Moving to the cloud: All-in, or a-la-carte

Moving to the cloud: All-in, or a-la-carte

Wednesday, October 26, 2011 | Dan Blacharski

A decision to "move to the cloud” is often described incorrectly, as an enterprise often makes that decision strategically on a case-by-case basis. The question is not whether the cloud is appropriate for business. It is. The question rather, is whether the cloud is appropriate for specific uses within the business.

The resulting strategy then, is less focused on deciding whether to move to the cloud at all. The first step in a cloud strategy is to undertake a cloud assessment model, and decide which applications and services are best suited for the cloud, and establish a priority list of which ones to move first. The assessment model may range from an informal discussion in the conference room, to a more formal methodology, such as that provided by Fujitsu in its white book, "Cloud Adoption: The definitive guide to a business technology revolution.” Using a four-dimensional graph, CIOs can plot their strategies based on identified benefits, system maturity, migration and implementation costs, and business criticality.  (See below Source: Fujitsu )

The Fujitsu model ranks identified benefits ranging from none to significant, where on the positive end of the scale the user gains significant IT cost savings, flexibility, and other potential benefits such as increased revenue and customer acquisition. On the cost front, the ranking also ranges from on the low end where an application may need to be split between on premise and cloud, calling for development and integration costs; and on the high end where migration is a simple porting process that comes with negligible incremental cost. The cost line though, may be deceptive: Cost of migration andFujitsu Model implementation may be the least important concern, especially in an enterprise environment where the CIO is taking a long view and counting on accruing additional soft benefits. The system maturity line on the Fujitsu scale is in reality closely aligned with the migration and implementation cost line, in that a less mature, legacy system is naturally going to carry a higher level of integration cost.

The last point on the Fujitsu scale, business criticality,  bears some thought (see table below). The scale ranks most critical (intellectual property, proprietary financial data, etc.) to least critical (ancillary system), with most critical being most risky and by implication, less desirable to move to the cloud. This is not necessarily the case - and with big risks come big rewards. A paper from Avanade also points out that there are certain triggers that help the decision-maker spot the right opportunity to move to the cloud; these triggers include cost savings, along with time-to-market considerations; that is, when the IT department requires more agility in a dynamic marketplace. Other triggers include end-of-life factors, where a legacy system needs to be replaced, and doing so may otherwise require a significant capital expense. The final trigger, according to Avanade, is a greater apparent need for collaboration.
             Source:  Fujitsu

The Fujitsu scale offers excellent insight into the cloud decision making process, but the focus on a risk-no risk scale can be deceptive and may cause a CIO to miss the mark. Risk must of course, be a concern, and must factor into the decision, but that risk must be weighed against two counterbalancing factors: The potential reward, and the availability of tactical measures, policies, and technology to mitigate those risks.
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