Smart Enterprise Magazine

Volume 6, Number 1, 2012

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IMAGE: SHUTTERSTOCK A 1 1997 video recently surfaced online showing Apple co-founder Steve Jobs des- cribing something that sounds a lot like cloud computing. In the grainy video, Jobs tells a tech crowd about the wonders of publicly available servers that hold applications and services that can be accessed from anywhere. Sound familiar, if a bit basic? Now, less than two decades later, the vision Jobs had — cloud computing — has evolved, changing the way business and IT get done. But not every CIO is jumping on the cloud bandwagon. Many struggle with the questions of whether the cloud is ready for their busi- ness, and whether their business is ready for the cloud. Many CIOs are also concerned about how their data center applications will perform once moved into the cloud. Yet by taking steps now to measure and manage their appli- cations, CIOs can ease the decision of whether to move them to the cloud or keep them in-house. "Going to the cloud is going to be on your own timetable and will vary based on a number of factors," says Joe Fuller, VP and CIO of Dominion Enterprises, a marketing services company in Norfolk, Va. "You have to look objectively at those factors." To gain that objective look, here are seven ways to evaluate your readiness for the cloud: Get end user buy-in. By 2010, Dominion Enterprises, which provides publishing and adver- tising services, went through a series of acquisitions leaving it with 24 different email systems. After attending a cloud conference in May 2010, Fuller's team laid the groundwork for a switch to Google Apps by surveying the company's employees about their email clients. The team discovered that while most employees used Microsoft Outlook, 65 percent of them indicated they were already familiar with Gmail. "That gave us encouragement that a switch to Gmail might work," says Fuller. When employees learned that the com- pany was piloting Gmail, many clamored to join. What started with five people grew to 150 people by the time they had to "cut it off" to keep the process manageable, says Fuller. Fuller's strategy, getting buy-in from both executives and employees, worked. If he had to do it over, Fuller would do even more training and promotion on the employee side in recognition of their important role in the adoption of a new service. "At the same time that you're trying to convince the executives, you have to be convincing the executive assistants that it's well and good," he says. "The chairman won't deal with the problems if it doesn't work, but the chairman's administrative assistant will be fielding emails and calls, so [he or she is] very important." 2 Know which apps you want to bring into the cloud. CIOs might say they want to bring everything into the cloud, but "everything" doesn't hap- pen automatically. First, you must complete a valid risk and reward assessment and create a timeline based upon that work. "Consideration of what type of service and scale you are prepared to put on the cloud is fundamental," says Mike Naden, IT Director of United Utilities, a U.K.-based provider of water and wastewater services. "Front-office contact center applications, dependent on fast, reliable performance, are risky; back-office, non-time-critical systems are less risky. It comes back to the service you expect to provide," Naden says. CIOs can craft a solution that fits their unique needs by doing plenty of legwork and research. "Evaluate hybrid models for cloud computing that can provide [the optimal] combination of operational and capital expenditure," suggests Jocelyn DeGance Graham, Founder and President of CloudNOW, a nonprofit forum. "[You can have] a private cloud that runs at almost 100-percent capacity and deploys additional capacity on public clouds to take care of variable demand, assuming latency to public clouds is within acceptable limits." At Dominion Enterprises, Fuller was aggressive in moving to the cloud rapidly, yet he says his approach would likely have been different if he had targeted different apps for the cloud. "If you have a collabora- tion system that's awesome and that's paid for, it might not be time to change," he says. "You might want to wait two years until the next upgrade period [to] make a decision." 3 Think SLAs. While Service Level Agreements (SLAs) can comprise a large part of a CIO's cost structure in the cloud, most CIOs lack experience with them. As a result, they may make mistakes when starting out. "They're probably going to end up buying a higher service level than they need," says Michael Sydor, Engineering Services Architect at CA Technologies and the author of APM Best Practices, a guide that helps CIOs learn more about Application Performance Management (APM). IT departments are good at measuring server performance such as a problem at the server level, for instance. But there's a lag between the problem experienced by end users and the generation of an alert. "Their monitoring says the system is fine," Sydor explains, "yet the call center is going crazy, because they don't have visibility into the customer experience." Using APM, CIOs can audit their appli- cations to learn about capabilities and problems and anticipate potential bottle- necks that limit scalability and hurt SLAs. Once CIOs can do this, Sydor says, they are able to talk with a cloud service provider about the actual service levels that are needed. They also get a better sense of end user application performance. "[You] want to share the visibility that's normally restricted to the IT operational team, add in the front end [user experi- ence] and business perspective and get more stakeholders involved, because the complexity of today's IT systems requires a broad perspective," Sydor says. "You need to have a business view in counterpoint with the operational view, and at each stage of the application lifecycle. You shouldn't have to wait until your cloud deployment [is already underway] to find out that your SLAs are not realistic." 4 Measure, manage, and measure again. "The more you're able to measure things, the better you are able to manage them," says Mark Lukian- chuk, Product Manager of the CA Cloud 360 solution at CA Technologies. For many CIOs, that will mean measuring something new for them: application performance. "When you move out to a cloud environment, avail- ability of an application is still a concern, but so is performance," Lukianchuk says. Sean Hackett, Managing Director of Cloud Computing Services at research firm TheInfoPro, part of The 451 Group, often hears from businesses that lack the policies and processes they need to understand an IT project's impact on the organization. Hackett recommends stabilizing current, noncloud systems first, mastering the tools that make an internal system a pri- vate cloud, and then looking toward a 2012 • SMART ENTERPRISE 19

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