assessment exercise, you should know if a cloud service is right for you. And you should have some idea of the capabilities you will need from a cloud provider.
Given that every company has its own business, financial, staffing, and IT resources issues, no one choice is right for everyone. You will need a provider that can meet your company’s specific requirements. This is an area where SunGard can help.
SunGard offers consulting services that can help you with your readiness assessment. And once that assessment is completed, SunGard offers an array of managed cloud services to meet any company’s needs.
For more information about SunGard Cloud Services, visit: http://www.sungardas.com/Solutions/Cloud/Overview/Pages/CloudOverview.aspx