By guest author Shaloo Shalini
The third and final part of this series discusses formulating an implementation strategy and discovering blue-sky opportunities in the cloud.
Formulate your integration strategy
It is evident from industry-wide trends that a new business or startup has minimal integration points to deal with compared to companies with traditionally managed IT infrastructure and application deployments. It should not surprise anyone that small and medium businesses are the classic early adopters of cloud computing technologies – look at the customer case studies of prominent cloud vendors such as Amazon, Microsoft Azure, Salesforce, and others. Established businesses or larger enterprises with legacy systems may have stringent integration requirements that make adoption of the cloud for even some peripheral yet cost-effective services a difficult proposition.
If you are considering adopting cloud for only a part of your business processes, say for a specific isolated pain point in your IT systems, you still have to examine your “integration” objectives thoroughly. At times, you may be lucky to have a cloud solution vendor who helps you with all your integration requirements, but it is highly unlikely. Integration strategy misses could be a landmine that you need to be aware of and deal with as part of your cloud strategy. Some of the cloud adoptions in large enterprises were successful by dint of having well-defined enterprise-specific frameworks consisting of business policies, identification of information sharing needs within the enterprise, security, scale, and a clear set of cloud objectives.
With respect to integration, a related area is secure data access. If you already have well-established data access and security solutions, then you need to figure out how the adoption of cloud affects any or all of your security requirements. For example, you may be hosting all your data within your premises. If you use a public cloud for cloud bursting, then some of the data that moves to cloud-based storage is no longer under your complete control. You may need to update your security audit process to incorporate audit log validation from your cloud storage provider if they provide one.
Indemnification and service-level agreements (SLAs) are hard to come by at the current stage of maturity of most cloud services today. This is also the case for software licenses – earlier it was possible to conduct an audit of licenses in use within your premise. Now, with cloud-based infrastructure, you need to deal with validating whether your licensed software use is within the agreed upon contract in case you deploy that software on a cloud-based infrastructure – something that one of the companies we spoke to figured out once they moved their “order-to-cash” workflow to the cloud.
The mere presence of the cloud in your scheme of things could make your reporting and auditing complex, increase its span beyond your organization’s boundary, and increase your risks and liabilities, long before you can even begin to relate to terms such as cloud spanning. If you are a legal firm, there may be serious implications to having any confidential client data in the public cloud because this data is potentially not under your full control. One of the legal firms we covered as part of Thought Leaders in Cloud Computing series decided to keep all their confidential data in the legal hold processes within their firewalls and not move it to cloud even though doing so might have saved them money.
Another area of your cloud adoption strategy that require a closer look are the cloud standards. There are a myriad of cloud-based offerings, each with their own proprietary interfaces and if you are concerned about lock-ins, you need to figure out the cloud technologies and offerings from the standards perspective. Some of the most popular interfaces are becoming de-facto standards such as Amazon Web Services APIs. If your enterprise has any custom applications that must interact with cloud-based offerings, you would not want to work with proprietary interfaces but look into cloud standards, if any, and hope that your cloud vendors supports them. Compliance requirements are another aspect that becomes important as part of your integration of on-premise and compliant IT systems with cloud-based offerings. You need to know if any of your legal compliances are in jeopardy if you adopt a cloud model and need to address such risks as part of your cloud strategy. Service-oriented architectures (SOA) are an important enabler of IT cloud services. In SOA, governance is an area that you need to understand and address in the context of your cloud computing adoption strategy.
Discover your blue-sky opportunities
None of the serious cloud evaluators would be interested in adopting clouds just for the sake of doing so, given that the cloud brings in not just a new set of technologies but a new way of operating IT systems and a new business model. In that context, you need to look into the long-term avenues that the cloud could uncover for you to grow and expand your enterprise. At present, not many have identified successfully how to make the best use of cloud computing within their specific industry segment, and you could turn the adoption challenge into a blue-sky opportunity that could mean expanding your horizons as well as leading your industry to the next stage of evolution. Every day there are countless new applications and adoption of the cloud paradigm into newer industry segments, which in turn creates even more opportunities and missing pieces for entrepreneurs as well as businesses. As people deploy clouds, newer requirements arise, and those who are looking at either creating newer businesses or augmenting their portfolio with newer solutions can fill in such missing pieces of cloud adoption requirements within their domain of expertise. This applies to both entrepreneurs looking for setting up a new business or to incubation centers within established enterprises. The need of the hour is to spot your opportunity while the window of opportunity is still open.
Some of the early cloud adopters have found new ways of doing business, expanding to newer markets which were not reachable earlier simply by way of cost and scale efficiencies that the cloud offers. The cloud also opens up vistas to address traditional business problems by helping to create innovative solutions, which were not feasible earlier. For example, in the life sciences, there has been tremendous technological innovation and research in the past decade, and the cloud has enabled some life sciences researchers and gene sequencing upstarts to offer gene sequencing in 15 minutes for an affordable price.
There are still unaddressed issues with cloud computing adoption in general, but those are ripe for innovation and wide open for entrepreneurs to come up with newer solutions and offerings. One such case common across disciplines and verticals, in addition to cloud-based security challenges, is moving large datasets to public and private clouds and meeting the input/output (I/O) needs of applications that otherwise lend themselves well to cloud scale. As boundaries between high-performance computing (HPC) and cloud computing merge in terms of scale of deployment, with the current rate of advancements in technology and innovation, some of these cloud adoption issues simply may melt away.
Bon voyage on your journey into cloud computing!