Storage Informer
Storage Informer

Ask not what you can do for your Cloud, but what your Cloud can do for you!

by on Jul.19, 2010, under Storage

Ask not what you can do for your Cloud, but what your Cloud can do for you!

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Building out of the physical Cloud infrastructure is a big diversion from doing what is needed, from the CIO perspective, with the Cloud (assuming its prescence) to generate revenue. The key focus of all that IT infrastructure in organizations is to support the business strategy, its delivery and implementation, and ultimately to create and sustain stakeholder value.

To do that, you need what you always needed – innovative applications. Applications are still where it’s at! This requires a modified Cloud agenda for the CIO – a value-driven agenda for Cloud adoption, not for the sake of the technology, but in pursuit of ‘what your Cloud can do for you!’.

When near-parity has been reached in the Cloud Infrastructure race, when the dust has settled for the haves and have nots, when the nirvana of a Google/Microsoft/Yahoo/Cloud Provider X has been attained – then what next? Well business-as-usual in the sense that generation of innovative products and demand are still the order of the day.

The Cloud infrastructure makes it easier to facilitate this, but in the same way a server is simply a server without any applications to give it life, the Cloud is just infrastructure and processes until applications are delivered that are Cloud-scaled. Through that scale comes tangible innovations overcoming current restrictions driving the application developers of today.

Private Clouds are the first major step for organizations to achieve to understand how this affects their business. However Private Applications is where the big returns start to appear. When applications are hosted within a Private Cloud they are by definition ‘Private’ – only the company understands what makes it tick, its needs and how it generates value.

The trick to harnessing the Public Clouds is to keep those applications private, but be able to leverage the greater scale of the Public Cloud infrastructure – that’s Cloud-scaled applications (applications that say ran on 10 nodes today, being effectively run on thousands of nodes of contracted capacity in future).

Bearing this in mind, the CIO agenda should be somewhat different than simply ‘build a Cloud, and they will come!’. It requires an active mindset in understanding the abilities of the Cloud infrastructure, what it is targeted to solve in the traditional IT Services stack, and how to realize those benefits (that is still evolving).

The Cloud Technology Adoption Path for Cxx would:

a.      Understand of Cloud Technologies – the business drivers

 

b.      Hunt value in the organization from the adoption of Cloud Technologies

  1. Map out suitable use-case scenarios and their value-add in the organization
  2. Examine the full spectrum of virtualization technologies available (network/storage/IO/server/desktop/application/application instance containers/file systems) 

c.       Roadmap with trusted strategic advisor(s) on how to drive deep value into the IT Service Value Chain

1.       Think big, but start in small steps!

2.       Set a target that maintains a vision – it should be deliberately difficult (not impossible) to attain

 

d.       Keep an eye out on Cloud consumption model progression as the industry as a whole drives innovation through Cloud usage into Business strategy

 

e.      Can use well established models such as ITIL to determine the 4Ps of Service Strategy:

 

f.        Use ‘IT Guerilla’ tactics – build out a parallel environment so as to not disrupt BAU – not a test environment but a real production grade where the service elements can be mapped to and verified for correct functioning. This can be bought as a complete working infrastructure in the form of the VBlock.

 

 

That second point is really critical – actively looking for value using Cloud technologies.  Small working teams can interview potential candidates and build use-cases. This prepares the ground work for informally connecting the Cxx agenda for Cloud with the key stakeholders in the organization. The idea is to start small, perhaps even a parallel environment that new services can be put on first (using a Virtualization First policy – virtual machine first and as a last resort separate physical servers).

The most common use case is probably physical server consolidation and save energy, cost etc. Certainly correct to target, but this mass migration from physical to virtual servers (P2V) is not a light undertaking. Usually it stalls or is slowed down through lack of stakeholder engagement or just plain distrust in something that is new. The Virtualization First policy step will allow trust to be gained, and then to garner further support for the P2V undertaking.

The other big area to get buy-in is the application development ecosystem in your organization (internal, outsourced, or 3rd party developers). It is really important to get them thinking with their unique application mindset, how they can leverage virtual infrastructures APIs prevalent in the Cloud, and how they can provide ultra-fast services when there are no further constraints in infrastructure present.

Why be limited to say 4/8/16/32 threads for an application? Why not 10,000  or a million threads? How will that provide a better service when using that application? Is there the opportunity of cost avoidance by not having to segment many physical/virtual machines together to get the thread count that one requires? Can licenses be spared?

The same again for big tier 1 applications – they can all be virtualized these days! Why have only say 4000 concurrent connections to the ERP system, why not unlimited? Why not able to scale up and down? What about the database? Why do I need a single database server with 64 processors? How can I scale the database across hundreds/thousands of virtual/physical machines? How will the applications be able to scale to use such database capacity? Even messaging systems such as Microsoft Exchange should get the same treatment? Why have only 5,000 users across a single machine? What is preventing me to consolidate further – why not 100,000 users in a Cloud environment on a single Cloud computer?

The last focused questions are regarding choice. Don’t take anything for granted. Do I need a standard Oracle/SQL Server etc? Are there Cloud-scaled alternatives that I can use? Are they more cost effective? What value do I derive for my business through the use of the selected platforms? Do I even need a Microsoft Exchange or IBM/Lotus Notes as the messaging/collaboration system? Is there a choice there? Do I even need an operating system on the desktop anymore? Challenge even the security perceptions. Are the Cloud offerings more/less safe? Why? Can I de-risk this through a Private Cloud approach initially?

Everything is up in the air with Cloud Infrastructure. Be as radical as you like. Be brave – reach for the previously unattainable goals logic says you should ask for, but your own IT organisation or conventional wisdom said was impossible. Cloud Infrastructures are the key driver for CIOs to rethink the IT value chain and the role IT has in delivering value to the business as a whole. The way that applications are to be created for the future to support your business strategy aspirations needs to be actively sought out in your organizations.

Don’t let the Cloud push you around; push the Cloud envelope. Ask what the Cloud can do for you! The key to value is how the applications will take advantage of the massive scale of economies available. What new innovative applications are just waiting to be created!

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