How to Develop a Cloud-First Architecture and Strategy

The cloud has become a vital part of enterprise infrastructure, and for true success, you need a well-planned strategy for cloud adoption. According to analyst Kyle Hilgendorf, projected increases in cloud infrastructure spending are 30.5% versus 2.5% for non-cloud infrastructure.  It’s important that the cloud is considered in all aspects of business planning.

At the 2016 Gartner Catalyst Conference, Mindy Cancila of Gartner spoke of building a cloud-first strategy in business and how to make cloud computing “preferred, promoted and prioritized” in organizations. “A strategy is not something you build once and walk away from,” Cancila said. “It’s a process. It’s a part of your organization, a part of your culture.”

Cancila talked about the importance of not losing best practices from the data center and outlined six specific steps that organizations should take in developing a cloud-first architecture and strategy:

  1. Assess skills and needs.

A Gartner survey found that 45% of organizations see themselves as “somewhat prepared” for a turn to the cloud, Hilgendorf said. To transform and meet cloud-first demands, forward-thinking IT departments are adding new roles like cloud brokers and architects to the IT roster. These new cloud-specific positions require specialized skills that you may not have on staff. To determine what skills and tools you need to acquire and assess your organization’s readiness for the cloud, there are several questions you should be asking:

  • What skills do we have?
  • What skills do we need for successful cloud adoption?
  • What applications and data will we migrate to the cloud?
  1. Select cloud providers and services appropriate for your business.

There are varying layers to the cloud: SaaS, PaaS and IaaS. Each of these layers addresses specific business needs. Consider how each component of your cloud (including individual adaptations) fits into the overall goals for your business. Examining each layer of your required cloud will help you to select the proper platform and infrastructure. Ask:

  • Does the structure we have now work for us?
  • Do we need to change applications?
  • Do we need to change the underlying architecture of the cloud itself?
  1. Determine integrations and develop strategies to mitigate risk.

Most organizations will adopt a hybrid strategy and will need to integrate management, applications, cloud/virtualization and infrastructure. Security is a concern at every level of the infrastructure, whether on-premises or in the cloud. To mitigate risk, policies must be set, and security tools will need to cover your entire organization, no matter where your data resides. Employee education of best practices will also go a long way to mitigating risk.

  1. Calculate a budget and formulate policies for cloud governance.

The cloud, and subscription-based services that are associated with it, utilize a different pricing model than previous modes of infrastructure. In order to estimate the costs of implementation and ongoing monthly expenses, you will need to understand the basic underlying cloud architecture, where you might be liable for increased usage and the cost of support.

It’s also important for the IT team to develop formal policies for cloud governance. Cancila spoke about the need to establish rules that lay out who can do what with what information, and that losing control of that is one of the biggest stumbling blocks organizations come across.

  1. Provision and automate cloud services.

While automation is one of the great benefits provided by the cloud, organizations need to understand the automation process and how this will affect the IT environment before implementation. Make sure that every piece of the structure is working before moving on to the next. “Automating broken processes only breaks things faster,” Cancila said.

  1. Deploy the cloud environment throughout your enterprise.

Once you are ready to deploy the cloud at scale, you will need a plan to actively manage the cloud, monitor consumption and make tweaks as needed.

Developing a cloud-first architecture and strategy is a major undertaking and a big change. At OneNeck, we’re here to make those conversations easier. With our Cloud Readiness Workshop and our Hybrid Cloud Assessments run by our experts, we help IT organizations understand their cloud readiness, define their cloud strategies and move forward in their cloud journey using proven tools and our expertise.

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