@CloudExpo Authors: Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Yeshim Deniz, Liz McMillan, Ram Sonagara

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
The standardization of container runtimes and images has sparked the creation of an almost overwhelming number of new open source projects that build on and otherwise work with these specifications. Of course, there's Kubernetes, which orchestrates and manages collections of containers. It was one of the first and best-known examples of projects that make containers truly useful for production use. However, more recently, the container ecosystem has truly exploded. A service mesh like Istio addr...
Poor data quality and analytics drive down business value. In fact, Gartner estimated that the average financial impact of poor data quality on organizations is $9.7 million per year. But bad data is much more than a cost center. By eroding trust in information, analytics and the business decisions based on these, it is a serious impediment to digital transformation.
Predicting the future has never been more challenging - not because of the lack of data but because of the flood of ungoverned and risk laden information. Microsoft states that 2.5 exabytes of data are created every day. Expectations and reliance on data are being pushed to the limits, as demands around hybrid options continue to grow.
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.
Digital Transformation: Preparing Cloud & IoT Security for the Age of Artificial Intelligence. As automation and artificial intelligence (AI) power solution development and delivery, many businesses need to build backend cloud capabilities. Well-poised organizations, marketing smart devices with AI and BlockChain capabilities prepare to refine compliance and regulatory capabilities in 2018. Volumes of health, financial, technical and privacy data, along with tightening compliance requirements by...
The IoT Will Grow: In what might be the most obvious prediction of the decade, the IoT will continue to expand next year, with more and more devices coming online every single day. What isn’t so obvious about this prediction: where that growth will occur. The retail, healthcare, and industrial/supply chain industries will likely see the greatest growth. Forrester Research has predicted the IoT will become “the backbone” of customer value as it continues to grow. It is no surprise that retail is ...
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...
Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settlement products to hedge funds and investment banks. After, he co-founded a revenue cycle management company where he learned about Bitcoin and eventually Ethereal. Andrew's role at ConsenSys Enterprise is a mul...
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.
DevOpsSummit New York 2018, colocated with CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO New York 2018 will be held November 11-13, 2018, in New York City. Digital Transformation (DX) is a major focus with the introduction of DXWorldEXPO within the program. Successful transformation requires a laser focus on being data-driven and on using all the tools available that enable transformation if they plan to survive over the long term. A total of 88% of Fortune 500 companies from a generation ago are now out of bus...
With 10 simultaneous tracks, keynotes, general sessions and targeted breakout classes, @CloudEXPO and DXWorldEXPO are two of the most important technology events of the year. Since its launch over eight years ago, @CloudEXPO and DXWorldEXPO have presented a rock star faculty as well as showcased hundreds of sponsors and exhibitors! In this blog post, we provide 7 tips on how, as part of our world-class faculty, you can deliver one of the most popular sessions at our events. But before reading...
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that "Miami Blockchain Event by FinTechEXPO" has announced that its Call for Papers is now open. The two-day event will present 20 top Blockchain experts. All speaking inquiries which covers the following information can be submitted by email to [email protected] Financial enterprises in New York City, London, Singapore, and other world financial capitals are embracing a new generation of smart, automated FinTech that eliminates many cumbersome, slow, and expe...
Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo have announced the conference tracks for Cloud Expo 2018. Cloud Expo will be held June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, and November 6-8, 2018, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, Santa Clara, CA. Digital Transformation (DX) is a major focus with the introduction of DX Expo within the program. Successful transformation requires a laser focus on being data-driven and on using all the tools available that enable transformation if they plan to survive ov...
DXWordEXPO New York 2018, colocated with CloudEXPO New York 2018 will be held November 11-13, 2018, in New York City and will bring together Cloud Computing, FinTech and Blockchain, Digital Transformation, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, AI, Machine Learning and WebRTC to one location.
DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO are the world's most influential, independent events where Cloud Computing was coined and where technology buyers and vendors meet to experience and discuss the big picture of Digital Transformation and all of the strategies, tactics, and tools they need to realize their goals. Sponsors of DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO benefit from unmatched branding, profile building and lead generation opportunities.
@DevOpsSummit New York 2018, colocated with CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO New York 2018 will be held November 11-13, 2018, in New York City. From showcase success stories from early adopters and web-scale businesses, DevOps is expanding to organizations of all sizes, including the world's largest enterprises - and delivering real results.
Dion Hinchcliffe is an internationally recognized digital expert, bestselling book author, frequent keynote speaker, analyst, futurist, and transformation expert based in Washington, DC. He is currently Chief Strategy Officer at the industry-leading digital strategy and online community solutions firm, 7Summits.
"We started a Master of Science in business analytics - that's the hot topic. We serve the business community around San Francisco so we educate the working professionals and this is where they all want to be," explained Judy Lee, Associate Professor and Department Chair at Golden Gate University, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that Dez Blanchfield joined the faculty of CloudEXPO's "10-Year Anniversary Event" which will take place on November 11-13, 2018 in New York City. Dez is a strategic leader in business and digital transformation with 25 years of experience in the IT and telecommunications industries developing strategies and implementing business initiatives. He has a breadth of expertise spanning technologies such as cloud computing, big data and analytics, cognitive computing, m...
Digital Transformation and Disruption, Amazon Style - What You Can Learn. Chris Kocher is a co-founder of Grey Heron, a management and strategic marketing consulting firm. He has 25+ years in both strategic and hands-on operating experience helping executives and investors build revenues and shareholder value. He has consulted with over 130 companies on innovating with new business models, product strategies and monetization. Chris has held management positions at HP and Symantec in addition to ...