The Stack Archive

Richard Corbridge: Stratus – Low Clouds:The starting point

Mon 20 Oct 2014

corbridge_headIn the second of a series of episodes following the cloud migration of the National Institute for Health Research’s (NIHR) Clinical Research Network, CIO Richard Corbridge, introduces the group’s decision to adopt a cloud computing strategy, and why they gave in to the ‘hype.’

Do you remember the advert for Game of Life? It went something like this: ‘Decisions, decisions, pay me!’ When an organisation starts down the road for a cloud migration it can feel a little like this quote.

So much has been made of the benefits around economies of scale and general scalability for cloud that one would think that the decision-making for a cloud migration sits with the Finance Director and not the Chief Information Officer sometimes. Whilst it’s clear that in almost all cases cloud computing will save any organisation money, there is a cost in getting there in the first place. Investment in migration is key to releasing the benefits associated to cloud beyond simply the price.

Once on a cloud infrastructure there will be financial benefits, but to get there entails a commitment of funding in the future that needs to be qualified as early as possible, regardless of the applications being bespoke or off the shelf that you want to get on to your new billowing cloud solution.

One of the key parts of planning the migration to cloud needs to be about putting in place those robust service management processes that allow decisions to be made on business need and not the desire to add go-faster stripes.

When you put yourself out there and say ‘We are looking at migrating to a cloud solution’ it will be like announcing that you are now ready to start dating again after a long relationship ends.There will be lots of interest to see what you mean, what you have and how involved you want to get. So many suppliers promising full migration capability, security systems beyond your wildest dreams and scalability for when the business you are in explodes to Facebook sized success.

But in reality what do you want from your new cloud solution? This is a key question.

The ability to ‘go faster’ at the press of a magic button is quite wonderful, but if the magic button costs money to press, how are you going to govern that? One of the key parts of planning the migration to cloud needs to be about putting in place those robust service management processes that allow decisions to be made on business need and not the desire to add go-faster stripes.

Despite the worry about the governance and security of data within cloud, a well-planned migration can indeed add to the security capability of an organisation rather than turning those risk logs amber. But again, as with the need to create governance process for those go-faster stripes, a good implementation of cloud-based security requires an active business decision making process grounded in the release of benefits – which in turn requires the business to understand the art of the possible.

The desire of my organisation is to get to single sign on through the migration to cloud. A great goal to set with a clear benefit at the end, it becomes the role of IT then to ensure that the entire business process for managing the starters and leavers process is robust and in place and that the structures that enable role-based access controls to be applied are available and can be implemented.

Migration to cloud can sometimes feel like a reason to hand off business responsibilities to IT, so if you are making the decision to do it then do move ahead on this with your eyes wide open.

Integrated systems moving to a cloud platform is an area that we also need to consider very carefully. Over the last 3 years we have created a strategic infrastructure that is a series of integrated solutions rather than one system that fits all. Protecting integration through a migration to cloud again needs thorough planning and a detailed understanding of the integration to be made available to the cloud supplier unless the whole infrastructure is going across in one big bang.

So the key lesson we are learning is that the planning side of cloud migration is nothing to do with the economic scale or return on investment but is about the business benefit you are trying to release and the service you are trying to ‘protect’ during the migration. And that, as a CIO, is the area you really need to keep your eye on.

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