Sunil Narayanan, Head of IT Strategy & Architecture, Societe Generale’s Global Solution Centre writes about the nuances of a cloud strategy.
Cloud computing is the delivery of on-demand computing services on a pay-as-you-go basis. It includes a set of technologies and services that insulates the user from underlying complexities of making software work, thereby, allowing you to focus on your business. It allows you to subscribe to a service rather buying or building your own.
It is analogous to subscribing for water from a provider rather than digging your own well. Among the macro trends in IT today, cloud adoption is a journey which a majority of companies have already embarked upon, with others soon to follow – earlier the better. A word of caution though – it is a long journey so the aim should be not just to focus on reaching a target state but to prepare yourself for a well-planned and fruitful journey.
Being part of an organisation that is fairly advanced on this journey, I will share my experiences on this topic in a series of articles. I will begin with this post, covering the basics of a cloud strategy.
It is important to have a cloud strategy – and this strategy should clearly articulate how adopting cloud will deliver long-term value to stakeholders.
Note the three keywords – stakeholders (who benefits from cloud?), value (why is it important to adopt cloud?) and long-term (how and when – the roadmap?).
Let’s start with who our stakeholders are. First and foremost, your business and second, all teams who work to support the business. Keep your business and customers in focus and do not get lost in a purely technical exercise.
Secondly let’s look at the value that cloud adoption provides your stakeholders. In other words, why we are moving to cloud:
- Elasticity of compute and storage – ability to upgrade and downgrade based on changing business needs
- Latest technology infrastructure which provides cutting-edge processing capabilities. Most cloud providers tend to refresh hardware in shorter cycles compared to on-premises data centres while ensuring cost of refresh and cost of obsolescence is not high
- Cloud takes you one step closer to sustainable IT. This is an increasing focus area for responsible organisations
- Cost – cloud pricing is increasingly competitive but more importantly, it allows for flexibility to manage your cost by optimising as per your needs and converting your Cap-Ex to Op-Ex. Note that a direct comparison of infrastructure cost generally tends to be higher on cloud at today’s rates
- Platform capabilities – cloud providers offer ready-to-use services. This helps you focus on delivering business solutions and not worry about ‘reinventing the wheel’ for standard technology services
The third subtle aspect of the strategy is the concept of long-term value. Though we must continuously monitor the cloud journey to ensure value is realised incrementally, we should also ensure not to take a short-term view of cost benefits as this would jeopardise the journey.
It is a good practice to articulate the cloud strategy within your organisation. This should then become the reference for your future governance of the cloud journey.
Key components of building a cloud strategy:
- Establish a core cloud governance body, to help define a strategy and govern the progress based on the defined cloud strategy
- Understanding your context
- Understand the business context of your organisation. What is your business model and growth targets? This should point back to the ‘value’ aspect discussed earlier
- Understand the regulatory context of your organisation. How is the geographic distribution of your organisation? Different countries have different regulatory constraints with respect to data residency and privacy. Financial services industry is generally highly regulated across the world
- Understand your existing technology landscape. This will help you understand the ‘workload’ type and select a target platform. In view of this, a full scan of the applications and workload is usually undertaken
- Reversibility needs – Organisations are worried about getting locked into a platform, making it a challenge to exit and explore any new platforms in future
- Selection of your target model
- Define your target implementation model – Private cloud, public cloud or a Hybrid. For Banking and Financial Services companies, a hybrid model is a safe start, later moving incrementally towards a full public model
- Single or multi-cloud target – You can offer a fully connected multi-cloud environment using more than one public cloud provider
- Define a target service model – PaaS, IaaS or hybrid. Options range from basic compute/storage provisioning to using pre-built platform components such as database-as-a-service
- Preparation of target – ‘landing zone’ and team readiness
- Understand cloud interconnectivity needs and explore options of extending your IT network to cloud in a secure manner
- Security validations – involve information security, legal and compliance teams to validate the target setup.
- Prepare a long-term view of skill availability and development including hiring, upskilling and cross-skilling
- Define a migration approach and roadmap
- Develop an ‘Organisation Change Management’ plan – cloud journey is not just about technology adoption, but it requires coordinated change management and building cloud culture
- Prioritise your workload migration based on type, difficulty and criticality
- Migration options include – re-host, refactor, re-architect, re-build or replace
Cloud journey will most probably be a moving target because cloud services are evolving faster than one would imagine. The cloud strategy has to evolve and adapt too. Annual review of your strategy would be a good practice.
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