What is a cloud first strategy?
A cloud first strategy allows businesses to save money on software, platforms, and infrastructure. Instead of building their own tech stack, they subscribe to a service provider who can provide premium services at a cheaper cost. The service provider takes advantage of the economics of scale, and businesses gets access to high-end services at a reduced cost.
A brief introduction to the cloud
– The advent of the technological age heralded a new and exciting era across all areas of life. We are now living in an age which would have been a pipe dream or a fairy tale, slightly over a century ago. Communication is now faster, cheaper and instantaneous, transportation is faster and more convenient and all aspects of life are generally geared towards perfection in utilization of resources and maximum efficacy in output. In response to this global quest to better our current best in the technological realm, cloud computing has of late gained a great deal of traction as the ultimate solution to the rapidly shifting technological sector.
Parts of the cloud
Cloud computing is a very broad term that belies a simple definition. It covers such an extensive range of services that it is almost impossible to box it under a single definition. The generally accepted and most commonly used definition is that cloud computing is a stack that is made up of three main tiers, namely;-
Iaas (Infrastructure as a service); This includes all the hardware and software that powers the cloud computing system including the operating system, storage, servers and networks;
Paas (Platform as a service); This is the set of tools and services that exists to ensure that coding and deployment of application over the cloud space is done in a quick and efficient manner; and
Saas (Software as a service); This defines the software and applications designed for end-users, delivered over the web through the cloud computing platform.
A common analogy used to illustrate this point compares the Iaas to a network of road, Paas to the vehicles used on those roads and Saas to the people and goods transported using the vehicles on the roads. The Traditional IT approach can be equated to each user building their own road and buying their own vehicle. Cloud computing on the other hand offers the users a platform where they can combine efforts and build the best toad possible to be used by each whenever need arises and to buy one fast and efficient car to be shared by both parties. A cloud first strategy is akin to the sharing option. Instead of each user incurring a lot of expenditure on software, platforms and infrastructure, they subscribe to a service provider who is able to provide premium services at a cheaper cost. The service provider benefits by taking advantage of the economics of scale while the end user benefits by accessing premium services at a fraction of the market cost.
The situation in the UK
The most perplexing phenomenal observed in the UK is that the market has been very slow in adopting a cloud first strategy, when ranked against comparable markets worldwide. Answers to the question why this lag is happening have brought about a number of responses such as; maybe this is a case of the UK’s famous skepticism which has gotten in the way of the market accepting the looming changes. Or it our slow take on innovation or the lack of infrastructure talent perhaps? A cursory view of ITjobswatch shows an ever increasing demand for IT roles such as development, security and operations, but the jury is still out on the question of the adequacy of the current supply. Whatever the cause, a recent report done by Intel Security states that organizations in the UK are among the least likely globally to have a cloud-first strategy. So, is it about time you develop a cloud first strategy?
The six point strategy
If your answer to the above question is in the affirmative, you are on the right course. To start you out on the journey, we have compiled a summary of the six steps you need to take to implement the strategy, according to Gartner research director Mindy Cancila.
Assessment phase: In this phase, you assess the impact of adopting a cloud first strategy on three fronts; cost, architecture and security. It is important to seek the services of a professional to carry out the assessment. If the end result indicates that your business can comfortably handle the switch, then you proceed to the next step;
Proof of Concept Phase: In this stage you build and do a pilot run of the cloud first strategy in your organization. Take time to introduce it to your team and foster support for it among them.
Data Migration Phase: You leverage on the different data storage options available to find the most secure option that is within your budget range. Once you are satisfied with the sanctity of the data, you can migrate your data to cloud space;
Application Migration Phase: You need to decide on the type of migration that your organization is to adapt. It can be a forklift strategy where you lift everything into the cloud servers, or a hybrid strategy where some functions are transferred to cloud space while others remain within the organizations’ servers.
Leveraging the Cloud Phase: In this stage you leverage on the tools and flexibility offered by cloud space to auto scale and automate your functions. The cloud servers offer high elasticity and scalability which should be utilized for the maximum benefit of the organization;
Optimization phase: This is the stage at which you now tweak and optimize the system to ensure that there is optimum utilization of available resources, performance monitoring to ensure timely detection of anomalies and re-engineering in places where the switch to cloud computing fails to work as expected.
The first step is to build skills and assess applications. To create your cloud team and assess application readiness, your organization must transform. IT is becoming a broker for cloud services, and the role of cloud architects is a big part of that. Gartner used to ask if an organization could take the risk of moving to cloud computing, but the question is no longer about “if,” Cancila said, the question is now where you are moving and how are you going to get there.
The next step in the process is to select cloud providers and services. Consider the different layers of the cloud (SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS) and how they fit into your organization’s goals. Also, assess your app architecture and infrastructure. There are five options that will are available during this process, each with different levels of effort involved and perceived benefits;
Rehost – Do you need to modify the underlying architecture, or “lift and shift” the application?
Refactor – Do you need to modify the underlying architecture or the application itself?
Re-architect – Do you need to modify the application or replace the underlying architecture?
Rebuild – Do you need to replace the underlying architecture or rebuild a cloud-native application?
Replace – Do you need to replace the application or underlying architecture?
If you follow the strategy, and you have coined satisfactory answers on each of the above question to narrow down your options, you will successfully make the switch to a cloud first strategy. As things stand now, it is not a question of if, but when the world will make a switch to purely cloud based computing. It may be today, in a few months, a few years even, but it’s sure to happen. Maybe it is time that the U.K. made the decision to cease lagging behind and join the pacesetters of the cloud first strategy globally, it can start with you.