Much of the dialog surrounding cloud these days seems centered on multi-cloud. Multi-cloud this, multi-cloud that—have we so soon forgotten about the approach that addresses the broadest set of needs for businesses beginning their transition from the traditional data center?
Friends, I’m talking about good-old hybrid cloud, and the path to becoming hybrid doesn’t have to be complicated. In short, we select the cloud provider who best meets most of our needs, establish network connectivity between our existing data center(s) and the cloud, and if we make intelligent, well-reasoned decisions about what should live where (and why), we’ll end up in a good place.
However, as many of you may already know, ending up in “a good place” isn’t a foregone conclusion. It requires careful consideration of what our business (or customers’ businesses) needs to ensure the decisions we’re making are sound.
In this series, we’ll look at the primary phases involved in transitioning toward a hybrid cloud architecture. Along the way, we’ll examine some of the most important considerations needed to ensure the results of this transition are positive.
But first, we’ll spend some time in an often-non-technical realm inhabited by our bosses and boss’s bosses. This is the realm of business strategy and requirements, where we determine if the path we’re evaluating is the right one. Shirt starched? Tie straightened? All right, here we go.
The Importance of Requirements
There’s a lot of debate around which cloud platform is “best” for a certain situation. But if we’re pursuing a strategy involving use of cloud services, we’re likely after a series of benefits common to all public cloud providers.
These benefits include global resource availability, practically unlimited capacity, flexibility to scale both up and down as needs change, and consumption-based billing, among others. Realizing these benefits isn’t without potential drawbacks, though.
The use of cloud services means we now have another platform to master and additional complexity to consider when it comes to construction, operation, troubleshooting, and recovery processes. And there are many instances where a service is best kept completely on-premises, making a cloud-only approach unrealistic.
Is this additional complexity even worth it? Do these benefits make any difference to the business? Answering a few business-focused questions upfront may help clarify requirements and avoid trouble later. These questions might resemble the following:
- Does the business expect rapid expansion or significant fluctuation in service demand? Is accurately predicting and preparing for this demand ahead of time difficult?
Are the large capital expenditures every few years required to keep a data center environment current causing financial problems for the business?
Is a lack of a worldwide presence negatively impacting the experience of your users and customers? Would it be difficult to distribute services yourself by building out additional self-managed data centers?
Is day-to-day operation of the existing data center facility and hardware infrastructure becoming a time-sink? Would the business like to lessen this burden?
Does the business possess applications with sensitive data that must reside on self-maintained infrastructure? Would there be consequences if this were violated?
In these examples, you can see we’re focusing less on technical features we’d “like to have” and instead thinking about the requirements of the business and specific needs that should be addressed.
If the answers to some of these questions are “yes,” then a hybrid cloud approach could be worthwhile. On the other hand, if a clear business benefit cannot be determined, then it may be best to keep doing what you are doing.
In any case, having knowledge of business requirements will help you select the correct path, whether it involves use of cloud services or maintaining your existing on-premises strategy. And through asking your key business stakeholders questions like these, you show them you’re interested in the healthy operation of the business, not just your technical responsibilities.
There are many ways to go about consuming cloud services, and for many organizations, a well-executed hybrid strategy will provide the best return while minimizing complexity and operational overhead. But before embarking on the journey it’s always best to make sure decisions are justified by business requirements. Otherwise, you could end up contributing to a “percentage of cloud initiatives that fail” statistic—not a good place to be.