By Mark Mincin
Just a few years ago, most software applications ran on dedicated IT systems and were housed entirely at a company’s headquarters, at a data center owned by the company, or at a third-party co-location facility. This has changed as businesses today realize the advantages of leveraging the public cloud to make businesses more agile and help support business transformation.
As a result, cloud migration—in some way, shape or form—is at the top of most businesses’ IT agendas. Gartner, Inc. projects that the worldwide public cloud services market will grow 16.5 percent in 2016 to $204 billion, up from $175 billion in 2015. The highest growth will come from cloud system infrastructure services (infrastructure-as-a-service [IaaS]), which is projected to grow 38.4 percent in 2016.
There are many “flavors” of cloud, providing many options to handle different application and performance requirements. For example, IaaS provides highly scalable resources that scale on demand to make it easier for businesses managing temporary, experimental, or changing workloads. Today, many businesses leverage the cloud in a mixed or hybrid environment that is a combination of dedicated infrastructure, private cloud and public cloud IaaS and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offerings.
To transition to the cloud, businesses should assess their goals and requirements to determine the right mix of dedicated and public cloud infrastructure, and can then develop a plan to accomplish them. The big IaaS providers have models and templates to assess loads and determine fit, so that’s a good place to start.
Tips for an Action Plan
This is just the first step in the IT Action Plan for moving to the cloud, which involves taking into account a variety of factors, including operational and financial considerations, talent and training requirements, security implications, and change management.
Steps for preparing for a cloud transition include building an application roadmap, identify needed skills and training, evaluating financial implications, assessing your security needs, ongoing monitoring and change, and defining IT’s role.
Not all workloads are well suited to the cloud, and not all are cost effective to move. When developing a plan, consider scaling requirements, demand fluctuations, cost, and the overall effort required to transition applications—including data migration. In this way, you can develop an overall cloud transition agenda that will help you prioritize which applications are migrated to the cloud and what “flavor” of cloud implementation is best suited to support each. You’ll also be able to understand the IT resources needed to address the planning, preparation, migration, and ongoing management of each application.
To this end, look for quick wins. One might be the need to retire end-of-life hardware supporting legacy applications. Rather than simply replacing it, it may be prudent to review the viability of leveraging the public cloud. Another good place to start may be to review legacy on premises applications that are “resource hogs” and offer the greatest opportunities to minimize IT burden and/or are foundational or critical elements to business execution.
A key component of any cloud strategy and roadmap is to understand the implications for the IT organization and staffing. Cloud requires new skills sets that do not always exist in an IT organization—e.g., cloud architects, cloud operations, etc. Human resource departments can be a great resource to help define and execute a plan to identify available talent in the marketplace and offer skills training to existing staff.
Evaluate Financial Implications. Unlike purchasing a server or other components of IT infrastructure that have a one-time cost and fixed reoccurring maintenance, IaaS costs fluctuate based on consumption. The big IaaS providers have consumption models that allow you to monitor costs and bill for usage. There are recent accounting rule changes that allow a percentage of the overall cloud cost to be capitalized instead of the entire expense hitting operating expense. Consult with your finance team about how these changes may impact your organization.
IT architecture and security go hand-in-hand, it’s important to identify incremental efforts required to secure cloud workloads.
It is also a good idea to do a formal risk assessment; it’s important to establish the risk register for the move to cloud computing, which then should be integrated into your overarching Enterprise Risk Management process. Understand and document what risks both migrating and operating in the cloud brings to your organization.
Include ongoing monitoring and change. The cloud isn’t a set it and forget it approach to IT. It’s critical to determine what, if any, changes are needed from your on premises to cloud environments over time. With the advent of cloud computing, the role of IT is now to manage the architecture and the overall return on investment over time.
The need to be more agile is a requirement I suspect every IT department faces. By leveraging IaaS and SaaS offerings that fit the business requirements of your company, you can be more agile and efficient at managing business needs and business growth. For the foreseeable future, companies will operate in a hybrid environment, assess each workload to determine viability to run in the cloud as part of an overall cloud strategy and roadmap.
In addition to making it possible for business transformation, the cloud simplifies infrastructure management, which then allows IT to expand its role and provide more strategic guidance within companies. We are seeing that IT is now in the realm of IT service delivery, managing the overall architecture and its return on investment. This can take the form of an internal service provider focused on maximizing the efficiency of building and running systems and in being a partner and player in the business, defining IT systems in the context of key enterprise objectives and growth strategies. SW
Mark Mincin is EVP/CIO for Epicor, a global provider of ERP and business solutions designed to meet the needs of today’s cloud-first era of service delivery and flexibility. Mincin holds more than 20 years of demonstrated success in cloud-based business implementations, small-to-large scale system and infrastructure deployments, and leading high-performing teams.
Aug2016, Software Magazine