@CloudExpo Authors: Liz McMillan, Paul Simmons, Pat Romanski, Yeshim Deniz, Elizabeth White

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Microservices Expo, Containers Expo Blog

@CloudExpo: Article

Adopting Enterprise Cloud Computing: A Graduated Transformation

Enterprise IT organizations are in the midst of deep and lasting change

Enterprise IT organizations are in the midst of deep and lasting change.

IT used to be your cable company: It held the local monopoly for IT services. The wait you experienced was a frustrating, but necessary part of your relationship with enterprise IT. You had no choice.

But with the rise of public cloud services like Amazon EC2, business lines now have a choice.

Why wait months when minutes will do?

That question will ultimately cause application owners to vote with their feet, as demand follows the path of least resistance to the public cloud. That is, unless IT leaders can transform service delivery models to match the flexibility and performance public cloud services provide.

"If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near."

That's Jack Welch offering what may be the most urgent words for today's IT leaders who are staring down unprecedented external change. IT leaders ought to ask themselves where they stand, on the inside, relative to the changes occurring on the outside.

Of course, for most IT organizations, external change vastly outstrips internal change. That's not because IT leadership doesn't want to change-it's because cultures and bureaucracies don't readily allow it.

Traditionally, CIOs were expected to improve performance incrementally year over year; last year's metrics were next year's benchmarks. Your goal was to ensure the curve was moving in the right direction. Today, the expectation is a dramatic improvement in agility and responsiveness-from months to minutes-at a dramatically lower cost to the business.

To achieve this end, enterprise IT organizations must transform their delivery models to look a lot like a public cloud service in its own right. But how do you get from here to there?

The answer is similar to the way you eat an elephant: One bite at a time.

The challenge is that the path isn't particularly clear, and transformation can't happen overnight. This sort of change requires an incremental, step-by-step progression that yields benefits along the way. Without this, fatigue sets in, enthusiasm wanes and cloud projects die on the vine like so many architectural transformations before. When merchandised effectively, these incremental wins become the kindling that stokes the fire, building the shared vision, conviction and confidence required to transform.

Making the transformation to enterprise cloud is, thus, a graduated journey.

It's a journey that begins with experimentation and moves into production phases from the bottom up, tackling successive layers of the stack. The common thread running through the journey is ongoing optimization between public and private options based on specific requirements, policies and price. The goal isn't to place a bet, public or private. It's to turn that gamble into a managed investment that pays ever-increasing dividends by managing a dynamic portfolio of public and private resources.

Before we lay out the guideposts for the journey, let's discuss the building blocks for the enterprise cloud.

They are:

  • Virtualization: An abstraction layer for compute, network and storage resources as sharable utilities.
  • Elasticity: Dynamic provisioning, scaling and rebalancing resources with changing demand.
  • Automation: "Pushbutton" workload construction, deployment and change.
  • Self-service: A storefront for advertising, requesting and provisioning standardized services.
  • Chargeback: A tracking and billing mechanism to manage the supply/demand equilibrium.

These are the foundations for an enterprise cloud-the journey to which begins with.

1. Public Cloud Experimentation
According to Sam Boonin at Good Data, "Think about it - what used to cost $20k (a Sun server) you can now get for 15 cents an hour ... if you are not experimenting with those economics, you're crazy."

Sam's right: Amazon EC2 has removed the cost barrier to enterprise-grade compute capacity.

It has also proven the model for self-service, automated, elastic computing. If you think about it, Amazon is like having a privileged view into your future; ultimately, you'll have to deliver IT services to your internal customers in a similar way. You should get to know your future in its present-day incarnation by experimenting with the public cloud. Get your hands dirty, get your feet wet ... now.

Who should experiment?

If you haven't already, you should assemble a small cross-functional team to investigate cloud options and help define the reference model for the future. As the driver for this project, you should take a close look at strategic priorities, key IT-enabled processes, an inventory of your current infrastructure, and an honest assessment of your historical service level performance.

You should also audit your application portfolio, segmenting your applications based on their unique requirements, policies and the most appropriate use of cloud. You may determine that certain non-differentiating applications should be retired in favor of a software-as-a-service solution. Maybe you'll conclude that certain applications should never run on public cloud infrastructure. And maybe you'll find that certain newer applications are well suited to a public platform-as-a-service offering.

The goal-and the point of the exercise-is to logically consider your cloud options as an optimized portfolio that maximizes the return and minimizes the risk to your business.

In conjunction with this analysis, application and cloud architects should dive into the public cloud.

They should experiment with and experience the full breadth of the offering, peeling back the layers to understand the architecture and implementation and exercising the full feature set to cherry-pick the best attributes as the basis for designing a reference architecture for your enterprise cloud.

At the same time, dev and test engineers should take advantage of on-demand, elastic compute capacity to serve practical process needs. The agility and cycle time benefits of public cloud are appreciable, particularly in organizations whose central IT organizations are saddled by server provisioning backlog.

You should also use this time to build an automated deployment model for getting workloads provisioned to the public cloud in a way that is fast, controlled and compliant. Measure the throughput of your current release and deployment processes and then multiply demand by an order of magnitude. Does it scale?

The point is that you should select deployment tools that will scale with your cloud initiative; this is a foundational architectural capability that will be difficult to back into later.

While the IT team gains familiarity with the cloud environment, take the time to socialize the direction with lines of business, identifying targeted applications that may benefit from this deployment model and serve as an internal case study for building momentum and garnering broader support and sponsorship.

This is also a good time to start gathering some baseline metrics.

Measure cycle time and effective cost at key stages of the application lifecycle. How long does it take for IT to provision a server? What is the duration between unit test complete and production deployment? Where are the typical bottlenecks in the process and what are they costing in terms of dollars and productivity? These basic metrics should be understood and quantified at the outset to measure the impact of a cloud initiative.

What is the internal cost for server capacity? Ask the same question of your public cloud service and look at the differences over time. You may notice that, for all its pennies-per-hour goodness, public cloud economics are not yet suited for long-running compute intensive workloads.

Expect this to change as public cloud competition intensifies.

2. Private Cloud Experimentation
For the purpose of this exercise, let's assume you've already had some experience with server virtualization. If you haven't, you should; virtualization is a foundation for a private cloud and it offers an elegantly simple ROI based on dramatic improvements in hardware capacity utilization, offering benefits that range from reductions in hardware spending to energy consumption and facility expenses.

As you scale your virtualization initiatives and move into a private cloud modality, be certain that your deployment and change processes are fit for the task. Too often, IT organizations ignore the fact that poorly automated deployment processes that may have been suitable in the past will break down in a large-scale computing environment, particularly when you add the dimension of speed.

Stand up the key cloud technologies in a lab environment and build the working prototype of the reference architecture that you defined in the first phase. Leverage open source and commercial tools-not just what you find laying around, but the ones that you think will best serve you at scale.

Remember: This is the stage rehearsal for production usage; don't go through the motions in vain by making this a throwaway experiment.

3. Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)
IT evolutions happen from the bottom up, which makes sense if you think about the IT stack as a hierarchy of layered foundations. As you roll out a cloud, do so from the bottom up, focusing on compute capacity as the first service that you make available as an elastic utility.

This is often called infrastructure-as-a-service, or the generally unpronounceable, IaaS.

Today, development, test and production teams wait too long for server capacity. Your first true step into the enterprise cloud should focus on making this capacity available on-demand on a self-service basis. Most organizations will focus on development and test organizations first, which makes a great deal of sense because it affords you the safety of working out the gremlins with non-production workloads.

The next logical question is: Public or private? The answer is the consultant's classic: "It depends."

It depends on a number of things: How ready is your infrastructure? Has it been virtualized? How automated is your provisioning process? Don't present a menu of services without cooks in the kitchen.

As importantly, consider your demand profile. Are you typically seeing frequent requests for short-running capacity or less frequent requests for long-running capacity? Public cloud economics are typically better suited to short-running workloads. Ultimately, you'll want to create an environment that provides portability between public and private clouds. This will allow you to manage IT as an optimized portfolio of options that dynamically balances across business requirements, policy and price.

With that said, the wishy-washy "it depends" resolves to a more decisive, "both."

4. Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS)
The next logical layer of the stack is enabling software-operating system, middleware, frameworks and other platform services that your internal customers require to run their applications.

Public PaaS services like Google App Engine, Force.com, Heroku and Microsoft Azure provide a complete abstraction layer for rapidly deploying simple applications built with modern frameworks like Ruby on Rails, PHP and .NET. But not every application can or should run in a public PaaS environment.

One of the most common fears is that PaaS is a walled garden-it locks you into a service that you don't control. Once the application is written to a specific PaaS layer, it can't be moved into another deployment environment. Without the ability to retarget an application, organizations sacrifice considerable pricing leverage. This fear is most pronounced with applications that are strategic and differentiating for the business-and the resistance increases as you move up the stack.

But, for some types of applications, public PaaS makes a whole lot of sense and it should be factored into your portfolio of cloud options and utilized for specific classes of applications.

For other applications, IT will remain the platform provider. But, in the face of such simple public PaaS alternatives, they'll have to dramatically improve the speed and flexibility of the platform delivery model.

Historically, IT has faced two opposing choices: (1) Standardize on one plain-vanilla platform and force application owners to conform to these limited specifications; or, (2) allow the platform to splinter into dozens of variants to serve diverse application dependencies. Neither are great choices: The former constrains application innovation and the latter saddles IT with management burden.

Today, application dependencies are growing with the fragmentation of programming languages, the use of open source components and a trend toward avant-garde developer preferences. This means that you probably need to address both requirements-flexibility and control-by deeply automating platform provisioning and lifecycle management and presenting internal customers a rich set of platform options to address their diverse application requirements.

5. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)
The final step on the journey to enterprise cloud can also be seen as the first: If you think about it, you're probably already using more than one public SaaS application within your company-perhaps for sales or marketing automation, HR, financials or accounting processes. Software-as-a-service has become the mainstream preference for many non-differentiating applications in the enterprise today.

But SaaS isn't only something you consume. In the future, it will almost certainly be the delivery model for many internally built, differentiating enterprise applications. As IT organizations look to more effectively monetize the value of the services they deliver, they'll want to make applications available on demand to internal customers by creating an enterprise app store of sorts. This spreads the cost basis across a broader set of users as applications find affinity in new, previously undiscovered ways; and it delivers more direct business value to internal customers, making IT much more than "ping, power and pipe."

There is no single path for all organizations-and, admittedly, enterprise cloud is far too embryonic to have its own road-tested, timeworn "best practices." But it's always useful to begin with a logical plan that follows a stepwise progression-the guideposts for the journey.

More Stories By Jake Sorofman

Jake Sorofman is chief marketing officer of rPath, an innovator in system automation software for physical, virtual and cloud environments. Contact Jake at [email protected]

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

@CloudExpo Stories
HyperConvergence came to market with the objective of being simple, flexible and to help drive down operating expenses. It reduced the footprint by bundling the compute/storage/network into one box. This brought a new set of challenges as the HyperConverged vendors are very focused on their own proprietary building blocks. If you want to scale in a certain way, let's say you identified a need for more storage and want to add a device that is not sold by the HyperConverged vendor, forget about it...
In his Opening Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, John Considine, General Manager of IBM Cloud Infrastructure, led attendees through the exciting evolution of the cloud. He looked at this major disruption from the perspective of technology, business models, and what this means for enterprises of all sizes. John Considine is General Manager of Cloud Infrastructure Services at IBM. In that role he is responsible for leading IBM’s public cloud infrastructure including strategy, development, and offering m...
Historically, some banking activities such as trading have been relying heavily on analytics and cutting edge algorithmic tools. The coming of age of powerful data analytics solutions combined with the development of intelligent algorithms have created new opportunities for financial institutions. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Sebastien Meunier, Head of Digital for North America at Chappuis Halder & Co., discussed how these tools can be leveraged to develop a lasting competitive advantage ...
From 2013, NTT Communications has been providing cPaaS service, SkyWay. Its customer’s expectations for leveraging WebRTC technology are not only typical real-time communication use cases such as Web conference, remote education, but also IoT use cases such as remote camera monitoring, smart-glass, and robotic. Because of this, NTT Communications has numerous IoT business use-cases that its customers are developing on top of PaaS. WebRTC will lead IoT businesses to be more innovative and address...
Evan Kirstel is an internationally recognized thought leader and social media influencer in IoT (#1 in 2017), Cloud, Data Security (2016), Health Tech (#9 in 2017), Digital Health (#6 in 2016), B2B Marketing (#5 in 2015), AI, Smart Home, Digital (2017), IIoT (#1 in 2017) and Telecom/Wireless/5G. His connections are a "Who's Who" in these technologies, He is in the top 10 most mentioned/re-tweeted by CMOs and CIOs (2016) and have been recently named 5th most influential B2B marketeer in the US. H...
In this presentation, you will learn first hand what works and what doesn't while architecting and deploying OpenStack. Some of the topics will include:- best practices for creating repeatable deployments of OpenStack- multi-site considerations- how to customize OpenStack to integrate with your existing systems and security best practices.
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that Kevin Jackson joined the faculty of CloudEXPO's "10-Year Anniversary Event" which will take place on November 11-13, 2018 in New York City. Kevin L. Jackson is a globally recognized cloud computing expert and Founder/Author of the award winning "Cloud Musings" blog. Mr. Jackson has also been recognized as a "Top 100 Cybersecurity Influencer and Brand" by Onalytica (2015), a Huffington Post "Top 100 Cloud Computing Experts on Twitter" (2013) and a "Top 50 C...
"Venafi has a platform that allows you to manage, centralize and automate the complete life cycle of keys and certificates within the organization," explained Gina Osmond, Sr. Field Marketing Manager at Venafi, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps at 19th Cloud Expo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"This week we're really focusing on scalability, asset preservation and how do you back up to the cloud and in the cloud with object storage, which is really a new way of attacking dealing with your file, your blocked data, where you put it and how you access it," stated Jeff Greenwald, Senior Director of Market Development at HGST, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
In a world where the internet rules all, where 94% of business buyers conduct online research, and where e-commerce sales are poised to fall between $427 billion and $443 billion by the end of this year, we think it's safe to say that your website is a vital part of your business strategy. Whether you're a B2B company, a local business, or an e-commerce site, digital presence is key to maintain in your drive towards success. Digital Performance will take priority in 2018 for the following reason...
Rodrigo Coutinho is part of OutSystems' founders' team and currently the Head of Product Design. He provides a cross-functional role where he supports Product Management in defining the positioning and direction of the Agile Platform, while at the same time promoting model-based development and new techniques to deliver applications in the cloud.
Leading companies, from the Global Fortune 500 to the smallest companies, are adopting hybrid cloud as the path to business advantage. Hybrid cloud depends on cloud services and on-premises infrastructure working in unison. Successful implementations require new levels of data mobility, enabled by an automated and seamless flow across on-premises and cloud resources. In his general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Tevis, an IBM Storage Software Technical Strategist and Customer Solution Architec...
Business professionals no longer wonder if they'll migrate to the cloud; it's now a matter of when. The cloud environment has proved to be a major force in transitioning to an agile business model that enables quick decisions and fast implementation that solidify customer relationships. And when the cloud is combined with the power of cognitive computing, it drives innovation and transformation that achieves astounding competitive advantage.
In his session at Cloud Expo, Alan Winters, U.S. Head of Business Development at MobiDev, presented a success story of an entrepreneur who has both suffered through and benefited from offshore development across multiple businesses: The smart choice, or how to select the right offshore development partner Warning signs, or how to minimize chances of making the wrong choice Collaboration, or how to establish the most effective work processes Budget control, or how to maximize project result...
"Software-defined storage is a big problem in this industry because so many people have different definitions as they see fit to use it," stated Peter McCallum, VP of Datacenter Solutions at FalconStor Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"Our strategy is to focus on the hyperscale providers - AWS, Azure, and Google. Over the last year we saw that a lot of developers need to learn how to do their job in the cloud and we see this DevOps movement that we are catering to with our content," stated Alessandro Fasan, Head of Global Sales at Cloud Academy, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
In his keynote at 19th Cloud Expo, Sheng Liang, co-founder and CEO of Rancher Labs, discussed the technological advances and new business opportunities created by the rapid adoption of containers. With the success of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and various open source technologies used to build private clouds, cloud computing has become an essential component of IT strategy. However, users continue to face challenges in implementing clouds, as older technologies evolve and newer ones like Docker c...
Data is the fuel that drives the machine learning algorithmic engines and ultimately provides the business value. In his session at Cloud Expo, Ed Featherston, a director and senior enterprise architect at Collaborative Consulting, discussed the key considerations around quality, volume, timeliness, and pedigree that must be dealt with in order to properly fuel that engine.
As organizations shift towards IT-as-a-service models, the need for managing and protecting data residing across physical, virtual, and now cloud environments grows with it. Commvault can ensure protection, access and E-Discovery of your data – whether in a private cloud, a Service Provider delivered public cloud, or a hybrid cloud environment – across the heterogeneous enterprise. In his general session at 18th Cloud Expo, Randy De Meno, Chief Technologist - Windows Products and Microsoft Part...
Andi Mann, Chief Technology Advocate at Splunk, is an accomplished digital business executive with extensive global expertise as a strategist, technologist, innovator, marketer, and communicator. For over 30 years across five continents, he has built success with Fortune 500 corporations, vendors, governments, and as a leading research analyst and consultant.
"Cloud computing is certainly changing how people consume storage, how they use it, and what they use it for. It's also making people rethink how they architect their environment," stated Brad Winett, Senior Technologist for DDN Storage, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.