New technologies almost always pose a challenge for the CIOs who choose to deploy them, but often a big part of the difficulty is simply the learning curve associated with figuring out how to do it right.
The cloud is no exception. Now that cloud technologies are enjoying growing acceptance, it's a pretty safe bet that there are plenty of anxious IT executives out there being kept awake at night by the fear of making a key blunder somewhere along the way.
Fortunately, increasing use of the cloud also means there are now numerous others who have “been there and done that,” as the saying goes, and can share the benefit of their experience.
Have you recently launched a cloud project or made plans to do so? Read on, then, for an assortment of tips and best practices from some of those who know the technology best.
1. Make Sure the Cloud Is Right
In this era of contagious excitement about cloud technologies, it's all too easy to get caught up in the momentum and assume that the cloud will be the right solution for virtually any business or IT problem.
That, however, can be a mistake, according to Margaret Dawson, vice president of product management at Symform and a member of the CloudNOW network.
“One of the things we see in CIOs who are ahead of the curve is that they have established clear criteria for when to go to the cloud,” Dawson explained. “Make sure you've established your own internal criteria for evaluating whether it makes sense to solve a particular business or technology problem using a cloud solution.”
Key factors in making that decision include your resources -- in terms of both budget and IT personnel -- as well as your core competencies, your existing infrastructure, the need for security and compliance and any time constraints, Dawson advised.
“As CIO, your job is to figure out how technology can serve the business,” she said. “Your job has not changed. You need to start with the same questions.”
2. Choose a High-Value Project
That said, a good strategy is to focus more on having an “innovation project” than having a “cloud project,” recommends David Butler, senior vice president of marketing at Eucalyptus.
“Because this is such a transformation, you can't do it 'just because',” Butler explained. “You need to pick an area with high value.”
No cloud project will be wildly successful unless there are a lot of people consuming the services, he added. So, “one of the design points is to make sure there is both business and IT representation in making sure the service will be valuable. Make sure the right VPs believe those are valuable services that they want to consume.”
3. Forge the Right Connections
In fact, “even more than most IT projects, cloud deployments require business engagement,” agreed Red Hat CIO Lee Congdon. “Make sure your business partners are owners and sponsors of your cloud initiatives. Share your strategy for cloud deployments broadly with your business partners and help them create and communicate a vision for the resulting innovation.”
On the flip side, “be very open to business partners that are pursuing cloud solutions independently and engage them with the intent of integrating their projects and requirements into your overall direction,” Congdon added.
Meanwhile, it can also be very helpful to have a strong project manager or liaison, according to JJ DiGeronimo, VMware's global cloud solution director and a member of CloudNOW as well. That person should have good knowledge of internal processes and be empowered for cross-organizational coordination, she explained.
4. 'Standardize, Standardize, Standardize'
For a cloud project to be successful it's essential to ensure that there will be trust and control, and standardization is the best way to make that happen, Eucalyptus's Butler said.
For example, “you need a way to describe the service, how it's contained, what the policies are, how it's governed and how it's billed,” he pointed out. “You want transparency, and there's a need to standardize multiple levels in the stack.”
Similarly, “don't lock your organization into non-standard solutions,” Red Hat's Congdon advised. “Demand that your vendors give you open options and that they comply with emerging industry standards.”
5. Plan for an Open World
Along similar lines, to avoid lock-in and ensure interoperability, CIOs should strive for openness on three levels: the applications, the cloud itself, and the virtualized infrastructure, or the data center, Butler said.
“Take advantage of customization and configuration,” he advised. “That doesn't mean you have to adopt open source, but open source is the leader in speed of innovation. It's easier to get access to valuable pieces, and you can move more quickly.”
6. Cultivate Skills for the Future
Last but not least, it's important to begin as soon as possible building the skills your team will need for effective cloud management in the future.
For instance, “architecture and integration skills will be critical for integration,” VMware's DiGeronimo suggested.
Similarly, “Platform as a Service (PaaS) will be a revolutionary component of cloud computing,” Red Hat's Congdon said. “Make sure you have technical people learning the characteristics of PaaS solutions. Develop and deploy pilot applications on these platforms.”