Key Questions Emerge as Companies Adopt Cloud Architectures
Questions CIOs Ask
What’s on the mind of CIOs as they evaluate cloud technologies? A recent IDC study, titled “U.S. Buyer Requirements of Cloud Services,” identified top concerns and questions.
- What security, reporting or compliance requirements must a cloud technology support?
- What level of transparency is available to assure service quality is optimal and consistent?
- Do we have the talent to build and support a cloud? Do we need outside help?
- What fits us best? Public, private or hybrid cloud architecture?
- Are controls available to prevent cost overruns associated with usage?
- Is the system capable of supporting our mission-critical requirements?
- Will cloud technologies integrate with our applications and architectures seamlessly?
- What tools, processes and support does a vendor offer to ensure a successful transition?
Flexible Cloud Solutions
CSC offers cloud solutions that help companies reap the benefits of cloud computing — increased agility, rapid application deployment, improved business processes and cost containment — without the complexity associated with building and maintaining a private cloud solution.
CSC BizCloudTM is the industry’s only on-premise private cloud billed as a service, offering the advantage of turning large capital expenditures into a manageable monthly operating expense. CSC cloud solutions also offer the highest levels of security, coupled with unsurpassed data integrity assurance.
Transparency is an important feature as well. CSC cloud solutions offer the reporting needed to ensure industry reporting requirements are satisfied and service-level agreements are met.
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Cloud computing is transforming the IT infrastructure of today’s enterprise, helping companies reduce operating costs, expand customer relationships, support a mobile workforce and respond to changing business conditions.
Corporate adoption is growing at a torrid pace. IDC’s study “IT Cloud Decision Economics” reports spending that reached $21.5 billion in 2010 will grow to $72.9 billion by 2015, a compound annual growth rate of 27.6%.
Eli Almog, CTO of CSC’s Trusted Cloud and Hosting solutions, says cloud technology is evolving so rapidly, some companies don’t even know what questions they should be asking.
Whether your firm is in the planning stages, running pilots or operating a production cloud platform, Almog says there are three areas to consider as the industry evolves and cloud capabilities grow.
Whether a private, public or hybrid cloud model is adopted, Almog explains that the architecture you choose must offer the level and quality of service required by the business.
“It’s important to set up key performance indicators for each application you plan to move into the cloud. This includes factors such as availability, security, consistency of service, latency, change management and control procedures,” Almog says. Another important and less understood control factor is transparency. While the term “cloud” implies resources that are available but indistinguishable, it is important to quantify some aspects of the cloud.
Transparency means that you know where your data resides, how applications are performing, and that you can compare actual performance of your applications to established service-level agreements (SLA). Transparency also means you can view your current configuration, access rights and controls over change management.
Effective cloud providers have a governance policy to document how the company responds to customer requests and concerns. Almog recommends asking a prospective provider to share the details of this policy.
Every IT architecture carries a set of risks, and cloud technologies are no different. Similarly, the risks inherent in cloud architectures can be managed as successfully as any other approach.
David Tapper, vice president of IDC’s outsourcing marketing research, says risk mitigation begins by having a complete understanding of the SLA governing your cloud infrastructure. “Every vendor offers different measures of availability, and it’s really important to realize that not all offer the same recourse. Narrowly defined SLAs and limited liability may offer you few options if a solution does not perform as well as expected,” Tapper says.
Security is a natural concern for many companies, and it has to be evaluated from different perspectives. Is the physical environment physically secure? Protected by external network threats? And does the approach being considered offer sufficient protection for data in the event of a physical disaster or equipment failure?
Not all applications require the same level of security. Almog says an important part of the process lies in determining which applications and data truly merit the highest “mission-critical” designation. With such a list in hand, Almog suggests asking vendors about specific security standards and options. A short checklist might include firewalls, intrusion detection, forensics, authentication, encryption, data loss protection and spyware protection.
Considering lessons from past IT adoptions, companies are smart to consider the impact cloud technologies will have on their agility. Will a cloud architecture deliver on the adaptability and flexibility it promises?
As Almog points out, most companies define agility as the ability to rapidly respond to changing business requirements. “You maintain agility by selecting a cloud provider you can lean on to make rapid, smooth transitions,” Almog says. “Refactoring, security, disaster recovery, a customized application catalog — getting these and more from your cloud vendor will free your IT department to focus on other important projects and requirements. When you can trust your cloud provider to do more, you can achieve and sustain your agility.”
The benefits of cloud technology are readily apparent, yet smart CIOs recognize that no one technology is a panacea. A proper course of due diligence will ensure your company adopts the right cloud technology for the right reasons.
As you evaluate your options, use your company’s strategic and tactical business objectives to drive your cloud requirements. Stay focused on business outcomes. Scrutinize SLAs and make sure your industry’s catalog of security and regulatory mandates are satisfied by the solutions you are considering.
Cloud technologies offer new levels of performance, savings and flexibility, but success remains contingent on the same factors as ever — asking many, many questions. And as more companies transition to cloud architectures, expectations of those three key factors — management control, risk mitigation and agility — continue to rise.
“The expectations and responsibilities for cloud providers are huge, and will only grow,” Tapper says. “Vendors must really know how to run an operation at the level that clouds require. That’s a daunting tak, but it’s a requirement.”
DALE COYNER is a writer for CSC’s digital marketing team.