Moving to the Cloud
When we talk about “Moving to the Cloud” in IT, this can conjure up very different images, especially regarding the complexities and challenges involved. After all, moving to the cloud is supposed to simplify your life, isn’t it?
At its simplest, we can consider “cloud” as a kind of service. It could be Storage as a service, IOT as a service, or Printing as a Service. You pay for what you use. It’s a philosophy that leads you to a transformation – instead of having infrastructure that is yours – you buy or rent the service from someone else.
On one end of the spectrum, there is Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). This might be a decision to use SalesForce, GoogleDocs, SuccessFactors etc. When we think about moving software or a solution to the cloud, this can simplify our lives enormously. Software, licensing, infrastructure, and maintenance are all outsourced, and we “simply” pay a bill for what we use. The common analogy is “Why should I have a cow in my back garden just because I want a bottle of milk every morning?”.
In this case of SaaS, moving to the cloud will certainly involve your procurement, legal, and security departments as much as your business and IT team.
On the other end of the complexity spectrum, there is “Infrastructure as a Service”. Consider a company wanting to move its infrastructure to the Cloud so that someone else is managing. Should they go for Public, Private, or Hybrid?
What is involved with moving to the cloud?
To illustrate some of the challenges, it would be easiest to describe one of my projects. The goal is to fully automate the release of new services that the users will be able to request through a self-service portal. From the portal, the users can select different types of services in a private or public cloud, that includes IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS.
The concept is simple and can be compared to ordering pizza. The user orders an item from a catalogue, choosing the service type and size and eventually the OS flavour with a selection of baseline options such as middleware, application, and database software. The user can also select the level of criticality, and this will change how the machine will be controlled and in which datacenter it will be created. For E.g. low criticality servers can be turned on and off by the owner. However, for critical services, this may require several approvals.
After they’ve chosen their options and the request is approved (the only manual step in the whole process), a set of automated processes orchestrates all the operations to ensure the service is delivered matching the request and fully compliant with the company rules. The technology used is a mix of services from AWS, VMWare Virtual services and Microfocus HCM (Hybrid Cloud Management).
What does a Cloud Solution Architect do?
A Cloud Solution Architect can be your compass to find your way through the decisions involved in a Cloud transformation project. They should have knowledge of industry-leading tools and services (e.g. Terraform, ServiceNow, HCM, GCP, AWS).
An architect will have knowledge of Cloud philosophy and experience with Cloud transformation activities. While they are usually good IT generalists, they normally have a specialization such as infrastructure, storage, and databases as a service.
Even if Cloud can be a better option on paper when looking at resources and costs, there are also risks and side effects that need to be considered and assessed.
What benefits can you expect from working with a Cloud Solution Architect
My first objective is to avoid chaos at the customer! By this, I mean building a framework and solution which manages who can add Cloud objects and manage roles. I want to avoid duplications everywhere.
I want to ensure that the customer has trust in the Cloud solution. If there are too many problems they can’t handle, this will erode trust and risk them dropping the solution.
I work with my customers to ensure they have a lean software set and they aren’t using and paying for components they don’t use.
Lastly, it is important for me that there is a clean cloud design that is not tied to a particular vendor or cloud solution. I want to make sure that the cloud solution does not become too customized by the vendor, which can lock the customer in.
In conclusion, we can say that addressing all the challenges that are behind a Cloud migration requires experience and specialized competencies, knowledge of the industry as well as the ability to clearly identify the business needs and appropriate technologies.