INFOGRAPHIC: 4 steps to make cloud deliver on its promise

Hint: software's just one of them.

Why should businesses adopt cloud computing? There are many reasons but I want to focus on the killer reason: speed of response. From my experience, internal IT struggles most in this area, which is why users turn to “shadow IT” solutions. These in turn cause major headaches for CIOs the world over, nearly 3 in 4 of whom don’t know how many shadow IT apps are running in their business.

The implication is that internal IT hasn’t responded to users’ need for speed. But why not?

Because we’ve spent the last two decades, seeking to consolidate IT infrastructure into a centralised yet heterogeneous environment. This was in response to perceived inefficiency and difficulty in managing the extensive distribution of IT that then prevailed. Enterprises had discrete IT resources in every department and division, which in turn meant most of those resources were underutilised.

Hence the move to “consolidate” into pools of shared resources. Putting all of IT’s infrastructure in a single place allowed you to aggressively drive down costs as far as possible. Thanks to relatively open and common interoperability standards, this cost-driven “pick and mix” approach led to the heterogeneous IT environment – and the siloing of IT into Network, Compute,  Storage, Systems Management disciplines – which we see in most IT organisation structures today.

This heterogeneity is the primary hurdle to adequately responding to that need for speed. As an organisational model, it’s well past its use-by date.

Most CIOs first attempted to respond by purchasing cloud automation software tools, then trying to layer this over their current infrastructure.

The majority of these attempts fail resoundingly.  The reason is that Cloud is only 20% technology, the other 80% is people and processes.  External Cloud Providers have built radically different processes to deliver their services. Internal IT struggles to emulate these processes, as doing so involves significant change to the current operating model.  Making this change involves rethinking, dismantling and rebuilding just about every current process in internal IT.

So what can CIOs do to get the cloud to deliver on its promise?


#1: Standardise your infrastructure.

One of the biggest promises of the cloud is speed which is delivered through automation of routine processes – but automation requires standardisation. If your infrastructure keeps changing, you can’t automate workloads without risking performance fluctuations. Do away with “choice on every layer” and force your IT team to adopt a single standard for all infrastructure that’s secure, scalable, and reliable. Remember, if it isn’t standardised, you can’t automate it.

#2: Standardise your services.

The standardisation principle also applies to what your end-users receive. Only when IT ruthlessly eliminates unnecessary variance in the services you offer can you start to automate and speed up the provisioning of services.  This requires significant management of expectations and internal “selling” of the value the business can get by limiting the variances to an absolute minimum. If you’re rolling out VDI, see if you can satisfy 95% of users with just three standard images. Don’t get me wrong – this is hard yards – but trying to automate an infinite number of user images will never work.

#3: Dismantle your siloes. This is perhaps the hardest, but most critical point of all. CIOs need to break down the barricades between compute, storage, and network siloes so that a single IT body delivers all services throughout the business. Using Converged Infrastructure helps a lot here. This requires extensive skills development and change management, particularly in helping technical experts relinquish their domain – but the alternative is the dysfunctional and unresponsive IT landscape we’re seeing today.

#4: Add the software layer. Only when business processes and IT operating environments have been streamlined, should the business introduce Cloud Software Tools to automate services. With a standard infrastructure and services catalogue in place, and an organisational model that is responsible for all elements of the service, these tools can be very effective.  Without that, there will be wasted money and time.

Only the CIO can own the agenda to deliver a high quality internal cloud-like experience. CIOs that are not up for the challenge in people and processes will struggle to deliver services comparable to those that are externally available. When that happens, the trend to Shadow IT will accelerate.

Get it right and you can deliver services with speed and agility that are comparable to external Public providers. But at the same time, you’ll have better outcomes in the critical areas of security, data sovereignty, service availability and overall service costs. That’s the best way to get IT out of the shadows.

About the Author: Paul O'Connor