Updated on 23 September 2010
Clouds are now a mainstream in the enterprise space, with ever-new applications and platforms being hosted remotely. Yet, the fact remains that the cloud is about leaving the safety and security of a physical server that sits within an organisation in favour of third-party machines sitting in unknown locations. The thought can be unnerving for many.
With the market getting crowded with a variety of cloud service providers (CSPs), choosing the right one is like playing a game of Russian roulette.
As a first step towards gaining clarity, IT managers need to be clear on two basic two aspects—what is the business objective, and what they want from the CSP. Once this is done, migrating to the cloud becomes less of a headache.
Nature of business: Evaluate the nature of your business—is it computing intensive, or transaction intensive? You also need to check if your enterprise is storage intensive or network intensive. The approach to go on the cloud could vary based on these factors.
Growth: Next, do some hardcore accounting. Work out a CAGR assessment of compute, transactional, storage and network resources for the next one to three years and three to five years and plot a graph as to what will be the likely need over the time frames under consideration.
Security requirement: Make a note of how stringent is the security and privacy compliance need of your organisation. For instance, a bank or a pharmaceutical company will have to be very cagey about putting data in the cloud, while an incense-stick manufacturer will not be so worried.
Application migration cost: Make a list of the legacy applications, both in-house and standard ones. This will help you evaluate the time needed for migration, and the cost.
Business transformation agenda: You need to ask yourself as to what is the medium- to long-term business transformation agenda. What are the new competencies? What sort of “IT as a strategy capability” is needed?
Also, what are the tangible and intangible benefits of the cloud? For example, how much management bandwidth will it free? How much real estate will be unlocked?
Once you are through with the exercise, take the next step by evaluating the CSP. Do remember to map your requirements and expectations with the CSP’s capabilities and the kind of service level agreements (SLAs) that you want.
What Do you want from the CSP?
Strategic capability: These include the quality of manpower employed by the cloud service provider, its partnerships with other industry players in the cloud ecosystem, patents held or filed, and membership of technology forums and standards bodies.
Portfolio and customer empowerment: It’s important to see that the CSP has a good breadth and depth in terms of it offerings, and supports various service needs through a flexible pricing approach.
Customer empowerment is a very important aspect of a cloud model. The service provider should provide adequate “self-care” support and also provide for service lifecycle management. Features such as real-time reporting and application visibility will further strengthen the case.
Apart from this, there should be a transparent way of measuring service performance, ideally supported by enforceable service level agreements. Another key consideration in selecting a CSP is the country in which it is located and jurisdiction by which it is covered. Once these concerns have been assessed and reasonably addressed, migrating to the cloud can be much easier and less of a headache.
Business viability: While the above two key factors should influence an IT manager’s decision, it is equally important to find out the kind of brand visibility the CSP enjoys, the track record of its top management team, and it strategic investors or VCs.
Last but not the least, it will help to check out independent assessments of the CSPs available from reputed market research firms like IDC, Gartner, Yankee and Forrester.
The author is Director—IT Epoch Expo
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