Anticipating and capitalizing on the ripple effects of cloud adoption
Fri 15 Apr 2016
Ripple effect: a spreading, pervasive, and usually unintentional effect or influence (Merriam-Webster)
When it comes to cloud, ripple effects can be positive, negative or neutral. But they are often surprising, unexpected, and unaccounted for. And surprise is generally an undesirable element in today’s risk-averse IT environment.
But you’re paid to prepare—and you can put these ripple effects to your advantage, making sure your organization’s many and diverse investments in cloud are successful. With a little insight, you can anticipate quite a lot, not just the worse but the better as well. You can’t predict everything, but you can be far more prepared than you might think.
Confusion has been the rule more than the exception with cloud, but it need not be this way. Recognizing the most likely ripples, you can ensure cloud adoption is handled smoothly and successfully.
Let’s start with a few unambiguously positive ripples.
For one, it’s not uncommon for organizations to adopt cloud solutions, quickly stand up new systems, and then discover that a simple investment has laid the groundwork for ongoing innovation.
One public-sector customer of Dell’s deployed a finance application in a private cloud in an effort to substitute an operational expense for a capital one. It was initially an isolated investment, but the organization quickly discovered it could spin up and deploy other workloads in this manner. The private, on-premises cloud plan soon evolved into a hybrid of private and public cloud services.
Or consider the case of an independent software vendor (ISV) that adopted a public cloud solution as a means of on-boarding new customers. It soon discovered opportunities for scale and agility that it hadn’t considered previously. Now, it has a much broader pipeline of online opportunities, including new offers it can bring to market and new growth opportunities it can seize.
These kinds of cloud ripple effects demonstrate that early investments designed around cost reduction can reveal new ways to drive revenue and operate at an accelerated pace. Cloud, it turns out, is about far more than cost model.
Here are some other ripple effects to consider:
- Infrastructure ripples: Initial ripples can occur in your on-premises infrastructure. You can’t just install a cloud stack on a server. You have to consider orchestration. You need to take into account the impact of virtualization on your abstraction layer. You can experience performance issues when you architect your hardware. In fact, however basic your initial moves into building cloud environments, ultimately the impact of deploying your own cloud cascades all the way down to the metal.
- Integration ripples: Next, you have to consider integration of every new resource into your infrastructure. Otherwise, you just create new silos of cloud capacity and functionality. And these integration ripples take place at every IT layer; even “swivel-chair integration” of applications or data (manual synchronization by users, as with copy-paste) becomes untenable in this new, more agile environment. At present, shadow IT efforts are being exposed to the sunlight as companies confront the ill effects of these proliferating silos and their related costs.
- Delivery ripples: There’s no point in migrating to cloud if users are likely to struggle with availability and connectivity issues that impede their productivity when trying to access cloud-based applications or data. But as usage increases, it’s not uncommon to discover the new platform struggling to deliver the functionality, service reliability, and performance levels that users require because of unexpected bottlenecks revealed by the ease and elasticity of cloud. Ultimately, you must address issues such as application monitoring and lifecycle management as well as connectivity and latency to ensure your users will be productive in their cloud-based workspaces.
- Security ripples: You could say that the brakes on a car let you slow down and come to a stop. But brakes also let you drive faster without added worry. So, too, with a solid security posture for the cloud. You know security is an issue. You know threats and attack vectors must be properly addressed. You know you need to address data protection, encryption, access control while ensuring you’re fully in compliance with corporate, regulatory, and industry demands. But if you are on top of the matter, security also sets you free to move with greater speed and agility.
While this list of factors could put IT leaders on the defensive, the reality of cloud-based ripple effects is that IT is more relevant than ever. Now, good governance is the force standing athwart a world of hackers and attackers. Strong IT governance is the key to ensuring cloud investments deliver maximum returns. Because there is no going back. Commitments to cloud have been made and are only growing in frequency.
When your enterprise invests in cloud, your moves have implications throughout your IT organization. These are the adjacencies you manage and navigate as you embrace cloud-oriented postures. You won’t want to be addressing these ripple effects on your own.
“The simpler path to cloud is revealed when perennial IT concerns about financial and data risk, control and management, and integration are addressed by design within the frameworks and toolsets you employ, allowing you to fully focus on the system you need to transform.”
To ensure you are focused on strategic matters and delegating tactical ones, you will want to draw on the expertise, experience and best practices of partners that are actively engaged in cloud initiatives. You’ll want to learn from the experiences of others, especially other enterprises like yours. That will enable you to anticipate and address the inevitable ripple effects associated with a cloud adoption and transformation. The alternative is to passively react to the unexpected; and that’s not attractive to anyone.
How to move quickly and successfully
To manage these potential ripple effects and reduce risk, you need a simpler path to cloud adoption. This means being able to pursue rewarding transformation projects using frameworks and toolsets that are cost-effective, yet designed for the future state of IT.
In order to be successful, your transformation projects must build upon your current investments and preferred platforms so that reinvention is only applied where it helps and does not harm. In order to seize the cloud-enabled future state of IT without adding cost, the frameworks and toolsets you use must comprehend the implications of the cloud model in terms of:
- demand for instant-on IT capabilities;
- application requirements and functionality;
- preferred workspaces;
- environment sprawl;
- data corruption and inconsistency;
- multiplying ports; and
- porous borders.
The simpler path to cloud is revealed when perennial IT concerns about financial and data risk, control and management, and integration are addressed by design within the frameworks and toolsets you employ, allowing you to fully focus on the system you need to transform.
A simpler path to cloud-based transformation
Most cloud adopters fall into one of three categories:
(1) Haven’t begun anything organized and are primarily concerned about how to manage adoption of all the cloud platforms, SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS;
(2) Have invested in building cloud environments and are primarily concerned about managing the proliferating use of public cloud services;
(3) Have invested in enabling public-cloud use but are primarily concerned about managing the transformation of on-premises systems—not just technologically, but financially as well.
All three groups can benefit greatly from better focus and simpler adoption through the use of guiding frameworks and toolsets that are agnostic as to platform.
Take group (2) as an example. Enterprises at this stage of maturity can attain simpler use of public cloud infrastructure services by concerning themselves with the implications of cloud-service deployment:
- access control
- application mobility
If you are going to take advantage of public cloud services, IT knows it shouldn’t just lower all its objections and simply ask for accounting and reporting. Neither should it try to avoid ripple effects by too severely limiting the number of platforms allowed for use, internal or external. But in order to enable the business, should IT therefore be expected to become expert in all of the above?
The answer is no. Rather, IT should be focused on the increasingly critical methods, tools, and strategies IT can deploy to support and drive the needs and goals of the organization—in other words, be focused on the business of the organization. The perennially hyped story of IT-business alignment finally becomes real with cloud, because of the fluidity of the operational infrastructure enabled by it. With the right partner, you can ensure your IT organization is concentrating on the activities that deliver maximum returns for your enterprise.
IT should have control and choice over its investments. But it also requires guidance, support, and toolsets that facilitate effective decisions and actions. These are the foundations of a simpler, safer, and more straight-forward approach to cloud adoption.
Ripples as waves to catch: The advanced adopter
Beyond the three primary groups of adopters mentioned previously, there’s one more: the advanced adopter. This group is concerned about what to do next, too, but in a different way: how to choose from a myriad of new cloud pursuits that flow out from the solid foundational steps already taken – but without needless expense or waste.
This is when you’ve clearly moved beyond mere anticipation of and response to ripples. It’s about rising to the level of strategist and adviser to an organization seeking new drivers of performance.
While few organizations have yet reached this stage, it’s clear progressive IT leaders will increasingly place themselves in this state in the coming years. They will be challenged to continue pushing the potential of the enterprise. In fact, it’s reasonable to believe they will be seen as the trusted authorities on all new opportunities, not just those based on cloud, on behalf of LOB leaders.
This becomes possible when IT organizations can increasingly delegate IT maintenance activities that deliver no competitive edge while focusing on the strategic and innovative activities that clearly do. Cloud, which welcomes and enables automation of low-value tasks, offers a powerful path to this future state. Building on solid and flexible foundations, the advanced adopter will extend the value of cloud-based investments far beyond what is now envisioned.
If you have reached this state, you’re now in a position to further elevate your leadership role. While the LOBs are in many cases still driving IT to take action, it’s likely that roles will reverse in organizations that become advanced adopters. In these cases, IT organizations will actively survey options and opportunities, providing guidance that enables business units to gain new levels of business value or competitive differentiation.
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