How to Develop a Cloud Decision Framework

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Thursday, November 7, 2019

A clear strategy is vital to the success of any cloud migration. Here's what you need to do to develop a cloud decision framework to make this easier.

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Migrating to the cloud is one of the most important and consequential decisions any IT director can make for their firm. However, doing so will be a highly complex process, especially for larger enterprises.

These organizations may have a huge number of systems that could potentially be moved to the cloud. But understanding which to prioritize, which can be left until the company's cloud environment is more mature, and which should remain on premises can be a difficult task, and if you get this wrong, it could cost your company significant wasted time and effort.

Indeed, some estimates suggest as many as a third of cloud migrations are considered failures. So how should you go about ensuring this doesn't happen to you? The best solution is to develop a cloud decision framework that can be applied to every application that could potentially be moved to the cloud.

Without such a system in place, businesses won’t be able to consistently apply vital criteria to their cloud migrations to ensure any moves are aligned with their business objectives and are able to offer improved efficiency and a strong return on investment.

"Organizations that do not have a high-level cloud strategy driven by their business strategy will significantly increase their risk of failure and wasted investment." David Cearley, vice president and Gartner Fellow.

What is a cloud decision framework?

A cloud decision framework should lay out a series of questions and guidelines that can be used to assess:

  • The benefits of moving an application to the cloud
  • The risks of migration
  • The impact it will have on the wider business

This needs to include determining what technology will be best-suited to the application and which vendor will be most appropriate. It should also identify key phases of the deployment process and what the firm needs to do at each stage to keep the migration on track - from initial small-scale testing to how to put in place an effective training program for uses throughout the company.

Having such a solution in place can also help you tackle some of the most common myths associated with cloud computing, which might otherwise hinder development of your environment. For example, some executives may be wary of the cloud as they believe cloud is inherently less secure than on-premises alternatives. Alternatively, they may have gone the other way and bought into the idea that the cloud should be used for everything, regardless of potential issues.

A cloud decision framework can address any concerns executives have, or temper any rush to the cloud, by delivering a clear roadmap that sets out exactly what needs to be done to ensure the success of any migration. It will therefore be a hugely useful asset for IT executives when trying to get buy-in from senior personnel in the rest of the business.

Phase 1: planning and evaluation

The choices made here will set the course for the entire process, so it's vital that a cloud decision framework comprehensively covers all the questions and issues that may arise before any contracts are signed.

The first step will be to determine whether or not the cloud is best fit for the application in question. This may seem obvious, but in cloud-first - and increasingly cloud-only - environments, it can be easy for firms to push ahead with migrations under the assumption cloud services will deliver improvements, without actually putting in the time and research to prove this.

A cloud decision framework should put the brakes on any hasty moves, asking several key questions. For instance, what will the workload volumes of the application look like? Operations that have predictable, consistent workloads throughout the year may benefit less from cloud environments than those with high levels of seasonality, which can take advantage of the scalability of the cloud.

Once these questions have been answered satisfactorily, businesses should start evaluating potential vendors and technologies.

  • Should you opt for a public cloud environment or consider private or hybrid deployments?
  • What level of management or customizations will be required?
  • How will you ensure you can easily integrate the cloud service with other systems?

These are all key questions that must be answered in full before you move toward the actual procurement of cloud services.

Phase 2: selecting the right solution

Once you’ve determined that cloud is the right solution for your application and identified the best approach for moving it to the cloud, you can focus on the migration itself. The first step here needs to be looking at vendors and what they have to offer.

A key factor at this stage is to avoid vendor lock-in. You need to understand the terms offered by potential partners, including

  • How they hold and manage your data
  • What format it is in
  • How you can retrieve it should you opt to end your relationship

Fail to do this now and you could find yourself stuck with unfavorable solutions further down the line.

Negotiating service level agreements is also important. You need to have a clear list of what you expect from your cloud service provider and what both your and their responsibilities are, as well as what restitution will be available should the service fail to meet expectations.

Phase 3: Validation and management

Once you're satisfied with your chosen solution, you need to make plans early to ensure you're getting the most out of it. This means having a clear understanding of how effectively the service is fulfilling your requirements.

This needs to be determined before you initiate a migration, so you can make any adjustments or refinements to your plan as you go along, rather than being forced to undergo major realignments later if your initial plan isn’t working as expected.

Identifying key performance indicators for each application will help demonstrate to stakeholders where cloud deployments are succeeding and where improvements are needed. This isn’t only valuable in making a case for the individual solution in question, but can also be fed back into your decision framework to improve your planning for future applications.

Any effective migration needs to be undertaken in phases, so lessons learned from initial processes will play a key role in the evolution of your cloud decision framework. For instance, factors including how scalable the solution turns out to be, information on efficiency improvements, and costs per user will all be highly useful data in planning future cloud deployments.

Therefore, these strategies should be constantly updated and refined as you build your knowledge of the cloud market and your firm's specific requirements. The result should be a clear cloud decision framework that can be used to assess every stage of the procurement process, identify the services that are the best fit for the organization, and evaluate any risks and challenges that will be faced.

In an increasingly cloud-first environment, such a strategy can be the difference between a system that keeps the business up-to-date and a less organized approach that ends up costing the business time and money.

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