Editor's note: The following is a guest article from Joy Sim, an associate, and Michael Byrne, a senior associate at business transformation and outsourcing advisory services firm Pace Harmon.
Many companies have started to adopt cloud infrastructure while shifting away from on-premise legacy environments. However, simply implementing cloud infrastructure does not guarantee success in reaping the expected benefits of cloud technology.
Unfortunately, many organizations underestimate the legacy-to-cloud cultural shift and the specific IT skill sets required for managing cloud infrastructure environments.
As a result, CIOs may be faced with a misaligned legacy IT team struggling to get up to speed on the new technology, resisting the cloud mindset entirely, or misunderstanding its role in driving a new way of doing business.
Organization-wide business processes must change in order to leverage the accelerated speed that is possible with cloud infrastructure.
While provisioning servers or storage used to take months, it can happen in a matter of hours or even minutes with the cloud. This can increase provisioning speed by a factor of 100, which often catches many ancillary departments — ranging from procurement and finance to operations and HR — off-guard.
These departments are frequently ill-equipped to handle such a rapid change in consuming computing or storage resources, which can be allocated and charged on a minute-by-minute basis.
To realize the potential savings and efficiencies of implementing cloud infrastructure, CIOs must establish the necessary organizational changes to support cloud infrastructure deployments.
This includes defining proper resource skill set requirements at the outset of cloud infrastructure deployments and securing cultural buy-in from finance, procurement and HR executives regarding the accelerated pace made possible with cloud-based delivery.
Get IT operations in order
The first thing that CIOs should address with cloud infrastructure is the expectation for major shifts within the IT department.
There are significant ramifications of rapid and elastic cloud provisioning, so it is critical to establish thorough guidelines for cloud infrastructure adoption, utilization and maintenance.
Companies can begin by redefining operational processes with run books or standard operating procedures (SOPs) specifically for cloud-based environments — this is helpful for all organizations but especially important for companies in regulated industries, as the concept of cloud elasticity, flexibility and on-demand consumption scaling often runs counter to the way business is conducted in these environments.
Next, CIOs need to introduce a more efficient and streamlined process for bringing cloud infrastructure into production.
For example, CIOs should implement security guidelines as part of product rollouts, clearly delineate network access rules for development, test and production environments, and change the method of operational promotion to production so it occurs seamlessly.
There are additional network factors that should be considered. CIOs will benefit from having at least two separate networks for development, test, and production work streams.
This approach reduces overall risk by isolating the production environment from pre-production events. Software-defined networking instantiated in the cloud infrastructure supports the rapid set-up and modification of development and test networks without introducing risk into the secured production network.
It is also critical that the IT security team understands and leads in the establishment, implementation and enforcement of clear security guidelines on how best to configure, monitor, and operate a cloud-based environment.
It is considered a best practice for IT organizations to "productize" IT security in provisioned server instances by instantiating specific security guidelines (developed by the security group) into every production server instance.
Building this step into the process allows for confirmation that all server instances pass the baseline security requirements and enables provisioning to proceed at the cloud-orchestrated speed.
Set finance expectations
Companies often find themselves battling runaway cloud costs without proper financial oversight.
For CIOs to achieve financial success in the adoption of cloud infrastructure, aligning with the finance team is critical. Cloud infrastructure adoption requires a dramatic change in financial billing and budgeting.
Due to the fundamental speed-up of cloud infrastructure provisioning, cloud invoicing runs on a much shorter-term basis with month-to-month billing. As such, finance may need to adjust their budgeting from a yearly or bi-annual basis to a monthly basis (i.e. watching spend on a shorter-term basis).
It can take up to a full calendar year to shift to the chargeback mechanism commonly used for cloud infrastructure.
Companies should start using a "showback" approach for at least one quarter to see how much the company is spending on each cloud-based resource. This will help gauge the company’s nominal run-rate for cloud use and the variability before budgeting for the actual year once chargeback is implemented.
Once the finance team has implemented the chargeback mechanism (following an appropriate showback phase), a process is needed to continuously monitor cloud spending to ensure ongoing alignment with the company’s forecasted cloud usage budget.
The finance group needs to be able to measure and police the cloud footprint more regularly than the standard monthly review. Some companies use third party cloud infrastructure spend optimization solutions such as CloudHealth, Densify, RightScale or Turbonomic.
Consider HR impacts
It is vital for companies to hire the right people with the skill sets needed for running cloud infrastructure. This includes specialized technical IT personnel as well as finance resources with specific knowledge around cloud financial implications.
Companies should also establish a Cloud Center of Excellence (COE). The COE delivers knowledge customized to the enterprise on how to leverage cloud infrastructure as a delivery mechanism.
A COE team provides thorough assessments on which projects are a good fit for cloud delivery methodology, and which are not. A cloud security expert should be included in the COE to help the company transition between legacy and cloud infrastructure environments.
In sun setting the legacy IT infrastructure, existing personnel must be retrained to take advantage of cloud methodology. Retraining helps maintain the often irreplaceable store of legacy information, and it is also common to augment the legacy team with experienced cloud-trained IT personnel.
Overall, companies have the opportunity to realize many cost and operational benefits with cloud infrastructure.
However, a business transformation is required to implement the changes in multi-departmental processes, and financial systems and personnel changes are required to secure the advantages that accelerated server and storage provisioning provides.
When CIOs ensure that timely preparations are made with key stakeholders ahead of cloud infrastructure deployments and manage expectations judiciously, they will secure the groundwork for success.