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Ten Steps to Successful Cloud Adoption

Adopting Your Very Own Cloud

A Journey of False Starts

This is not the first time you’ve had your heart set on revolutionizing your information systems:

  • One year, you rolled out a big Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) initiative, but it was too brittle and carried high maintenance costs.
  • For a while you experimented with Web Services, but found that while they were easy to work with, they were largely insufficient to meet your broader needs due to a lack of architectural design guidelines.
  • Out-sourcing, in-sourcing, up-sourcing, down-sourcing, and cross-sourcing just seemed to shuffle the work around and tended to result in the blame-game.
  • You’ve bought every pill and tonic you could find (ESBs, network appliances, UDDI registries, load balancers, etc.), each with varying degrees of success.
  • One crazy weekend you deployed a full-scale dynamic rules engine to fully automate decision logic, but this carried hidden costs and fell short of your expectations.
  • Then you stumbled across this witch doctor who could abstract data, memory, processing power, and bandwidth through some wizardy known as ‘virtualization’.  While initially very promising, the startup costs and expertise required were obstacles that you simply could not overcome.

On the verge of losing all hope, you hear that this virtualization thingy might not have to be so expensive after all thanks to Cloud Computing.  Could it be?  Could you actually achieve your dreams of scalability, availability, and reliability, without giving your CFO a heart attack??  Could you actually adopt a Cloud of your very own?

Adopting Your Very Own Cloud

Adoption can be a scary process.  In your fear of doing something wrong, you may be tempted to buy a big, expensive consulting package and just have someone else handle everything.  You don’t need to do that.  Simply find a subject matter expert to serve as a mentor that can guide you through the process of pragmatically evaluating and possibly even adopting Cloud.  Along the way, make sure that this mentor is educating you and your team so that you are able to function effectively once this person has left the building.

Ten Steps to Successful Cloud Adoption

  1. Identify your business drivers — What are you actually trying to accomplish from a business perspective? What are your enterprise initiatives, key objectives, and targets?  Look for growth drivers as well as risk mitigation drivers.
  2. Get educated — What business opportunities does Cloud Computing present?  What are the advantages, disadvantages, and key factors that Cloud brings to the table? What cost models, value models, solution architecture, and infrastructure design changes are required in order to take advantage of Cloud Computing?  What impacts does cloud have at the enterprise, division, and individual project basis?  Throughout the adoption process, your mentor should provide education around Cloud, but at this stage you need focused attention upon the subject.
  3. Articulate a value proposition — How do you see Cloud Computing supporting one or more of the drivers identified in the first step?  There are a variety of reasons that an organization might choose to adopt Cloud (reduce maintenance costs, scale support costs during peak system usage, support after-hours service requests, business continuity, operational risks, reduce capital expenditures, accelerate growth into new markets, improve business agility, and etc.).  Identify and clearly articulate the Cloud value proposition(s) for your enterprise that are applicable given your business drivers.
  4. Define one or more scenarios — With an understanding of the value propositions that you are targeting, it is now time to get specific and define scenarios or use cases for applying Cloud Computing to address one or more of the business drivers previously identified.  These scenarios will serve as candidates for the initial Cloud adoption effort that your team will embark upon later in this process.
  5. Produce a roadmap – Using an “as-is” and “to-be” modeling technique, identify the gaps that exist between the current state of your enterprise and the desired future state for capitalizing upon Cloud.  Next, define a roadmap that shows how to move toward that cloud-enabled future state.  It is critical that this roadmap include objective and measurable milestones for your organization to work toward.
  6. Gain stakeholder buy-in — Throughout the adoption process, you will need to gain buy-in from various groups regarding this initiative.  It is particularly important to do-so after defining the roadmap and prior to actually moving forward with it.  From this point on your team will be drawing upon enterprise resources to establish governance, infrastructure, project personnel, and then deploying real solutions into production.  It is crucial that all impacted parties are on-board and ready to go.
  7. Establish governance — Oh great!  Here we go again!  Why does everyone insist that we need to govern our business initiatives?  The answer is simple - people screw things up. Governance ensures that we are all playing from the same playbook (vocabulary, portfolio, models, architecture, standards, metrics, etc.) and that the enterprise’s target objectives and risk factors are duly consider and investments are protected.  Governance should be lean, focused, and ever-present.
  8. Invest in infrastructure — Depending upon your adoption strategy, this may be very significant (server farm, policy manager and enforcement mechanism, load balancer, ESB, cloud gateway, etc.) if you are going to develop your own internal cloud or relatively simple (content-based routing proxy and possibly a service registry) if you intend to leverage an external cloud vendor.
  9. Cloud pilot — The metaphor of a test pilot has been used consistently used for years to describe initial work done in a new area.  The fact that we’re now piloting through clouds opens up a whole new set of possible puns to play around with.  Setting those aside, the importance of proving out a single, definable test case that can prove out tangible value for your enterprise is essential.  As with other pilot initiatives, it is important that you carefully select from a candidate set of possible projects.  You need something big enough to count, but small enough to be successful. Your cloud mentor should assist in this process.
  10. Enterprise roll-out — Provided that the pilot was successful, it is now time to move foward with the roadmap and look for additional opportunities to apply cloud solutions.  This may involve moving existing solutions to the cloud, consuming cloud services, or delivering brand new capabilities that have never existed.  Continue to expand the use of cloud within the enterprise so long as your solutions adhere to the governance guidelines that have been established, and they are consistent with your overall business drivers for the enterprise.

Cloud computing holds tremendous potential for both small and large organizations.  Adopting your very own cloud solution may seem daunting, but the maturing of service oriented patterns, practices, methodologies, and tools has brought cloud well within reach.  With proper guidance, your organization can evaluate the potential for cloud and pragmatically adopt it without breaking the bank.

More Stories By Kyle Gabhart

Kyle Gabhart is a subject matter expert specializing in strategic planning and tactical delivery of enterprise technology solutions, blending EA, BPM, SOA, Cloud Computing, and other emerging technologies. Kyle currently serves as a director for Web Age Solutions, a premier provider of technology education and mentoring. Since 2001 he has contributed extensively to the IT community as an author, speaker, consultant, and open source contributor.