“Disruptive technologies like cloud computing are changing the way CIOs manage their IT infrastructure today”

In today’s dynamic business environment, IT Infrastructure plays a strategic role in shaping the success of an organization’s growth. By significantly driving in business efficiency and agility, a robust IT infrastructure equips organizations to become highly competitive by extracting optimum performance from its people, process and technology. While the role of IT infrastructure has significantly transformed from just being a cost center to business driver, external and internal factors like addition of new business processes, mergers & acquisitions, business consolidation, expansion of operations across geographies, compliance policies & security issues have increased the sheer complexity of managing business efficiently. Disruptive technologies like cloud computing are changing the way CIOs manage their IT infrastructure today. By providing flexibility to focus on core competencies, cloud computing enables CIOs to outsource their infrastructure and redefine IT’s value to business.

To leverage true potential of cloud computing, organizations should strategically align internal capabilities with the vendor. The following pointers highlight the essential elements to consider while effectively transforming an organization’s IT infrastructure in the cloud:

Stringent SLAs: One key requirement for implementing cloud is to develop mutually agreeable and clearly defined service level agreement (SLA) for demarcating general and high-level service offerings. When the time comes to select a cloud provider, it’s important to specify what the expectations are from the provider to have highly-availability of data on a secured platform. The SLA should spell out requirements exactly regarding functionality and support, as well as what the consequences are for failure to meet the requirements. The business will need to decide what features are critical for a cloud solution to provide, and what non-critical items will be on the list.

In-house administration for effective transformation: In-house IT administrations lack the expertise when it comes to managing cloud environments. Hence it is imperative to streamline IT-infrastructure management tools to manage more complex and multi-environment mix in association with the vendor. Additionally, standardization of processes go a long way in ensuring the cloud infrastructure growth is streamlined.

Security & Compliance: Any organization embarking on cloud spend needs to ensure a thorough check occurs in terms of security – whether the infrastructure be on-premise or cloud based. There is a significant level of doubt created by traditional vendors regarding the security of cloud computing and it is important to understand how security is handled in the cloud. In order to ensure the highest standards of security for their customer data, cloud providers should employ industry best practices to keep data safe.

Reduced TCO through Vendor Engagement program: The two reasons for reduced total cost of ownership (TCO) from cloud computing are economies of scale and utility pricing, pre- suppose that customers will have these benefits passed on to them by the vendors. For this reason it is important to assess a number of issues relating to cloud computing vendor pricing, billing capabilities, fixed costs and contract minimums.

Encryption and Compression of data: Before putting data in the cloud, the company must use tools to compress and encrypt the files. This will not only save the storage space but also avoid redundancy of data. Additionally, tools available which ensure data is stored in the cloud only once to avoid duplication.

Define new IT infrastructure model: There are now various kinds of cloud infrastructures that can be defined: VPS, Public cloud, Private cloud, Hybrid cloud – there are simply too many of them. It is critical to evaluate your exact need while deciding the infrastructure needed by the company. It is critical to assess infrastructure needs and security needs and keep it simple.

Choosing the right cloud architecture: Understanding the business needs, it is advisable to put mission critical applications or software on the cloud. Don’t force all your applications to the cloud, but actually make intelligent decisions when you choose infrastructure. The cloud is yet another tool to provide what applications/infrastructure/platform is needed by the organization and at what time. It is critical to know which model needs to be adopted.

Scalability : It is critical to understand whether implementation time will be more efficient — in terms of time to deploy or scaling up an application infrastructure – by going cloud computing way or one has in-house capabilities

Pilot Framework: A cloud pilot project is a good way for an organization to evaluate cloud services to see how useful, reliable and cost-efficient they can be. A pilot project should be a non-critical application that has a limited scope, a short time frame and loosely defined estimates of its ROI. Building a pilot project has the added benefit of giving the organization a chance to learn how to use cloud services

Costing strategy: Companies need to focus on more than just technology issues when developing their cloud adoption strategies. Companies should examine their business processes and goals and redesign them as needed to secure a smoother transition to the cloud. Cost of implementation on goal should in alignment to estimated costs of deploying the cloud. The ultimate goal of deploying application or dynamic infrastructure to the cloud is the truly agile and cost-competitive nature of running and managing applications and infrastructure. However, cost can increase exponentially without proper cloud monitoring and cloud cost modeling. The implementation and maintenance should be easy.

Technology upgrades: Expanding business for companies of various sizes makes the budget and IT requirement, critical points to consider. Expanding business make enterprises realize that their current infrastructure no longer fully supports their evolving needs. The need to consolidate data and optimize/cut costs leads to upgrade their network infrastructure before implementing newer technologies like desktop or server virtualization. Establishing expectations up front enables businesses to determine what they can actually afford and prioritize accordingly. No matter your business’s situation, consider the following best practices before you make the move.

Back-up & recovery: A data backup plan is a must for organizations and today, businesses of all sizes understand the repercussions of not having essential data always available. Issues like customers’ unresolved problems, breach of SLAs, absence of suppliers and degrading staff morale and productivity come to fore. Senior management need to consider the cost of repercussions, against the much smaller investment required to keep data and applications adequately protected on an ongoing basis.

On a final note
Without doubt cloud computing has revolutionized the way IT strategies are rolled-out to manage modern day IT infrastructure. Cloud computing can really benefit both Large enterprises and SMBs to lower opex and capex cost and in turn provide the infrastructure options and flexibility to dramatically scale operations on-demand. However, decision makers need to carefully consider the benefits and pitfalls of utilizing cloud technology for managing IT infrastructure. Additionally, with large pool of vendors available, it is of paramount importance to choose one which best matches the performance, cost and security related aspects. Finally, a well implemented IT Infrastructure strategy should truly enable CIOs to get a centralized view of the entire business and cloud technology can play a critical role in driving this.

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