Author: Judy Batenburg – VP of Infrastructure, Starz Entertainment
Let’s put it in the cloud! It’s cheaper! It’s faster! Everything is AWESOME in the cloud! The cry of business everywhere. If you are in IT Infrastructure & Operations, no doubt you are somewhat tired of being told that the cloud is the answer to everything.
I’ve spent most of my career in IT Infrastructure. Over the last few years, the stampede towards the cloud has become deafening. Although the cloud absolutely CAN be cheaper and faster and great, like all hyped technologies, you must approach with caution. The cloud must have a place in today’s business infrastructure – what that place is needs to be carefully and thoughtfully designed. Some services SHOULD be sourced in the cloud, and depending on the size of your company, some might be better sourced internally. There is no hard and fast rule to decide which – rather, you need to understand your business, and tailor your services towards those requirements. We must move towards a service broker role, and use all available sources to meet our company’s goals.
Here is the key, you must focus on developing a cloud sourcing strategy that helps make the right sourcing decisions for each case. It’s not, and shouldn’t be, a one-sized fits all strategy, but rather a guideline for discussion. Here are a few things to consider. Each company has their own weighted decision criteria to explore and understand. Some things to think about, and in each case, there is no right or wrong answer – just your answer.
1) Is this a core capability? Systems/services that are not core capabilities are obvious candidates for the cloud. Services that take resources to maintain, but don’t move the business forward should be given to an outside provider.
On the other hand, services that are critical to your business workflow might also be put in the cloud, but the full implications should be considered very, very carefully. Are you ready to commit the success or failure to your business to another entity?
2) What are the performance characteristics with respect to compute, storage and data egress/ingress? Depending on your environment and needs, this might make or break your business case. For example, in the media world, we deal with smaller numbers of very large files. A few years ago, we were faced with a full refresh of 2 PB of storage. We did some very simple calculations, and quickly realized that, due to ingress/egress costs, our ROI on a capital purchase was 18 months. Given that we expect the storage to last 5 years or so, this was a no brainer to source in house.
3) How agile does the service have to be? How quickly do you need to scale up/down services to meet the business requirements? How bursty is the service? The more agility, scalability and burstiness required, the more likely a candidate it is for the cloud. Consider if you can meet the business needs for agility in all areas as you make your decision to host in the cloud or internally.
4) What geographic requirements does the service have? In general, the larger the geographic reach of the service, the more likely a cloud based service makes sense. If you are in the SMB space, providing a geographically distributed high performance environment is prohibitively expensive without using the cloud.
5) Does the architecture lend itself to cloud distribution? What are the integration points with internal systems? In general, the more touch points the service has with internal systems, the less likely it is to be a candidate for the cloud. If you find yourself punching multiple holes in your corporate perimeter to host your system in cloud, you may want to rethink your approach.
6) What is the cost for the cloud service? The cloud is not necessarily cheaper. Amazon has some great graphs on their website to show just how amazingly cheaper they are. Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet. Yes, it might be cheaper. But it may be a whole lot more expensive. It does tend to shift CapExto OpEx, of course. Use their cost calculators, and make sure to include ALL aspects of cost: headcount, capital, expense, compute costs, overage costs, bandwidth, data center and opportunity cost. If you don’t have a great governance model, you may be in for a shock on your first bill. Using the cloud effectively and efficiently requires process and discipline.
7) What is the level of security required? Depending on the size of your company, this could cut either way. The cloud may be more….or less…secure than you can provide yourself.
Is cloud right for me? The answer is ….maybe. The cloud should be part of every IT I&O strategy, or you are missing the boat. But it shouldn’t be the only answer. Only by looking at each of the key characteristics for service, and weighing the pros and cons, can you truly make the best decision for your business.