During the past decade, cloud computing has reached a maturity level enabling organizations to truly transform. No longer a tool for cost optimization, cloud is now expected to enable innovation and agility. Enterprises are subsequently increasing the percentage of their annual IT budgets allocated to cloud endeavors, making cloud computing a strategic technology in their digital transformation journey.
Amid the rise in cloud adoption, some companies have begun their cloud adoption/migration without a robust strategy in place. Common cloud strategies include Lift and Shift, All-in Cloud, Cloud First, Hybrid Cloud and Hybrid Multi Cloud, yet many organizations begin before determining which one(s) is/best-suited for their business. Pursuing cloud adoption at scale without a strategy is a mistake. Doing so results in higher costs, disjointed management, security vulnerabilities and overall dissatisfaction. Therefore, establishing a business-aligned cloud strategy is paramount for organizations that plan to leverage cloud as a foundation for their transformation.
Lift and Shift
In this strategy, applications are moved from in-house to public cloud with or without considering optimization. Exiting the data center or reducing the data-center footprint is the main priority here. Organizations should not choose this strategy unless there is very good business reason, like a time-constrained data center exit.
Here, all workloads and applications are moved to the cloud. This is a good strategy for startups or new business units, but it may be a challenge for large organizations due to regulatory and compliance concerns or licensing constraints, among other hurdles.
This strategy mandates that each new application should be deployed in the cloud unless there is an exceptional reason for not doing so. The assessment of workload or application for migrating to the cloud is done using a well-articulated framework.
This strategy involves continuing with some part of workload/applications in-house or in data center, while moving certain workloads to a chosen public-cloud provider. The objective here is to leverage cloud capabilities for business benefits, while balancing them with regulatory compliance and extracting value from existing investments. The majority of public-cloud providers are proponents of this strategy and have aligned their products and services accordingly.
Hybrid Multi Cloud
In this strategy, some part of the workload/applications are kept in-house or in a data center, while most of the workload or set of applications are moved to more than one public-cloud provider. Multiple public-cloud providers are chosen to mitigate the risk of depending on a sole entity.
All the above strategies require a holistic approach to help organizations set direction and prepare for cloud adoption. This approach mandates organizations to articulate a clear vision and strategic intent, which can further be refined into well-articulated principles.
These guiding principles can act as inputs to six strategic dimensions (below) to assess the current state of the organization and provide direction around each dimension. If followed, these principles can help organizations achieve a successful cloud adoption while bringing new business and IT capabilities.
This dimension ensures that the cloud strategy is aligned to the business strategy. It lays out the vision for cloud adoption and provides guidance on the level of investment required, as well as the business outcomes expected by moving to the cloud. This dimension further leverages an enterprise-architecture-centric, top-down approach whereby business capabilities are accessed based on strategic priorities, innovation, agility and solution availability, among other considerations, to determine which cloud strategy is most appropriate.
This dimension evaluates the skillsets, roles, responsibilities and associated organizational structure that are most likely to have a positive impact on the cloud journey.
Cloud is changing the way products and services are conceptualized, architected and delivered to business and IT stakeholders. This dimension mandates that IT policies, ITSM and governance processes, templates and service-level agreements be re-assessed and modified to align with cloud services. This dimension ultimately provides direction on an IT governance model.
There are various workloads / applications that form part of organization’s IT estate. The cloud strategy should identify which workloads or groups of applications should be considered for cloudification, assess the interdependencies and sequence them. A strategy document should define the workload / application portfolio assessment-decision framework based on strategic intent and guiding principles. This framework can further be used by IT teams to assess applications and define the 6R (Retain, Re-Host, Re-Platform, Re-Architect, Retire, Replace) cloud strategy for each application.
Security and Compliance
Various security and compliance requirements are mandated by different entities worldwide to ensure that personal data and safety are not compromised. A sound cloud strategy should identify such requirements to ensure that the chosen public-cloud provider(s) is/are compliant. It should also facilitate high-level cloud-security guardrails and controls that enable cloud implementation in a secured and controlled environment. This dimension also drives selection of cloud strategy patterns.
Tools and Technologies
Some tools and technologies currently used to manage in-house IT may not work seamlessly with the cloud, or they may not give a consolidated view of the hybrid or multiple hybrid cloud provider. These additional tools need to be evaluated and implemented as a part of the cloud journey. Also, there may be additional tools that can be leveraged to realize more benefits from cloud. This dimension should provide guidance on probable areas of tooling, assess the available tools, and highlight any investments needed to manage cloud effectively.
Enterprises no longer have a choice of whether to go to the cloud. If a choice exists, it’s merely deciding whether to embrace the cloud sooner or later. Cloud has become a de-facto standard in every organization’s digital journey. That journey will be more successful if a holistic cloud strategy is established before traveling down that road. However, even companies that began their transformation without a strategy in place will find that it’s never too late to start developing one.