If you haven’t yet looked into the potential benefits of cloud computing, now’s the perfect time to do so. Demand for these tools is growing constantly, and one area that's receiving particularly close attention is the cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) sector.
According to figures from Gartner, spending on public cloud solutions as a whole is set to increase by 6.3% worldwide in 2020, reaching $257.9 billion compared with $242.7 billion in 2019. However, investments in IaaS tools are set to be even more popular, climbing by 13.4% year-on-year.
Much of this is down to the impact of the economic downturn, as this has prompted many enterprises to increase their focus on moving away from legacy infrastructure operating models. Meanwhile, its spending model, based around operational rather than capital expenditure, is also more attractive in an uncertain environment.
But greater interest in cloud computing services isn't just a response to challenging times, as there are a wide range of benefits to be enjoyed. So what do you need to know to ensure your IaaS environment is working effectively?
Why adopt an IaaS solution?
The first step will be to fully understand what potential benefits an IaaS implementation can offer you, and also to have a plan in place that allows you to measure its impact and prove a clear return on investment.
Depending on your circumstances, there may be certain benefits of IaaS that are more relevant to you than others. For example, if you're embracing more remote working as a result of the changing circumstances, this technology helps provide a consistent and seamless user experience regardless of where in the world individuals are located.
Elsewhere, those who are still dealing with a highly uncertain business environment can take advantage of the inherent scalability of the cloud. This ensures that they can quickly ramp up their capabilities to respond to changes in demand without having to pay for resources that go unused at other times.
Other benefits of the cloud include improved business agility, access to a wider choice of services, and increased security. But these advantages can only be realized with a thorough, carefully-planned out strategy.
Developing an IaaS strategy
If you start without a clear plan in mind, deployments will take longer and end up more costly, especially if you have to rethink your approach halfway through. Therefore, it pays to take the time to develop a strong strategy before you set out.
This should include ensuring everyone involved in the project is aware of their own responsibilities, engaging stakeholders and senior executives and having clear goals throughout the deployment that can be used to measure your performance and make changes if the process isn’t advancing as expected.
Your choice of cloud provider will be among the most consequential decisions you make, so it's important you take the time to get this right. Look closely at the service level agreement to ensure you're aware of issues like guaranteed uptime, and be sure to ask how they’ll approach areas such as future maintenance and patching of systems, and how easy it’ll be to scale up services as your needs change in the future.
Selecting the right migration approach
Once you've settled on a provider, the next step when it comes to migrating operations from on-premise solutions to IaaS will be determining how much you seek to adjust and update during the process. Gartner identifies three key options for businesses at this stage, which are:
- Cloud-enabled virtual automation
A lift-and-shift is the most straightforward option. This essentially involves picking up an on-premise workload and moving it to the cloud, with as little alternation as possible. This is the fastest and cheapest option, but as operations from the existing data center are deployed into the cloud environment largely unmodified, little use is made of unique cloud-only features, which means much of the potential of an IaaS solution isn’t being utilized.
The other approaches will focus more closely on modifying existing workloads in order to optimize them for the cloud and take advantage of the unique features and benefits of this technology. For instance, automation lets you standardize and sanitize operations to improve resilience and cost-efficiency, while a DevOps tactic will see both IT and business processes transformed using an agile, cloud-native approach.
These options will add time and budget to an IaaS deployment, but the results you see are likely to be much more effective as they’ll ensure your workloads are designed specifically for cloud environments.
Understanding your security situation
Having a clear plan for securing your deployment is a critical part of any successful IaaS strategy. While firms can benefit from the economies of scale cloud providers offer to take advantage of some of the toughest security defenses on the market, often it’s not the underlying cloud technology itself where any weakness can lie, but with how it’s used.
For example, issues like misconfigured cloud services or poor password practices, such as using weak or default login credentials, can be common causes of security issues, and responsibility for these will fall on the user rather than the cloud provider. Therefore, it's important for businesses to establish early exactly what aspects of security their partner will take on and which they will have to focus on themselves.
The UK's National Cyber Security Centre highlights a list of 13 key IaaS security principles that you'll need to be aware of to make this a success. For instance, this covers how you should protect data in transit, how to accurately authenticate users, and how to develop an effective governance framework for your cloud operations.
Addressing these issues as early as possible helps ensure that once you get your deployment underway, you make a smooth migration to a cloud environment without worrying about having to backtrack or make changes to your plans. This will also set you up well to effectively manage your cloud solution on an ongoing basis and create a winning IaaS strategy that can serve you for many years to come.