The value of cloud?

For this blog post I thought I’d go back to basics, keep out of the tech and ask the age old question of “Why are we going to cloud?”

Overcoming the resistance from various people within he business can, on occasion be just as, if not more difficult than the technical challenges you will face. There are several reasons for this; people are people and often resistant to change and are concerned about things they have little or no control or knowledge of, people are concerned about their jobs and job preservation “my job will disappear” are all common complaints I hear often.

IT has changed many times over the years, different types of jobs have emerged and roles have changed but ultimately the people who have embraced the change and moved forward with the times are still here and happily (most of the time) working in IT. 

There will be of course be technical and operational challenges in moving towards a cloud environment but if you embrace these challenges, learn to adapt how you do things and challenge yourself to learn new ways of working there are great benefits to see. 

So, what are the benefits of turning to a public cloud solution? The benefits you will see and your millage with them will largely come down to your uptake or cloud services (are you just running a couple of VMs up there for test/dev environments for example). In essence I believe many of these benefits come down to two main things – efficiently and flexibility. Efficiency in cost and time and flexibility in being able to easily adapt to the changes of the business and people.

Better use of resource – One of the great features of cloud computing is the ability to increase compute power, storage or networking capabilities for example on demand, when you need it. No longer are you buying and building servers with huge amounts of wasted resource “just in case” or planning for 5 years’ time. No one wanted to be that person who under spec’ed a server and having to go back for more. Cloud allows you to build it small and when you need it add more resource or even better build the environment ‘elastic’ let it scale up automatically and out when needed and spin back down when it’s not in use.

Agility – A great IT buzz word at the moment is ‘being agile (small a)’, but it’s true. The cloud allows you to build, consume and destroy on demand. As with the point above you no longer need to sit there buying, racking and configuring hardware for new projects when they come along. We’ve all been there, a new project kicks off next week and no hardware has yet been ordered. The beauty of the cloud is that you can provision and deliver the necessary compute, storage and networking capabilities. I’ve been involved in many projects where using the cloud has saved weeks and even months off large scale and highly complex projects.

Enabling new business models – Having an efficient and flexible way of delivering IT to the business opens up opportunities to do things in a new way. The age old “we’re doing it that way because that’s the way we have always done it” becomes even less relevant. “Learn fast and fail”, try new approaches and if they don’t work try something else.

Less operational issues – So not everyone will agree with me here, it’s true that there will be technical and operational challenges to overcome in moving towards a cloud based environment but there are also gains to be had and having less operational issues once the platform is in place. This can be achieved from less manual and human tasks being completed and instead use repeatable, code driven deployments and configuration. You will have less physical infrastructure and servers to manage, you will instead use more PasS (Platform as a Service) offerings for example meaning less patching and maintenance as the cloud provider will take care of all of that for you. Even if you’re not able to take advantage of PaaS and use virtual machines building HA (High Availability) into your service can be done incredibly quickly and easily. No longer do you have to configure complex network and load-balancing across multiple data centres to achieve a simple HA solution. So yes, there will be technical challenges especially at first but there are fantastic gains to be made in preventing issues. 

Less capital expense – OK so the elephant in the room, cost. I haven’t named this one ‘Cost’ or ‘It will be cheaper’ as the truth is cloud based environments aren’t always cheaper, especially at first. Initially you may have to run the on-premises datacentre and the cloud environment side-by-side until you have migrated your services and servers to the cloud (using one of the 5 R’s – rehost, refactor, revise, rebuild or replace). And even if you do move to the cloud unless you have planned and moved to a more cloud centric approach to IT (taking advantage of PaaS services or elastic and rightsizing VMs) you will often find the cloud to be more expensive. 

There will be less capital expense, this is something I have seen many businesses struggle to understand. For many years/decades IT departments have had big, capital budgets because of the lack of agility and having to plan for resources years in advance (we’ve all been there having to buy huge SAN devices with many TB of space we won’t use for years to come) but the cloud allows us to change this and pay through an operating expense, paying for what we’re consuming right now. 

We can also take advantage of features such as power management – turn it on and pay when you need it and turn it off and pay nothing when you don’t. Can you imagine doing this in traditional IT? Would you want to be the person staying until 8pm to power the servers off and back in at 6am to turn them back on again? Let the platform do if for you, automatically. 

Done right and with a little planning and rearchitecting your services to be more cloud centric can result in a much cheaper IT environment for the business.

So is there value in the cloud?

Your new cloud environment shouldn’t just be seen as a new datacentre or an extension to an existing one, it should be seen as an opportunity to challenge the way things have been done, build new, efficient business models, bring more agility into the environment and make much better use of the resources you consume. Once you have done this you will have a far more efficient and flexible IT environment for your business use.

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