The Toronto Cloud Business Coalition – a group of more than 40 Canadian experts drawn from the IT management, cloud services provider, channel, academic, VC/corporate finance and consulting communities – has published a new document examining best practice in the deployment of hybrid cloud technologies. The document includes input from a working group led by six TCBC members: Roy Hart (Seneca College), Jeff Cohen (KFC and Pizza Hut Canada), Tracey Hutchinson (Cisco Canada), Joel Steacy (VMware Canada), Craig McLellan (ThinkOn), Norman Sung (technologist at large), and Marcus Cziesla (Red Hat).
As with all TCBC Best Practices documents, the Delivering Cloud via Public, Private and Hybrid Environments whitepaper is comprised of three primary sections: a discussion of the context defining the topic, analysis of the business objectives that shape the requirement for hybrid cloud delivery, and best practices identified by the TCBC working group investigating the subject.
Key definitional/context issue
In the recently released TCBC best practices whitepaper, Delivering Cloud via Public, Private and Hybrid Environments, ‘cloud’ technology is defined as highly scalable, on-demand IT services that can support new business models. Aimed at shaping a roadmap to the new paradigm where applications and infrastructure function as a business service rather than a collection of IT components, this view of cloud encompasses automation, on-demand self-service for the end user, and metering capabilities that enable better IT cost management for the organization. This roadmap is a complex one, involving the creation of cloud capabilities accessed via multiple delivery modes, including multi-tenant, public cloud services (SaaS or IaaS) or private cloud, including on-premise and hosted deployments, and in the vast majority of cases, a combination of the two – sometimes simultaneously.
Business objectives and best practices
Helping end user organizations better manage the complexity of hybrid cloud implementations is the primary objective of this TCBC research report. But in line with its roadmap statement, the document begins with an outline of the business goals of cloud migration, based on the notion that understanding ‘why’ you want to go there is the first step towards understanding which hybrid mode is most appropriate for the business or specific technology use case. Delivering Hybrid Cloud considers four discrete cloud migration objectives – supporting temporary workloads, meeting on-demand needs, self-service capabilities and scale capabilities – the benefits they offer and how they apply to specific use cases to help align IT and business needs.
The bulk of the whitepaper, however, examines different criteria organizations can use to evaluate the optimal implementation of different cloud modes, and best practices designed to ensure the most effective implementation and management of hybrid environments. Specific topic areas include discussion of the need to match workload requirements with the appropriate cloud technology, to address an organization’s data residency requirements, to reduce management complexity and match user expectations of cloud with IT delivery to mitigate issues with shadow IT, and to ensure interoperability for seamless cloud delivery. Some of the key conclusions drawn in these whitepaper chapters are as follows:
Opting for various cloud deployment models: Outlining decision factors that organizations should consider when choosing cloud modes, the working group focused on existing infrastructure, data requirements, the type of application, scale requirements and the need for financial flexibility, which each entail their own nuance and complexity – and organizational “wild card.” For example, while the value of existing IT investments must be weighed against the relative cost and operational efficiencies of different infrastructures, transition to cloud is likely to represent a path that organizations will follow at their own pace. Similarly, data classification based on competitive or privacy needs is a critical starting point for decision making; however, despite user preference for on-premise cloud for sensitive data, public cloud providers may be better prepared to deliver the necessary security. For its part, SaaS is applied to an increasingly broad array of critical business functions, but should be evaluated with an eye to understanding potential for integration across the organization’s other business apps, processes or services. Scale is widely viewed as a matter of instant resource availability, but financial calculations may argue, as in the case of many larger organizations, the wisdom of building on-premise private cloud resources to serve longer term needs. Preference for different financial structures also play a role – though public cloud services may offer greater cost savings, an organization’s ability to manage operational expense vs. the ability to capitalize expense over time may be the deciding issue in adoption of different cloud modes.
The role of provider location: Misperception around the scope and applicability of Canadian vs. global data privacy requirements have had the effect of hampering public cloud adoption. With expert insight, data classification, advanced control of data location provided by some public cloud service providers, user organizations may find more options for cloud deployment – in global facilities, as well as in expanding Canadian-based facilities.
Developing cloud readiness: Preparing the user organization for transition to cloud entails change management at the people, process and technology levels. Planning for this entails “shift from a traditional Field of Dreams IT mentality which said “build it and they will come,” to an approach that seeks to align IT resource delivery with internal business customer needs.” Achieving this shift depends, in turn, on close collaboration between IT and business management stakeholders and user groups. The biggest challenge lies in transitioning people and process – not technology.
Managing shadow IT: Cloud procurement ease, of SaaS apps in particular, has led many business managers to access resources outside the purview of IT or organizational security and governance policy. While this activity can impact security risk, potentially delay project execution, or ultimately introduce higher cost, it is a practice that continues to grow with LOB’s increasing control over technology budgets – “control over shadow IT is a horse that has left the gate.” However, the TCBC working group argues that it is possible to bring business and IT views together to simultaneously serve the agility and governance needs of the business as a whole, through development of a proper framework comprised of three key strategic components.
Cloud standards and the promotion of data portability/systems interoperability: Potential for the loss of data access and concern over vendor lock have served as primary inhibitors to public cloud service adoption, but another key issue that has emerged as more applications move to the cloud is the increasing need to share data across applications. The orchestration of applications and interoperability at the system level – management of workload migration between clouds – are increasingly critical questions for adopting organizations to consider if they expect to “shop around” for the best cloud option, or to optimize their own cloud deployments to create new business value. In this section of the document, the working group points to key techniques, including use of cloud standards, which can be employed to support interoperability in hybrid scenarios.
Canadian specific challenges: The working group views oft cited adoption obstacles advanced to explain the lag in Canadian cloud adoption as largely chimera: bandwidth cost does not operate as a barrier to cloud deployment or nor does a (shrinking) shortage of Canadian service providers facilities. Instead, the working group focuses on a lack of market education on advanced cloud capabilities and on strategy aimed at align cloud with business requirements.
The goal of the TCBC’s Delivering Hybrid Cloud, whitepaper is to deliver just that – strategy and best practice guidelines that allow organizations to derive maximum benefit from their cloud deployments. A final section in the paper, Metrics and Milestones, offers the means for users to measure their relative success in achieving this goal.
About the whitepaper
The Delivering Cloud via Public, Private and Hybrid Environments whitepaper is available immediately to TCBC members. Non-members can purchase individual copies for $995, or can instead consider joining the coalition as individuals or as corporate members.