This week we have a second guest post by a friend of mine, Manak Ahluwalia, a director at a technology services firm in Boston. You can view his LinkedIn profile at http://www.linkedin.com/pub/manak-ahluwalia/1/91/243.
Last week we provided some advice for IT executives, helping them identify potential services that may be in their organizations’ best interest to move to the cloud. This week we want to focus on the complexities of acquiring cloud based technologies and things to take into account when you do purchase services via the public cloud.
As a basis for the discussion, you should realize that there is no cloud service provider that has a vast enough portfolio to meet all of your needs. This should indicate that over time, as your cloud strategy matures, you will more than likely be consuming cloud services from different vendors. In consuming these cloud services, I like to think of the things that an organization will need to do be broken out into two distinct categories; enablement and management.
Enablement is defined as all the critical steps that must be followed during the initialization of any service you acquire. After determining the solution that is appropriate for you, you will need to complete the negotiation of your contract and associated costs. This is particularly important for a cloud offering as it will outline your SLA’s, KPI, costs, as well as financial penalties and options to exit the contract. Once contracted, there will be a requirement to clearly map the potential solution with your organizations’ unique needs. Since most solutions will need some level of customization to satisfy the integration to your environment, the migration of your users or data, and the overall use of the platform, there will be a learning curve and requirements for you to assign to your staff to complete the onboarding. Cloud services tend to be more rigid in making major modifications so it’s imperative to setup and to migrate data in the right way. In the event you identify “lessons learned” through this process it can be difficult to fix issues down the road. Once “enabled” either in a proof of concept, pilot, phased or full deployment, you will need to transition the service to day to day management.
Day to day management of a cloud service requires the ability to measure your SLA and ensure the service continues to perform as expected. This could also require you to continue to measure your on premise and mobile workforce to ensure their underlying platforms are able to keep up with the cloud usage. Potential scenario here could be the outsourcing of an often used application such as email and, as adoption increases, you find your network needs to be expanded to support the user demand. Failure to observe your on premise environment could lead to end users developing the impression that the cloud service is unreliable.
In addition most cloud services will have some ongoing administrative tasks and it will be important for you to build the standard operating procedures for traditional add/move/changes as well as service modifications. This will require you to train your staff and your end users on how to get the support they need in using the service. Finally as with any ongoing expense, billing is the often overlooked component. You will want to make sure that you are not overcharged for the services that you are acquiring, as well as look at cost overruns and determine if there are better options for reducing your monthly costs.
One of the major benefits of a cloud service is that the services are upgraded routinely and provided to you at no additional cost. It would be beneficial to be able to map these new capabilities when they become available and determine if there is benefit for your organization to use them.
It may seem daunting to acquire multiple cloud services especially with the work and risk associated. However I’ve been observing the market shift and the emergence of new service providers which are filling a major need that exists in the market to make the acquisition of cloud services easier. Next week we’ll discuss this new paradigm and review how I believe how many organizations will be consuming cloud technologies in the coming years.
Photo source: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/235683.