Thursday, September 8, 2011

Seven Habits for Highly Effective and Usable Cloud Deployment

By Sundar Raghavan, Skytap

Cloud computing is presenting great promises, along with tough dilemma, for IT architects. The cloud promises to be a powerful business enabler that delivers on-demand scalability, high availability, rapid deployment and lower cost benefits to users. However, it also creates a rogue IT phenomenon by allowing users to buy cloud services with a swipe of a credit card and easily move sensitive applications and data with little to no security or governance.

As a result, IT architects face a huge dilemma: How can I leverage the cloud without losing visibility and control?

There are seven key steps emerging as best practices for highly effective and “usable” cloud deployments. When implemented correctly, these practices deliver rapid usage and adoption, full visibility and control to the IT organization, and up to 70 percent in annual cost reduction to any size business.

These seven habits include:
  1. Move the Dynamic Workloads to the Cloud
Functional users such as developers, testers, trainers and consultants need IT environments that are quick to create and easy to change or re-configure. Often called dynamic workloads, these use requests can account for more than 35 percent of IT architects can enable functional users to be self-service oriented, while freeing up their own time for business critical applications.

  1. Select the Cloud that Runs Current Apps, Don’t Rewrite Them to Fit The Cloud
Most users are satisfied with the enterprise apps they have; they just want the scalability, reliability and rapid deployment aspects of the cloud model. However, they won’t be happy if IT takes too long to deploy the cloud because the apps had to be rewritten. Most infrastructure services require additional customization to run existing enterprise applications. To achieve rapid usage and adoption, IT architects need a cloud solution that runs existing applications immediately. If IT takes too long or their cloud solution requires application changes, users will select their own cloud solution and use it.

  1. Empower Users With Self-Service Cloud 
A cloud’s user-base consists of technical users and business users such as training managers, sales consultants and support professionals. Given this diversity, the promises of cost savings and agility associated with cloud computing cannot be recognized if a cloud solution requires constant IT support. IT architects must ensure their cloud solutions empower users to create their own virtual data centers using policy compliant templates to drive productivity gains and reduce the IT support burden.

  1. Focus On Usability, Usability, Usability
Today’s users seek cloud solutions that are simple, self-service oriented and enable them to collaborate with customers on new business ideas. Before selecting a cloud solution, ask the following: can users configure the cloud for different use-cases easily? Does it deliver team management capabilities to enforce policies and role-based access? Can employees collaborate with prospects, customers and partners, and work on parallel streams without being constrained? These capabilities will be appreciated by business users as they won’t have time to acquire new IT skill sets or sit through hours of cloud training. Most users find infrastructure cloud services to be too technical and overwhelming. To be effective, users should perceive the cloud to be a solution, not just a programming tool. In other words, a cloud should be usable from day one.

  1. Make Sure a Cloud is Configured to Suit Business Needs
Enterprises run a wide range of applications and platforms, so a cloud needs to support a wide range of configurations. For instance, an application may require servers with multiple networks for clustering. Another application may be CPU and memory intensive. Cloud services that only support fixed instances types (e.g. small, large, extra-large instances) make it possible to fully replicate existing enterprise IT environments. Ease of configurability is essential to cloud deployment success.

  1. Align Cloud Operating Costs With Business Value
While it is true that cloud services do not require an upfront capital investment, it is also true that unmanaged usage can lead to large bills. It is important to determine if the cloud allows IT architects to apply quotas to individuals and business units to cap and track usage and implement chargeback policies. Features such as auto-suspend will avoid usage costs when cloud resources are not in use.

  1. Don’t Go to a Cloud Without Enterprise Grade Support
Users have huge expectations for cloud success. To be successful, IT architects will need a responsive, supportive organization that can attend their needs. To be responsive to users, most enterprise need 24/7 support with a defined SLA. An online form or email only support it not enough.
Following these seven habits can help companies select a cloud solution that will be the most usable for their organization. As a result, users will be empowered and agile, and the business will have a cloud enabled IT architecture that is responsive and cost effective.

Sundar Raghavan is chief product and marketing officer at Skytap, a provider of cloud automation solution

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