Cloud adoption: Success factors for large enterprises

The global cloud market is booming. According to Rightscales State of the cloud report 2015, about 56% of enterprises (companies with >1000 employees) describe themselves as being cloud experts or at least cloud focused. And yet there are still 41% of enterprises that would describe themselves as cloud-watchers or cloud beginners. The most important success factors for cloud adoption, out of my personal experience:

  • Approaching strategies: Top-Down, Bottom-Up, Vertical
  • Picking the right cloud service providers
  • Evaluate and grow potential: Application readiness
  • Organization of two speeds

The State of the cloud reports shows quite some interesting aspects in regards to cloud adoption, I recommend to have a brief look over it: State of the Cloud Report 2015, Rightscale

Approaching strategies: Top-Down, Bottom-Up, Transversal

There is always a supplier and a consumer view when you think about the role of IT within large companies. On the supplier side, one can find infrastructure resources, application components and technologies and on the other hand the consumer view combines business processes and capabilities of business applications.

  • A top-down cloud adoption strategy would therefore mainly point to either moving existing applications to the cloud or the creation of as many new native cloud solutions as potentially possible. As you can see, in the following scribble
  • The bottom up approach concentrates on infrastructure resources, such as data center extensions to the cloud (please refer to my previous article)
  • Transversal strategies focus on organizational aspects, such as specific groups of responsibilities, technologies, but also mainly on existing applications and application groups. Moving applications transversely typically means to combine cloud services and various infrastructure resources (e.g. IaaS and on premise combined) within one application

Picking the right cloud service providers

According to the previously mentioned State of the cloud report, 82% of enterprises follow a multi cloud approach. This results in not only one central cloud service provider in those environments. Out of my experience, quite often there is a favorite but not exclusive cloud service provider (CSP).

But what’s important when choosing cloud service providers and equally important, what will increase the likeliness of a specific provider to become the one that will be a strategic one?

  • Analyst ratings: Large enterprises usually use Gartner quadrants and the like to get some orientation
  • Suitability and the amount and quality of offered services: In my previous projects, IT staff took some time for testing and evaluation how cloud services work before suitability was proven
  • Contracts: Cloud Service Provider (CSP) typically will not create contract consisting of individual agreements with your company. So if this is no problem within your organization, you won’t face any trouble in regards to that. However, this typically takes some time to evaluate and you nonetheless might have the opportunity to get important aspects contracted in a special agreement with the CSPs in favor
  • Support quality and documentation: For fast cloud adoption and less frustration of your tech-staff, make sure the providers you consider build services that are well-documented and consistent over time (however, there might be more functionality added over time). In addition to that, there will be times when you’ll need support. Make sure this is available in the way you expect it
  • Maturity level: Consider providers with a certain minimum level of maturity

Evaluate and grow potential: Application readiness

Very large companies run portfolio management and/or enterprise architecture management tools providing transparency over the application landscape more or less accurately. If there is no such tool available, usually you can find excel sheets or lists, which state all applications and their responsibilities. This information is key when running surveys to prove application cloud readiness. In order to integrate cloud benefits such as cost benefits, higher availability and performance, scalability and geographic reach into existing applications, enterprises need to assess application cloud readiness. These kind of application cloud assessments should include factors such as technical aspects, complexity and data privacy as well as security measures. But also economic feasibility is an important factor to evaluate whether an application can be moved to the cloud or not. According to the State of the Cloud report, 55% of enterprises state that more than 20% of their application portfolio is cloud ready. As for large German companies in industries such as automotive, engineering, energy or pharmaceutical, I would state a lower number here based on my personal experience and insights.

Organization of two speeds

The concepts behind “bimodal IT” are by far the most important aspect when it comes to the future role of the IT in large companies. Cloud adoption is one major aspect for this as it enables the business to run their own IT infrastructure virtually without the means of internal IT.

What I see as the major success factors for cloud adoption in enterprises:

  • Assess and implement Security Guidelines for the company
  • Be aware of the IT organization of two speeds (bimodal IT)
  • Define service standards for each cloud service provider, cloud service types (e.g. backup, storage services, etc.), technologies, application needs (like runtime, performance, cost)
  • Create big picture of the cloud landscape to define infrastructure
  • Gain transparency of your application landscape to conduct cloud assessments for your entire environment

Moving to the cloud? Think about IaaS.

There is quite a trend of companies that migrate their activities from on-premise data centers to the cloud. Cloud Service Providers (CSP) have directed their sales strategies towards big enterprises and of course, the Cloud has been a huge buzzword for the last few years and finally big companies realize how to use it.

I realize in practice that this leads to the decision to migrate full existing data centers to the cloud, as an infrastructure as a service approach (IaaS). Drivers for that can be found in the need for high availability, elasticity in regards to computing power, or even for risk reduction when the cloud is being used as a fallback data center. Further, data center migration to the cloud is a very effective strategy for companies that face substantial on-premise hardware investments in the near future.

IaaS is a good starting point for the migration to the cloud, especially for large enterprises. IaaS is the least disruptive option when migrating to the cloud – mainly because you can continue to use the same application stacks and the organization structure will not have to change dramatically. Out of my experience, here are a few major benefits for starting with IaaS:

  • data centers built up in the cloud are likely to be more secure and reliable than most on-premise data centers
  • you can continue to use your current IT processes when you move to the cloud
  • adapt your organization (don’t forget the people!) step-by-step to the new cloud computing paradigms
  • not only new applications but also existing applications can be enabled with cloud benefits

No matter which strategy your company follows for cloud migration, you will need to answer the following questions:

  • What impact is to be expected on existing platforms?
  • What needs to be prepared and established from the perspective of the network?
  • How can you ensure access control responsibilities and working processes such as cost management continue to function?

As IaaS is not the end of the story and many SaaS solutions usually have found their way into the company already, you might want to integrate those current cloud islands into your considerations as well. Portfolio management tools such as LeanIX or even Alfabet are very effective when evaluating the efforts to be expected for your cloud strategy (be it IaaS, SaaS or IaaS). Its technology architecture analysis capabilities, such as the tiers and layers matrix, have the power to display all potential technical components and services for migration to the cloud.