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Summary:

Many of us are looking at the adoption of cloud as just another technology, and are leaving decisions on how to adopt, own, and manage the cloud up to engineers. But acquiring a cloud management platform is not an engineering decision — it’s a strategic one.

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As an IT community we are still stuck in the past relative to the strategic nature of cloud. Many of us are looking at the adoption of cloud as just another technology, and are leaving the decisions on how to adopt, own, and manage the cloud up to engineers. But acquiring a cloud management platform is not an engineering decision — it’s a strategic one. Do engineers need to be involved? Yes, but your cloud adoption strategy has already failed if you don’t treat cloud as the operational construct that it is.

I wrote “Cloud management, what’s the big deal” a little over a year ago and the good news is many more of us now at least acknowledge the need for robust management tools. The problem is, we still think of them as “tools”. Cloud management isn’t just a pretty wrapper that you put on top of virtualization to make it easier to use, and it’s not a few scripts that automate builds or scaling functions. Cloud management is a platform that allows the cloud(s) owner to express their company’s directives and policies effectively and safely onto their myriad technology solutions and across international borders.

Why the cloud management platform you choose is so important


Like any software that solves a problem or creates an opportunity (often one and the same), a cloud management platform should be acquired only after defining a clear set of requirements. The requirements should be defined with the CIO and I’ve explained why after each requirement. A cloud management platform should:

Be capable of managing a variety of clouds – A strategic vision for where and how clouds will be adopted or dropped is important for a number of reasons: avoiding lock-in, the ability to retrieve data in a usable format, finding the appropriate cloud platform for the expected workload and location. Depending on the business you’re in you may use partnerships and or competitive concerns as a decision factor in your multi-cloud strategy.

Handle data security and location – Do your systems administrators have access to corporate strategy around locations and data privacy requirements? What about HIPAA or other regulatory concerns? If they don’t even recognize this as an area of concern, why would they look for it in a management tool?

Take care of policy management across clouds – Your architects and engineers might be terrific, but are you sure they are the best ones to determine the value of having a common and simplified set of tools for managing policy and governance across your images and across different clouds? Policy considerations can take into account everything from privacy to security, to performance and lifecycle depending on the platform you choose.

Include well-developed role-based security – While your engineers and infrastructure leaders are more than capable of handling security decisions for team access to a cloud management platform, are they the right group to determine how customers (developer or end-user) and partners might access your cloud?

Incorporate a virtual machine security suite – This is an area where the CIO likely doesn’t need much involvement, but there should be a senior security role involved in the project.

Consider the full life cycle from creation to deletion – Unfortunately, most of us in the trenches don’t think about whether the images we create today should be reviewed six months from now? Ensuring you have a solid life cycle approach will help you develop a more efficient use pattern and reduce the risk of inappropriate resource use.

Integrate with operations platforms (monitoring, billing, etc.) – The effort to define these requirements will mostly fall on the technical team, but feedback from management about expectations of monitoring and billing etc., is still critical.

Offer APIs for common tools and scripting languages – Mostly a technical/architectural decision, with the exception of integration that might enable out of the box opportunity, there might be value in having a larger team, including leadership involved.

The above isn’t a complete list of considerations in the evaluation of an appropriate cloud management platform, just serious food for thought. However, of what’s missing above, the most critical element of all includes thinking about how a cloud management platform should complement and re-orient your IT organization.

Where the rubber meets the road!

The CIO needs to consider a ground up redo of the organization, how it delivers IT services and how it integrates with the business at the function and end-user customer level. Admit it; you weren’t thinking that these organizational changes were a factor in your requirements and prioritization process for acquiring a cloud management platform.

Of course, the aforementioned needs aren’t necessary if all you want is a shiny set of tools or some home-grown scripts to handle your cloud. Tools and scripts which won’t scale, aren’t standardized, won’t work across clouds and will likely be developed differently by each IT group in your enterprise.

The delivery of IT is different. The old ways are gone. The addition of cloud to your organization isn’t an opportunity to do the same old things faster, it’s an opportunity to deliver functionally improved IT services in real-time to your business.

How will you deliver in real-time if you still work through a traditional helpdesk process? Or maybe because you haven’t figured out how to integrate billing, you still have business or IT groups who want to “pay” for their servers. What about the purchasing process or the approval process for a new application?

This isn’t just more tech bells and whistles

In modern IT you should be able to test, fail, test, fail, test, and implement in less time and for less money than one effort in the past. In light of the improved application adoption options, a change in how you review and approve ideas is also important. In other words, why send a project to the executive team for review, when you could run a proof of concept in a matter of days or hours and actually demonstrate the value almost immediately at little or no cost.

OK, maybe there are more bells and whistles, but treating cloud like a technology solution purchase is the wrong approach. Take a holistic approach to how IT can and should participate in the business of doing whatever your company does, then build the operational model to support that. Seek alignment in your organization and in your technology choices so you’re prepared for a Cloud Operating model and Fluid IT. Welcome to the modern IT world.

Mark Thiele is executive VP of Data Center Tech at Switch, the operator of the SuperNAP data center in Las Vegas. Thiele blogs at SwitchScribe and at Data Center Pulse, where is also president and founder. .He can be found on Twitter at @mthiele10.

  1. Fascinating and valuable perspective, thanks!

    Typo?
    “Include well-developed roll-based security”

    Did you mean “role-based”?

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    1. Thank you for the comment and good catch. Yes, it was supposed to be “role-based”.

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      1. Fixed. I must have been hungry while editing.

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      2. Stacey’s response is funny :-) On a more serious note, as someone who regularly provides clients with advice on cloud solutions what a great article.

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  2. Reblogged this on Webeconoscenza and commented:
    Articolo di Gigaom molto interessante sulle strategie che accompagnano la scelta del cloud.

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  3. I Am OnDemand Sunday, May 6, 2012

    Mark – Thanks ! great piece (as always). AS you mentioned these requirements are not the only factors for getting yourself the right Cloud Management solution – one important point that I would have add is the > SLA auditing and measurement.

    Cloud adoption must come with clear understanding on how the new environment will be managed. As you mentioned, CIOs that see cloud as an evolution use their traditional IT tools and expertise to control their new bulk of endless virtual resources. Eventually they find themselves lost when the “surprising” high cost alerts (the new monitoring ?! :) ).

    Ofir.
    @iamondemand
    http://www.newvem.com

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  4. Alex Jauch Sunday, May 6, 2012

    Excellent article, thanks!

    Totally agree that a technical approach to Private Cloud is too limited to drive successful cloud deployments.

    This is one reason why I wrote “Why we Fail” which is focused on the business model changes you need to make when deploying private cloud: http://amzn.to/alexjauch

    Alex
    @ajauch

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  5. Don Turnblade, MBA, MS, CISSP Sunday, May 6, 2012

    Also, the legal controls such as forensic images of a cloud incident by unrelated parties that just happens to capture your data in the image. Do those lawyers even know your data needs special compliance treatments?

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  6. Mayuresh Jehurkar Monday, May 7, 2012

    Great Article! Thanks for the insights!
    With innovative platforms, like ComputeNext(www.computenext.com), coming up it definitely makes life easier for a comparative analysis for collaborative decision making by the management and technical teams for purchasing “right resources @ right price”.
    Auditing, Billing, Resource management, Tracking probably covers all.
    However, interesting thing to watch would be how the industry behaves to this new wave .. coz this wave is taking it up in the “Cloud”

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  7. Good article. However, I felt most of the points used in the article were technical arguments/points used to support a management vision: that cloud is not a tactical solution, it’s part of the corporate strategy. In that sense, probably points like cost, elasticity of service and other management pros/const would have been more appropriate.
    In the current format, it does feel like the article is addressing to a converted technical audience.

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    1. I Am OnDemand Monday, May 7, 2012

      Mike – Good point, though I find it valuable as well to explain what actions and considerations should be taken in order to support support strategic plans.

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      1. Steve Hammond Monday, May 14, 2012

        I have to agree with Mike. The issue of governance even in the cloud shouldn’t be ignored by CIO. The difference of cloud infrastructure to traditional infrastructure for upper management is being able to manage real-time operating costs more closely. But let the butcher trim the fat if you want lean meat… choosing which platform, API, security, and overall implementation will most likely be handled by the people who manage such now (as they can estimate the friction involved more closely)

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  8. Reblogged this on DanielSteeves and commented:
    The title says it all: give this one a read!

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  9. David A. Smith Monday, May 7, 2012

    Very good article!

    It highlights that companies need to incorporate a suite of cloud solutions to remain competitive. He states, “The CIO needs to consider a ground up redo of the organization, how it delivers IT services and how it integrates with the business at the function and end-user customer level.”

    He also emphasizes the need for continuous service improvement with his comments, “In modern IT you should be able to test, fail, test, fail, test, and implement in less time and for less money than one effort in the past. In light of the improved application adoption options, a change in how you review and approve ideas is also important. In other words, why send a project to the executive team for review, when you could run a proof of concept in a matter of days or hours and actually demonstrate the value almost immediately at little or no cost.”

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    1. Dave..Good comments…. As a 45 year veteran of IT in the trenches,experiencing several “evolutions” of technology, I would be skeptical of any “proof of concept in a matter of days or hours that actually demonstrates the value almost immediately at little or no cost.” My experience with “Proof of concept” has been pretty good when used to test validity for the technical aspects, but falls short when attempting to extrapolate the validity relationship to the anticipated new business system! To assure a minimum of problems, delays, and restarts, Be sure that the system analysts, system analysts, and programmer team leaders employees are current employees who have been with your firm a minimum of two years (preferably three to five years). Put extra effort and time into developing the system specifications (emphasizing in detail the new system processes with sign offs with all affected people).
      Do not authorize ANY programming until the new business system has been reviewed and approved by all affected parties. Extra time applied during the design phase pays off handsomely during the programming and testing phase! You MIGHT bring up a system without doing these things, but I can assure you, the system will be not be on schedule, will be plagued by “bugs” and false starts, and will be over budget even with a topnotch technical staff. System excellence begins and ends with the system design!

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  10. Michael Hoffman, Inc Monday, May 7, 2012

    I appreciate the candor of your blog. Many of the cloud salesmen I see blogging these days are pushing the spiked kool-aid on executives rather than addressing an actual problem. As you mentioned, the considerations you noted are not all-encompassing, but I was surprised not to see the implications of taxes for moving to the cloud. What are your thoughts on this topic? From what I have read, there are state to state implications that may impact the move towards cloud. SLA is the other obvious consideration that I feel needs to be looked at it with a pessimistic eye. There have been many failures to date, the American Eagle commerce site being the most visible for me. Any failures of this magnitude can make or break a CIO’s career or put you at significant risk of legal action. I wholeheartedly agree that a move towards cloud as an IT strategy rather than a technology requires direction from the top down. It is just going to take time to adopt. I look at cloud much like I looked at SOA. Eight years ago, I had one salesman after another coming to my executives telling them how they had to redo all their systems to be service based. It took time, patterns evolved, products matured and now SOA has become the norm rather than the exception in product development.

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    1. Hi Michael, thanks for the comments, much appreciated. As you mentioned, I didn’t attempt to cover every concern. Legal & taxation risks are two serious areas of opportunity and concern. Generically, if you’re using public cloud I think taxation issues are minimal. However, legal issues around data location, recover-ability, HIPAA, & other regulatory concerns is real. Happy to chat more if interested.

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      1. Chandrashekhar Tanwani Friday, May 11, 2012

        Thanks for thought provoking article. If we look back to the SOA and EA evolution, though these were Technology related concepts, these impacted the business and operation model of whole Enterprise, and so required the attention of Business Folks and CxOs as well. But with ‘Cloud’ that is not the case. It does affect the operations of IT department alone and not the whole Organization. The change can be transparent to Business or End customers without major ‘change management’ issues. Though ‘Cloud’ imlementation raises some legal and security issues but that means the CIOs need to learn these aspects also and some new policy measures need to be defined but it still can remain ‘IT only’ initiative with economic benfits passed to the business.

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