@CloudExpo Authors: Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, William Schmarzo, Roger Strukhoff, Pat Romanski

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Microservices Expo

@CloudExpo: Article

ROI: Justifying the Cloud

You can improve TCO by up to 80% by using applications in a public cloud

A classic use of ROI or its twin TCO is in the Microsoft Economics of the Cloud, Nov 2010 paper. The conclusion is you can improve TCO by up to 80% by using applications in public cloud versus on-premise deployment. The basics of the calculation being:

  • improved utilization (10% to 90%) enabled by virtualization/consolidation & elasticity
  • the economies (power, operations, HW purchase etc..) of scale of multi-tenant cloud scale hosting

Given most costs in a DC are directly linked to the amount of infrastructure deployed, then improving utilization from 10% to 90% sounds like the primary justification for the 80% improvement. The misuse of the information is not more evident that when Phil Wainewright writes that the strength of this "research" is enough to put the nail in the coffin of the concept of private cloud. Definitive words indeed.. The problem I have with this conclusion is it is a black & white, monolithic view of "what is cloud". This is combined with TCO/ROI modeling that uses some pretty broad assumptions to underpin the cost model. It is often good marketing or publicity to offer polarized view of the issues, but it does not provide a real-world executable decision making capability (read "value") for future consumer of cloud services (public or private). So why are people needing to kill the concept of the "private cloud"? James Urquhart tweeted it best (4/12/2011):

  • "I don't hear ANYONE who isn't a public cloud provider or SI who bet the farm on public cloud make any claims about "false clouds". Period."
  • "Oh, wait. There may be one or two startups and journalists in there...all of which stand to gain from public cloud. Sorry about that. :\ "

If you take that approach and as a result just build a "cloud" for the sake of "cloud" then you are making "the BIG mistake". Implementing a framework as a product is doomed to fail. If you implemented SOA this way then disaster, ITIL would equal chaos, Prince2 would create inertia, Web2.0 would have resulted in mega-$$$. These concepts, whether they be architectural, process or other are meant to guide execution, not be implemented blindly. So how should ROI be used? So when people ask the question. "What's is the ROI of the cloud?" it is not an issue of "What is an ROI?" or "What is the benefit of Cloud?" or even "What data goes into a ROI calculation?". It is about how to answer the question of why, what and how to adopt the cloud. Most of the Cloud ROI (return-on-investment) or TCO (total cost of ownership) discussions are like the whitepaper from Microsoft. Comparing side by side a complex cloud deployment with a traditional infrastructure deployment. In reality, it's too difficult to develop a model to cater "true total cost of ownership", you quickly have to jump to broad assumptions, and narrow scope to make it manageable. If you start you model as a greenfield cloud deployment, your model has radical inaccuracies as you try apply this to brownfield or legacy enterprises. Try starting based on data of a legacy deployment and you have huge problems dealing with the depreciation of assets. Brownfield models also have the challenge of dealing with the elasticity of the delivery assets or opportunity costs; for example, you can manage 100 or 150 servers with the same team, or your existing 20% utilized asset can possible only support 2X or maybe as much as 10X the workload. You then overlay this with the changing economics of real estate facilities, HVAC, compute. The result is, you end up with a model that can have error factors upward of 100% It's too complex a problem to solve without a huge dataset to validate the variables, dependencies, etc... Armada takes a Fast Track approach to solving the problem. You are looking at cloud as a reference framework to help develop a solution that returns the business value. You calculate ROI based on a specific situation and end-state solution. A ROI needs to have a pay back of less than a year, so long-term theoretical modeling has no significant value. So how do you do it? Remember three things;

  • You must have a triggering event
  • Use scenario analysis and not lifecycle modeling
  • Apply the 80/20 rule to data, and only the stuff that impacts your costs

Triggering Event
Most of the time being a technical architect in consulting creates looks of skepticism from engineers in enterprise customers. Fair enough, when I was in that seat I felt the same way. When I gave up internal politics for politics of "revenue/pipeline", "everyone is a salesperson" and "whitepapers and webinars" a few things became pretty crystal clear. The most important thing is, don't waste time doing anything unless there is a pain point, problem to solve, triggering event. Wants are good, but needs are better. This is important in ROI calculation. The triggering event is the anchor point for the evaluation and defines where you are looking for the biggest "return" in the ROI.. The triggering event can be something specific like;

  • "we will run out of datacenter space in 6 months"
  • "it takes us 6 months to deploy an environment"
  • "we are on CNN if our primary datacenter fails because we have no DR"

Alternatively, it can be softer and described as the business goal, business driver like:

  • "we need to reduce operational management costs"
  • "we need to improve our infrastructure utilization"

These things are scoping statements for the project and then the ROI is applied to the return for this project.

Scenario Analysis
You scope the project, but if you try and calculate the return based on lifecycle costs over a long term, you will be scratching your head forever. If the ROI is not 1-3 years, then you are probably not doing it. Most likely it needs to be in less than a year. Scenario analysis is fairly simple, but a little time consuming. It is, however, a step down the direction of implementation, rather than a detour into developing a business case that will never be used or validated later. You create three (3) scenarios:

  • Business as usual - sometimes this is the "no decision, decision" or just solve the problem the way you have in the past
  • Option 1 - the "go big or go home" scenario, build the pure play cloud solution
  • Option 2 - the "pragmatic solution", or sometimes called the cheap solution. This is often the winner, but generally can be folded into option 1 after a subsequent round of funding.

Gather the requirements. Design the end-state architectures for three options and price out the implementation and on-going costs. You are already starting the design, so when the solution is green lighted, you are ready to go..

80/20 Rule of Data
A basic premise of the Fast Track method is to make decisions based on readily available information. Creating data and model takes time and effort for little return. In the time it takes to do this, IT services are evolving and changing. So in collecting data for a ROI analysis, use what is available, don't over process it and limit yourself to the data that impacts your business. From Gartner and other models we know that the biggest contributors to ROI/TCO are;

  • Hardware Costs (storage, compute, network)
  • Hardware Maintenance/Support
  • Software License (applications licenses, tools licenses etc..)
  • Software Maintenance/Support
  • Management & Operations (people, benefits etc..)
  • Facilities (real estate, hvac, security etc..)
  • Development/Customization/System Integration
  • Opportunity Cost (increase costs in existing infrastructure by reducing its scale)

Focus on capturing this information to support the scope of your project. If your project is not looking for value in reduction of power costs, then don't include it in the model. Just deliver the value you have visbility and control over. You should try and be as complete as possible, without creating an environment of political inertia. So with this approach its easy to capture a return on investment (ROI) calculation. I need to add, that David Linthicum wrote a very relevant post that reinforced that ROI does not make a business case. You need to also include the soft value factors, which for the cloud revolve around agility and time-to-market. Hard to define or place a value, but critical to the final assessment.

More Stories By Brad Vaughan

Brad Vaughan is a twenty year veteran consultant working with companies around the globe to transform technology infrastructure to deliver enhanced business services.

@CloudExpo Stories
As ridesharing competitors and enhanced services increase, notable changes are occurring in the transportation model. Despite the cost-effective means and flexibility of ridesharing, both drivers and users will need to be aware of the connected environment and how it will impact the ridesharing experience. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Timothy Evavold, Executive Director Automotive at Covisint, will discuss key challenges and solutions to powering a ride sharing and/or multimodal model in the a...
As data explodes in quantity, importance and from new sources, the need for managing and protecting data residing across physical, virtual, and cloud environments grow with it. Managing data includes protecting it, indexing and classifying it for true, long-term management, compliance and E-Discovery. Commvault can ensure this with a single pane of glass solution – whether in a private cloud, a Service Provider delivered public cloud or a hybrid cloud environment – across the heterogeneous enter...
Join Impiger for their featured webinar: ‘Cloud Computing: A Roadmap to Modern Software Delivery’ on November 10, 2016, at 12:00 pm CST. Very few companies have not experienced some impact to their IT delivery due to the evolution of cloud computing. This webinar is not about deciding whether you should entertain moving some or all of your IT to the cloud, but rather, a detailed look under the hood to help IT professionals understand how cloud adoption has evolved and what trends will impact th...
In his general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, will discuss how Dice leverages data insights and tools to help both tech professionals and recruiters better understand how skills relate to each other and which skills are in high demand using interactive visualizations and salary indicator tools to maximize earning potential. Manish Dixit is VP of Product and Engineering at Dice. As the leader of the Product, Engineering and Data Sciences team a...
A completely new computing platform is on the horizon. They’re called Microservers by some, ARM Servers by others, and sometimes even ARM-based Servers. No matter what you call them, Microservers will have a huge impact on the data center and on server computing in general. Although few people are familiar with Microservers today, their impact will be felt very soon. This is a new category of computing platform that is available today and is predicted to have triple-digit growth rates for some ...
DevOps is being widely accepted (if not fully adopted) as essential in enterprise IT. But as Enterprise DevOps gains maturity, expands scope, and increases velocity, the need for data-driven decisions across teams becomes more acute. DevOps teams in any modern business must wrangle the ‘digital exhaust’ from the delivery toolchain, "pervasive" and "cognitive" computing, APIs and services, mobile devices and applications, the Internet of Things, and now even blockchain. In this power panel at @...
Governments around the world are adopting Safe Harbor privacy provisions to protect customer data from leaving sovereign territories. Increasingly, global companies are required to create new instances of their server clusters in multiple countries to keep abreast of these new Safe Harbor laws. Is it worth it? In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Adam Rogers, Managing Director of Anexia, Inc., will discuss how to keep your data legal and still stay in business.
Successful transition from traditional IT to cloud computing requires three key ingredients: an IT architecture that allows companies to extend their internal best practices to the cloud, a cost point that allows economies of scale, and automated processes that manage risk exposure and maintain regulatory compliance with industry regulations (FFIEC, PCI-DSS, HIPAA, FISMA). The unique combination of VMware, the IBM Cloud, and Cloud Raxak, a 2016 Gartner Cool Vendor in IT Automation, provides a co...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Numerex Corp, a leading provider of managed enterprise solutions enabling the Internet of Things (IoT), will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Numerex Corp. (NASDAQ:NMRX) is a leading provider of managed enterprise solutions enabling the Internet of Things (IoT). The Company's solutions produce new revenue streams or create operating...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MathFreeOn will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MathFreeOn is Software as a Service (SaaS) used in Engineering and Math education. Write scripts and solve math problems online. MathFreeOn provides online courses for beginners or amateurs who have difficulties in writing scripts. In accordance with various mathematical topics, there are more tha...
The best way to leverage your Cloud Expo presence as a sponsor and exhibitor is to plan your news announcements around our events. The press covering Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo will have access to these releases and will amplify your news announcements. More than two dozen Cloud companies either set deals at our shows or have announced their mergers and acquisitions at Cloud Expo. Product announcements during our show provide your company with the most reach through our targeted audiences.
@ThingsExpo has been named the Top 5 Most Influential Internet of Things Brand by Onalytica in the ‘The Internet of Things Landscape 2015: Top 100 Individuals and Brands.' Onalytica analyzed Twitter conversations around the #IoT debate to uncover the most influential brands and individuals driving the conversation. Onalytica captured data from 56,224 users. The PageRank based methodology they use to extract influencers on a particular topic (tweets mentioning #InternetofThings or #IoT in this ...
Traditional on-premises data centers have long been the domain of modern data platforms like Apache Hadoop, meaning companies who build their business on public cloud were challenged to run Big Data processing and analytics at scale. But recent advancements in Hadoop performance, security, and most importantly cloud-native integrations, are giving organizations the ability to truly gain value from all their data. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, David Tishgart, Director of Product Marketing ...
The Internet of Things will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform and how we integrate our thinking to solve complicated problems. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, will demonstrate how to move beyond today's coding paradigm ...
Although it has gained significant traction in the consumer space, IoT is still in the early stages of adoption in enterprises environments. However, many companies are working on initiatives like Industry 4.0 that includes IoT as one of the key disruptive technologies expected to reshape businesses of tomorrow. The key challenges will be availability, robustness and reliability of networks that connect devices in a business environment. Software Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) is expected to...
SYS-CON Events announced today that StarNet Communications will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. StarNet Communications’ FastX is the industry first cloud-based remote X Windows emulator. Using standard Web browsers (FireFox, Chrome, Safari, etc.) users from around the world gain highly secure access to applications and data hosted on Linux-based servers in a central data center. ...
OnProcess Technology has announced it will be a featured speaker at @ThingsExpo, taking place November 1 - 3, 2016, in Santa Clara, California. Dan Gettens, OnProcess’ Chief Analytics Officer, will discuss how Internet of Things (IoT) data can be leveraged to predict product failures, improve uptime and slash costly inventory stock. @ThingsExpo is an annual gathering of IoT and cloud developers, practitioners and thought-leaders who exchange ideas and insights on topics ranging from Big Data in...
Developing software for the Internet of Things (IoT) comes with its own set of challenges. Security, privacy, and unified standards are a few key issues. In addition, each IoT product is comprised of (at least) three separate application components: the software embedded in the device, the back-end service, and the mobile application for the end user’s controls. Each component is developed by a different team, using different technologies and practices, and deployed to a different stack/target –...
Virgil consists of an open-source encryption library, which implements Cryptographic Message Syntax (CMS) and Elliptic Curve Integrated Encryption Scheme (ECIES) (including RSA schema), a Key Management API, and a cloud-based Key Management Service (Virgil Keys). The Virgil Keys Service consists of a public key service and a private key escrow service. 

SYS-CON Events announced today that CDS Global Cloud, an Infrastructure as a Service provider, will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CDS Global Cloud is an IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) provider specializing in solutions for e-commerce, internet gaming, online education and other internet applications. With a growing number of data centers and network points around the world, ...