Cloud Computing promised so much. It was presented as an IT cure-all; the solution to no end of traditional tech challenges. Now the hype has died down, organisations are beginning to wake up to the realities of the model, seeing both its limitations as well as its strengths. The era of the ‘Cloud Hangover’ has begun.
That is not to say, however, that the cloud has been anything but a seismic shift in the IT landscape. The benefits of cloud computing span all facets of an organisation, enabling a shift from capital intensive to operational cost models, greater efficiency and agility, and the potential for reduced complexity.
However, look more closely, and it becomes clear that the journey to the cloud is not always a simple one.
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Interoperability, availability and cloud-related operational expenditure are among the serious concerns IT departments now face as they battle with the Cloud Hangover.
Recent research from Sungard Availability Services found that the hangover is costing European businesses an average of more than £2 billion; with the overwhelming majority of businesses (81 per cent) in the UK, Ireland, France and Sweden having encountered some form of unplanned cloud spending.
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Not only is each organisation within these countries paying an average of £240,000 per year to ensure cloud services run effectively, but they have also spent an additional £320,000 over the last five years thanks to unforeseen costs such as people, internal maintenance and systems integration. And despite being hyped as a way to reduce IT complexity, many early adopters of the cloud (43 per cent) have found that the complexity of their IT estate has in fact increased since their initial cloud investment.
Organisations have rightly been engaged in the hype around cloud computing, but in the rush to join the party, often without considering their own organisation’s reality, many are now realising they have not truly thought about the cloud in the long-term.
Cloud is, of course, here to stay. So with this in mind, how can organisations start to cure their Cloud Hangover?
1. Identify business drivers for moving to the cloud
Why are you really moving to the cloud, what is your organisation hoping to achieve? There is no right or wrong answer, the cloud offers numerous benefits – such as automated software updates, reduced management overheads, reducing capital expenditure or increasing flexibility – but it’s crucial that your business has a specific aim in mind.
2. Nail down Cloud Service Level Agreements (SLAs) from the start
Agreeing on the correct SLA can guarantee availability, security, capacity, performance and upgrades to name just a few benefits. Considering what elements are included in an SLA is essential in ensuring that your cloud deployment can meet those business and IT expectations right from the start. Check with each cloud service provider (CSP) to confirm the elements of the SLA, ensuring that there are no loopholes, and determine how and when the numbers of the SLA are measured.
3. Be sure to consider automation
Being able to automate and streamline key operations within the cloud is a critical element of reducing the unexpected costs – both people and time – that so many organisations are now experiencing. Before deploying the cloud, IT decision makers need to consider which operations should be automated and which may need to remain under manual control.
4. Determine how ready you are for the cloud, including migration
Not all applications can be migrated seamlessly into the cloud, particularly if they have been written for a specific orchestration platform or are vendor specific in some way. Re-writing the app for the cloud will be a time and cash intensive process often requiring outside help – which can also add to these costs.
Of course, on the other hand, migrating to the cloud could also present the opportunity to assess, optimise, and streamline the IT estate.
5. Managing the money
A clearly defined billing model at inception is critical
Again, the right questions need to be asked at the outset. Confirm whether there are any upfront capital expenditures; whether the bill is a set operational expense; or how charging may change in the use of cloud bursting. A clearly defined billing model at inception is also critical; including how costs are calculated and in what increments.
Businesses are complex entities and as a result their infrastructure requirements are complex as well. In short, it’s about picking the right platforms for the right applications – not trying to force square pegs into round holes.
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Organisations need to recognise cloud computing not as a technical achievement, but as a tool to deliver a specific, individual business outcome. There is no doubt that cloud can be as positive as the hype suggests, but it requires a sensible and pragmatic approach to achieve the transformational outcomes that many have seen.