Using a Down Market to Prepare for Cloud

by  \  6 Oct, 2010 \  9:38pm EDT

Opportunities and potential projects associated with cloud computing are looming large on virtually every CIO’s to-do list. The IT team needs to assume that cloud-based initiatives will move down hill to their must-do lists any day.  The last thing you want is to be caught by surprise and put in a position of having to respond in a reactive mode.

The reality; you don’t have much money to spend in this down market, or perhaps your budget has already been cut back so deep that you don’t expect relief for a couple budget cycles. With scarce time, resources, and money, how can you prepare for something as broad and strategic as enterprise cloud initiatives?

It turns out there are a number of things you can do. The key is to focus on improvement and optimization of what you’ve got today that in turn prepare you for cloud computing tomorrow. In this blog, I’ll focus on what I euphemistically call the “clean out your existing garage, before you move into the new house” effort.  The premise is to initially work with what you’ve got and get it into a more organized and useful state before making purchases and transitions in the future.

Proactively preparing your organization

-  Organizational change is a given in our fast paced or even “volatile” economy. Unfortunately, many managers prefer to wait until some compelling event, such as a layoff, merger, or restructuring, to force action to adjust their teams.  Don’t let this happen to you, it’s not fair to your loyal team members and it’s makes your company less agile and competitive. As a team leader, do what you can to make the change a team opportunity. Get your team involved early  in planning the evolution of your department to better address the changing skill sets needed in a future “everything-as-a-service” IT environment. That can include:

  • Capacity planning
  • Partner/vendor management
  • Service and licensing contracts
  • Business process consulting and analysis
  • Executive team interaction
  • Enterprise architecture planning
  • Reporting and performance management
  • Product and/or service roadmaps

Assess your current IT environment and ecosystem

-   A great start point for this effort is auditing your Configuration Management Database (CMDB). Assuming you’ve got a relatively thorough CMDB in use, you might consider what other information might be useful in preparing to move applications into an Agile IT operating model.  The following are some data points that, if missing, should be added to your CMBD to facilitate a smooth migration later:

  • o   Application business drivers
    • What does this application do for the business? Would it benefit from being in the cloud because of scale or portability and are these benefits important to the business?
    • o   Upgrade status/planning
      • A planned upgrade potentially creates an opportunity to do a move and an upgrade without spending twice.
    • o   Integration status/planning
      • You don’t want any surprises when you make plans to move an application that another application was just about to be integrated with.
    • o   Dependent system or workflow impacts
      • Will a “hidden” user of the application in question be negatively impacted because they’ve built a workflow process around it?
    • o   Location of app and location of end users
      • You may not want to move your 20 ms response-time application to the other side of the continent from its customer base just because it’s going into the cloud.
    • o   Data Center locations
      • This is useful for disaster recovery, portability and cost implications. Especially important for private cloud.
    • o   Capacity constraints on current infrastructure space/capacity/power, etc.
      • If you’re about to hit a capacity/performance wall in a current environment, moving to cloud might become more attractive.
    • o   Percent virtualized
      • Generally speaking the more an app environment is virtualized the easier it will be to port to cloud.
    • o   Planned for virtualization
      • Helps with application prioritization for moving to the cloud.
    • o   Data Feeds
      • Key to developing an impact assessment for any application or data set you might move. Potentially important regarding regulations and legalities specific to the data (I.e., can’t move across the border).
    • o   Ownership & people Roles/Responsibilities for each application
      • Understanding who the key stake holders are for an application are critical to the planning for any major change
    • o   Licensing
      • Identify any cloud migration cost implications (good or bad).

As I mentioned earlier, there dozens of options for working with what you have, these are just a few suggestions for those of you who believe that the future is getting closer, and cloudier, every day. After all, when you move to a new house do you want to be able to park your car in the garage, or will it still be used as storage for your old, disorganized stuff?

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