Could someone please tell me how to get to the cloud?

Any discussion around cloud computing gets complicated very quickly. The discussion digresses into defining cloud computing, the various elements and types of clouds.

However, perhaps the most important question, in the context of cloud computing is how does one “get to the cloud?” The following discussion is a generally accepted progression from a traditional IT infrastructure to a cloud computing infrastructure:

This progression should be understood as a means to bring traditionally deployed IT resources out of the silos they have historically been deployed as, into a common homogeneous resource pool. This resource pool is built in such a way that it offers a fine granularity of resources that enable the reuse of compute, storage, and network resources to build standardized services. The delivery of these services is then offered through a self-service portal, which helps automate the process of requesting and using a given service. As the scale at which these services need to be offered increases, one looks at a process called orchestration – the replication and balancing of multiple similar workloads at scale, the complexity and carefully replicated nature of which is done automatically and remains transparent to the user of the service.

The issue with looking at adoption as a continuum of steps like this is that it seems linear, and cautious adopters tend to want to take small steps. In the adoption of a significant paradigm shift, it is necessary to look at larger shifts in thinking within the organization. Rather than see cloud computing as only a means to cut cost, each organization needs to consider these issues:

  • What “services” it offers and what role IT plays in doing so
  • How the present means of delivering those services might be made faster and more robust
  • What modifications could make those services provide a competitive edge in the industry
  • The business models they might enable

It is the consideration of these issues that guides the strategy to adopt cloud computing.

The discussion of cloud adoption must start at a strategic level, and must align with what the organization needs to do strategically. The urgency of various strategic objectives will determine the priorities of various specific initiatives: these form the immediate decisions and steps that the organization needs to take in the short term.

Organizations need to take a strategic approach to adopting cloud computing, rather than a tactical one. Of course, the process of selling cloud computing is also evolving, and cloud providers (especially traditional infrastructure providers) also need to adopt selling cloud computing as more strategic, rather than as pieces of technology.

But that is a topic for a different day…

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Mrinal Jain

About Mrinal Jain

Mrinal is a Cloud Solutions Architect representing the Systems and Technology Group on a cross-brand initiative at IBM, where his work is directed at helping IBM clients adopt cloud computing successfully in their business. He holds an MBA from the Booth School of Business at The University of Chicago, and a Master's in Computer Engineering from Purdue University where he specialized in Parallel Computer Architectures. In previous professional stints, Mrinal set up Yahoo's internal storage cloud, and was involved with early cloud initiatives at Sun Microsystems. He balances his passion for the cloud with a deep interest in building and flying model airplanes and helicopters, and is a keen photographer.
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