Adopting cloud technologies with both feet on the ground


If a Google search is any guide (and it usually is) 2016 is turning out to be ‘the year of the cloud’ (or perhaps the real year of the cloud).  Here’s one prominent example.

While this represents an exciting opportunity for those of us who have focused our career objectives on SaaSIaaSPaaS and DevOps, there’s also the risk of misunderstanding what these technologies mean and how they should be adopted by your organization.

One of the things I’ve noticed is a tendency – among both vendors who’re excited about their products and colleagues who’re excited about new methods – to speak of powerful offerings such as Cortana Data Analytics and other thourougly 21st century creations without first concentrating on the hard work of dissecting current on-premises network, data and computational usage.

This can lead to the equivalent of inventing advanced space flight technologies without first developing airplanes  – of, in other words, trying to run before you’ve even walked.

To offer a concrete example (because I’m all about specifics), I’ve witnessed businesses attempting to adopt the most advanced cloud-based technologies such as Amazon EMR, while skipping other, more mundane, ‘keeping the lights on’ platforms which could also benefit from being hybridized or moved entirely to the cloud.

This has led me to adopt a basic cloud adoption outline:

1.) Have you considered the impact on your network?

This is at the most basic level but is often overlooked. Users and processes that consume cloud services will need robust bandwidth or perhaps even dedicated connections such as Microsoft’s ExpressRoute or Amazon’s DirectConnect to enjoy a consistent experience.

2.) Have you inventoried and analyzed your current data center portfolio to see what can be hybridized or moved completely to the cloud?

If, like most companies, you’re using Active Directory hosted by on-premises servers,  they’re probably aging and in need of upgrading (at both hardware and functional level). Maybe it’s time to consider a cloud supplement such as Azure AD or Amazon’s Directory Service instead of performing yet another data center project.

The same can no doubt be said of your on-premises database investment. The point, of course, is to start with the basics and then work your way to the exotic.

3.) Have you determined the licensing cost of upgrading your on-premises assets when compared to the usage costs of cloud services?

Years of experience and habit have trained us to upgrade hardware and software as needed, after receiving management buy-in (and usually after running against significant performance issues with strained and aging platforms).

But in recent years, there’ve been changes to the licensing model of on-premises systems that may make cloud alternatives more financially attractive at scale.

For example, Microsoft’s per core licensing may significantly increase the costs associated with a bare metal server upgrade for SQL server.  The better your server, the higher your license costs may turn out to be.

Cloud technologies offer organizations an exciting opportunity to, as Amazon says, reinvent the way computing power is used.  To truly make the most of this opportunity however, a lot of homework is necessary.