@CloudExpo Authors: Yeshim Deniz, Pat Romanski, Lori MacVittie, Elizabeth White, Ruxit Blog

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Containers Expo Blog

@CloudExpo: Article

Cloud Computing: A Transition Methodology

Roadmap to the Cloud

Cloud computing refers to the practice of leveraging third-party computing resources, such as network grids and server farms, to extend IT capabilities and reduce the cost of ownership. This practice offers numerous potential benefits to organizations that want to centralize software and data storage management while eliminating the costly overhead of in-house hardware and software maintenance and the personnel required to build, support, and maintain enterprise computing solutions.

Cloud computing has emerged as a new computing paradigm that gathers massive numbers of computers in centralized data centers to deliver Web-based applications, application platforms, and services via a utility model. The primary difference between the service models of cloud computing and previous software (e.g., outsourcing or data center consolidation) is scale. The premise is that as the scale of the cloud infrastructure increases, the incremental time and cost of application delivery trends toward zero.

Cloud computing allows users to dynamically and remotely control processing, memory, data storage, network bandwidth, and specialized business services from pools of resources, providing the ability to specify and deploy computing capacity on-demand. If there's a need to scale up to accommodate sudden demand, users can add the necessary resources using a Web browser. The large data center can provide similar services to multiple external customers (multi-tenancy), leveraging its shared resources to increase economies of scale and reducing service costs.

Although cloud computing is in its early stages and definitions vary greatly, the underlying technologies today are consistent. These technologies include the following:

  • Grid computing: A form of distributed parallel computing whereby processes are split up to leverage the available computing power of multiple CPUs acting in concert.
  • Utility computing: A model of purchasing computing capacity, such as CPU, storage, and bandwidth, from an IT service provider, billed based on consumption.
  • Virtualization technologies: Virtual servers and virtual private networks provide the ability to quickly reconfigure available resources on-demand and provide the necessary security assurance.

There are a number of service offerings and implementation models under the cloud computing umbrella, each with associated pros and cons. These models can be grouped into the following three categories: Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). These models target varying levels of services, ranging from general infrastructure services, such as operating systems or database services provided by IaaS vendors to targeted functional services provided by SaaS vendors (e.g., customer relationship management from Salesforce.com).

The various players in the current market can be differentiated into the following two categories:

  • Cloud Providers: Offer one or more of the cloud models (i.e., IaaS, PaaS, or SaaS) as a service. Examples include Amazon and Google.
  • Cloud Enablers: Provide technology or have adapted existing technology to run on or support cloud computing. A recent example is Oracle's partnership with Amazon to add Oracle 11g database support (technology and licensing) to Amazon's existing EC2 services offering.

We recognize that the transition to a cloud computing paradigm presents a number of challenges. Issues associated with information security, reliability, and service level agreements challenge mission-critical systems. Furthermore, we've identified what we consider the key characteristics of a cloud computing environment:

  • Minimized capital expenditure - infrastructure is provider-owned
  • Device and location independence
  • Multi-tenancy - enables resource and cost sharing among a large pool of users
  • Monitored and consistent performance - can be affected by high network load
  • Reliability via redundant sites - allows for business continuity and disaster recovery
  • Scalability to ever-changing user demands - results in lower costs
  • Improved security from centralized data and increased security-focused resources

My experience has emphasized the importance of "architecting for the cloud" versus simply deploying system components to the cloud to ensure that business requirements are met. Typical software and systems that are not designed to take advantage of the scalability and parallelism of the cloud will likely not achieve the full benefit that is provided by a cloud computing environment. It's also highlighted the need to transition the role of IT managers to brokers and negotiators of IT services rather than the day-to-day management of the operating platform.

My analysis of the benefits and challenges presented by the cloud computing paradigm has resulted in the identification of the following three cloud variations:

  • Commercial Cloud: It consists of deployment to one or more of the commercial cloud providers (e.g., Amazon or Google). It could be a simple integration with an existing SaaS service to support a subset of application functionality or could consist of a complete migration to the cloud. This may be appropriate for non-mission critical systems (e.g., < 99.99% availability) that do not process sensitive data or where sensitive data won't traverse system boundaries to the cloud.
  • On-Premises (Private) Cloud: An on-premises cloud could be created to provide some of the benefits of cloud computing. Booz Allen selected a similar option in our implementation for the FBI to address the security concerns associated with a classified environment; however, the multi-tenancy aspect is then limited to a single agency. Consequently, this option doesn't provide the massive scalability that's characteristic of a true cloud.
  • Government Cloud: The creation of one or more government cloud computing environments. These environments would be designed specifically to address the concerns that are unique to the government. For civilian agencies, this cloud could be an extension of the current eGovernment lines of business (LoBs).

Though many cloud providers proclaim that moving existing applications to the cloud is seamless and doesn't require code changes, my experience has shown that greater analysis and re-engineering are required to achieve the full benefits of a cloud computing environment. Complexities remain that organizations must consider when moving to the cloud, and careful planning is essential.

Based on the lessons learned from previous efforts, a phased Cloud Computing Transition Methodology designed to address the issues and risks associated with migrating an existing system to the cloud is developed. Figure 1 provides an overview of this approach.

The Cloud Strategy and Planning phase (Phase 1) consists of three steps designed to ensure that all aspects of moving to a cloud environment have been appropriately evaluated and agreed upon. The three steps are:

1. Conduct a Strategic Diagnostic
The objective of the strategic diagnostic is to identify the major factors influencing the decision to move to the cloud environment and determine the best approach. During the diagnostic step, we will validate the key objectives of moving to the cloud and the "pain points" that the organization wants to address. The drivers during this step include reducing day-to-day risk, reducing the level of involvement in day-to-day IT management, eliminating overhead, achieving better productivity, reducing or eliminating the cost of adding additional users, and protecting the information system from misuse and unauthorized disclosure.

The primary areas to be addressed during the diagnostic step are security and privacy, technical, business and customer impact, economics, and governance and policy. We will evaluate the implications of moving to the cloud environment in each of these categories and document the key issues and considerations revealed during the diagnostic step. The outcome of this diagnostic will be sufficient analysis to support a "go/no go" decision to move to a cloud computing environment and the development of an agreed-on cloud strategy.

2. Define a Cloud Strategy
To define a cloud strategy, the organization should document a complete understanding of each component of its existing architecture. The analysis examines the required user services, processing services, information security, application software standards, and integrated software down to each component. This can be achieved by leveraging existing architectural documents and ensuring the appropriate level of detail is documented, including system-to-system interfaces, data storage, forms processing and reporting, distributed architecture, access control (authentication and authorization), and security and user provisioning.

3. Create an Implementation Plan
The implementation plan identifies the roles and responsibilities, operating model, major milestones, Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), risk plan, dependencies, and quality control mechanisms to implement the cloud strategy successfully.

After completing Phase 1, the organization will have fully analyzed its options, identified all requirements, thoroughly assessed short-term and long-term costs and benefits, gained executive governance approval, and socialized the solution with stakeholders (including oversight entities). This phase ensures that the organization will have a high degree of confidence in successfully moving to the cloud environment, reap the expected benefits, not constrain future functionality, and avoid hidden future costs.

The Cloud Deployment phase (Phase 2) focuses on implementing the strategy developed in the planning phase. Leveraging the various cloud models helps identify the most effective solution(s) based on the existing organization architecture. Some of the criteria used in recommending a vendor are the vendor's primary service model (i.e., infrastructure, platform, or software), business model, how much existing technology can they leverage, end-user experience, and risks involved in porting to the cloud. Deploying to the cloud involves taking the decision analysis from Phase 1 as input and proceeding with the following four steps:

1.  Assess/Select the Cloud Provider(s)
The assessment step deals with analyzing the components of the architecture and identifying the optimal vendor offerings. One of the main criteria in selecting a provider is its ability to leverage existing technologies. For example, current Oracle customers can use their software licenses on Amazon's EC2 cloud, which allows for reusing existing technologies, whereas current databases can simply be moved to the cloud. In addition, Oracle lets customers deploy on the Amazon cloud through Amazon Machine Images (AMI). This way, a new virtual machine is ready for use with the Oracle database loaded in a matter of minutes.

The assessment step captures three important inputs: the current organization technical architecture, objectives, and the vendor selection criteria that are tailored to meet the organizational objectives. The vendor assessment results in recommendations on the most appropriate cloud vendor, assists in selecting the most effective cloud model, develops deployment strategies, highlights reusable components, and identifies the security options for the cloud architecture.

2. Establish Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
Unlike traditional computing models, where most, if not all, of the components are on-premises and there's direct control over services, cloud computing involves handing off the system to a third-party vendor or vendors. In this case, SLAs address concerns like performance, downtime, provisioning, security, backup, and recovery, and ensure that objectives and established benchmarks are being met. SLAs formalize the contractual agreement between the organization and the selected vendor(s) and will highlight the offerings of the vendor(s), so the expectations on both sides are clear.

A typical SLA will identify service levels for the following:

  • Retention Time: During an emergency/outage, how long would it take for the organization to sustain its operations
  • Uptime: The percent of the time that the system will be available (e.g., 99.9%) and the period over which the measurement is taken
  • Performance and throughput
  • Security and Data protection: Where is the data stored? What precautions are taken by the vendor to ensure the data isn't tampered with?
  • The level of support offered (e.g., 24/7)
  • Service credits if the SLA isn't met
  • The SLA can also address specific concerns like the guarantee of data protection and privacy when other foreign entities are hosted

3. Execute Transition
The execution step involves the actual transition of components identified in earlier steps. Based on the number and type of components that are being ported to the cloud, execution can be an iterative process. One of the primary steps in execution is to establish multiple environments, such as development, testing, production, and training. The preliminary questionnaire to set up an environment can include items like the number of instances required, memory, storage space, and basic software that needs to be installed.

4. O&M and Help Desk
The level of O&M and help desk provided by the cloud vendor may be driven by the selected cloud model(s) and will be determined by the SLAs previously established. If an IaaS is chosen where the vendor just provides the hardware resources and the organization installs the software components and deploys the applications, the maintenance provided by the vendor will be limited. Different vendors provide different support models and at different levels. It's important to ensure the kind of essential support functions that will be provided by vendors for successful continuity of operations (COOP) and to understand how operations will be restored on time at the backup site.

Deploying cloud computing solutions requires both a short-term and a long-term strategy. For example, besides the improved scalability and reliability provided by the cloud, which organizations may achieve through the initial transition, re-engineering some components to take advantage of the parallelism provided by the cloud could improve system performance and overall scalability further. Transitioning an existing system to the cloud requires an approach that addresses not only the technical aspects of cloud computing but also considers the objectives of the organization, the constraints imposed by the existing system, and the impact to its existing customers. As an experienced cloud computing strategist, I believe that corporations and even the government sector are prepared to consider the complexities of cloud computing technologies.

More Stories By Rod Fontecilla

Dr. Rod Fontecilla is a Principal at Booz Allen Hamilton. He has over 25 years of professional experience in the design, development, implementation, and management of Large Information Management Systems. He is an expert in the field of Computer Science within the federal government and private sectors. Dr. Fontecilla has Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics and previously served as a Professor at the University of Maryland Computer Science Department before entering the consulting industry.

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
SYS-CON Events announced today that eCube Systems, the leading provider of modern development tools and best practices for Continuous Integration on OpenVMS, will exhibit at SYS-CON's @DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo New York, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. eCube Systems offers a family of middleware products and development tools that maximize return on technology investment by leveraging existing technical equity to meet evolving business needs. ...
Amazon has gradually rolled out parts of its IoT offerings, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to optimizing their backend AWS offerings, Amazon is laying the ground work to be a major force in IoT - especially in the connected home and office. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Kocher, founder and managing director of Grey Heron, explained how Amazon is extending its reach to become a major force in IoT by building on its dominant cloud IoT platform, its Dash Button strat...
Fifty billion connected devices and still no winning protocols standards. HTTP, WebSockets, MQTT, and CoAP seem to be leading in the IoT protocol race at the moment but many more protocols are getting introduced on a regular basis. Each protocol has its pros and cons depending on the nature of the communications. Does there really need to be only one protocol to rule them all? Of course not. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, walk you through how Oct...
Major trends and emerging technologies – from virtual reality and IoT, to Big Data and algorithms – are helping organizations innovate in the digital era. However, to create real business value, IT must think beyond the ‘what’ of digital transformation to the ‘how’ to harness emerging trends, innovation and disruption. Architecture is the key that underpins and ties all these efforts together. In the digital age, it’s important to invest in architecture, extend the enterprise footprint to the cl...
@DevOpsSummit has been named the ‘Top DevOps Influencer' by iTrend. iTrend processes millions of conversations, tweets, interactions, news articles, press releases, blog posts - and extract meaning form them and analyzes mobile and desktop software platforms used to communicate, various metadata (such as geo location), and automation tools. In overall placement, @DevOpsSummit ranked as the number one ‘DevOps Influencer' followed by @CloudExpo at third, and @MicroservicesE at 24th.
A critical component of any IoT project is what to do with all the data being generated. This data needs to be captured, processed, structured, and stored in a way to facilitate different kinds of queries. Traditional data warehouse and analytical systems are mature technologies that can be used to handle certain kinds of queries, but they are not always well suited to many problems, particularly when there is a need for real-time insights.
One of biggest questions about Big Data is “How do we harness all that information for business use quickly and effectively?” Geographic Information Systems (GIS) or spatial technology is about more than making maps, but adding critical context and meaning to data of all types, coming from all different channels – even sensors. In his session at @ThingsExpo, William (Bill) Meehan, director of utility solutions for Esri, will take a closer look at the current state of spatial technology and ar...
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Red Hat's Chief Arch...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interface Masters Technologies, a leader in Network Visibility and Uptime Solutions, 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. Interface Masters Technologies is a leading vendor in the network monitoring and high speed networking markets. Based in the heart of Silicon Valley, Interface Masters' expertise lies in Gigabit, 10 Gigabit and 40 Gigabit Eth...
As software becomes more and more complex, we, as software developers, have been splitting up our code into smaller and smaller components. This is also true for the environment in which we run our code: going from bare metal, to VMs to the modern-day Cloud Native world of containers, schedulers and microservices. While we have figured out how to run containerized applications in the cloud using schedulers, we've yet to come up with a good solution to bridge the gap between getting your conta...
The IoT industry is now at a crossroads, between the fast-paced innovation of technologies and the pending mass adoption by global enterprises. The complexity of combining rapidly evolving technologies and the need to establish practices for market acceleration pose a strong challenge to global enterprises as well as IoT vendors. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Clark Smith, senior product manager for Numerex, will discuss how Numerex, as an experienced, established IoT provider, has embraced a ...
Everyone knows that truly innovative companies learn as they go along, pushing boundaries in response to market changes and demands. What's more of a mystery is how to balance innovation on a fresh platform built from scratch with the legacy tech stack, product suite and customers that continue to serve as the business' foundation. In his General Session at 19th Cloud Expo, Michael Chambliss, Head of Engineering at ReadyTalk, will discuss why and how ReadyTalk diverted from healthy revenue an...
SYS-CON Media announced today that @WebRTCSummit Blog, the largest WebRTC resource in the world, has been launched. @WebRTCSummit Blog offers top articles, news stories, and blog posts from the world's well-known experts and guarantees better exposure for its authors than any other publication. @WebRTCSummit Blog can be bookmarked ▸ Here @WebRTCSummit conference site can be bookmarked ▸ Here
SYS-CON Events announced today that Hitrons Solutions 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. Hitrons Solutions Inc. is distributor in the North American market for unique products and services of small and medium-size businesses, including cloud services and solutions, SEO marketing platforms, and mobile applications.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Super Micro Computer, Inc., a global leader in Embedded and IoT solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Supermicro (NASDAQ: SMCI), the leading innovator in high-performance, high-efficiency server technology, is a premier provider of advanced server Building Block Solutions® for Data Center, Cloud Computing, Enterprise IT, Hadoop/Big Data, HPC and ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Streamlyzer 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. Streamlyzer is a powerful analytics for video streaming service that enables video streaming providers to monitor and analyze QoE (Quality-of-Experience) from end-user devices in real time.
You have great SaaS business app ideas. You want to turn your idea quickly into a functional and engaging proof of concept. You need to be able to modify it to meet customers' needs, and you need to deliver a complete and secure SaaS application. How could you achieve all the above and yet avoid unforeseen IT requirements that add unnecessary cost and complexity? You also want your app to be responsive in any device at any time. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Allen, General Manager of...
SYS-CON Events announced today that LeaseWeb USA, a cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) 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. LeaseWeb is one of the world's largest hosting brands. The company helps customers define, develop and deploy IT infrastructure tailored to their exact business needs, by combining various kinds cloud solutions.
@ThingsExpo has been named the Top 5 Most Influential M2M Brand by Onalytica in the ‘Machine to Machine: Top 100 Influencers and Brands.' Onalytica analyzed the online debate on M2M by looking at over 85,000 tweets to provide the most influential individuals and brands that drive the discussion. According to Onalytica the "analysis showed a very engaged community with a lot of interactive tweets. The M2M discussion seems to be more fragmented and driven by some of the major brands present in the...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Roundee / LinearHub will exhibit at the WebRTC Summit at @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. LinearHub provides Roundee Service, a smart platform for enterprise video conferencing with enhanced features such as automatic recording and transcription service. Slack users can integrate Roundee to their team via Slack’s App Directory, and '/roundee' command lets your video conference ...