Why change management is critical to cloud success

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And other lessons on cloud adoption and management.

Managing services, applications and workloads in a cloud environment is different to on premise. Not better or worse, just different. These differences are more marked in public cloud, but apply to private cloud and hybrid cloud as well. So getting people ready for the cloud journey is as important as preparing the strategy and plan and working on the technology.

A move to public cloud especially will most likely change the nature of some people’s jobs – which may have been performed the same way for many years. Some functions will stay the same, some will transform, and some may disappear. (Some may of course be passed onto a service provider.)

For example, some tasks that system admins have been doing for twenty years will need to change with public cloud. Take server outages: traditionally seen as a problem to be investigated or rectified in on premise or even highly virtualised environments. Many monitoring toolsets raise alerts at outages and trigger processes aimed at rectification. But in a public cloud environment, where machines may be switched off anytime when they are not needed to provide a service, this set up needs to be amended.

Even if a workload does cause an issue in this environment, it can be readily destroyed and a new one redeployed in its place. This action can be logged for review in the morning rather than cause a major alert. In this context, the traditional mindset of a server down always equating to a serious issue needs to be updated, along with the related processes.

So people will need to reskill and think differently to ensure successful cloud service delivery. This need may be reduced if much of the management is outsourced to a third party, but there will always be a learning curve of some kind required to ensure the business can make the most of its partner’s or partners’ services and support.

There is often understandable resistance to these changes. Change management is therefore a crucial aspect of any transition to cloud and a key consideration to build into cloud strategy and planning. As part of the transition stage of cloud adoption, we spend time with customers to explain what is to change operationally, from a people and process perspective.

The positive flipside of all this challenging change is the huge opportunity for individuals and organisations alike to be empowered and prosper in the cloud era.

With public cloud in particular comes much potential automation of traditionally manual processes. The same can be said of private cloud or even traditional environments, of course, but these kinds of systems by definition have limits that public cloud does not. Nevertheless, with any cloud environment, automation of processes is an important reason why it offers more benefit to an organisation than legacy infrastructure.

The server destroying and redeploying process described above can in fact be wholly automated, with no manual intervention necessary to maintain the service. This mentality of coding and automating is another mindset shift that people need to make to get the most out of cloud.

More automation means that a single engineer may be able to manage 300-400 virtual machines instead of many fewer. It also means that they can focus less on servers, as such, and more on what they deliver. That is, they can get more involved in higher value activities, such as capacity planning and service management and delivery. As automation progresses, these same engineers may become more strategic and powerful in terms of the scale and importance of what they oversee and control.

This and other essential lessons on cloud adoption and management, learned by Datacom over years working at the ‘cloud face,’ are contained in a new white paper available for download now. If you would like to talk to us about it, or cloud adoption and management in general, then please get in touch at cloud@datacom.co.nz.

The vCloud Air Network with Datacom Enterprise Cloud

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Datacom is a vendor-independent organisation with a variety of cloud partners. We pride ourselves on recommending the right solution for the customer, whether it’s hosted in Datacom’s own cloud, Microsoft Azure, AWS, or vCloud.

Last week at VMworld, VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger used his keynote to officially launch the vCloud Air Network. The vCloud Air Network is the next iteration of VMware’s vision of a global network of service providers deploying consistent and enterprise-ready cloud platforms along with their overall cloud strategy.

Datacom has been deploying cloud services with VMware since the inception of the VMware Service Provider Programme in 2007, and has been named their Service Provider Partner of the Year for Asia Pacific and Japan in both 2010 and 2013. We are extremely pleased to once again embark on the next exciting iteration of cloud services with VMware as a launch partner of the network, along with other global giants such as AT&T, SingTel, and China Telecom.

What is the vCloud Air Network?

The new vCloud Air Network combines both VMware’s global network of 3,800 service providers along with its own vCloud Air Public Cloud offering (previously known as vCloud Hybrid Service) to provide customers with maximum choice when it comes to cloud services. By tapping into the expertise of the global service providers, customers can find a solution tailored to their needs.

Datacom is both a VMware “IaaS Powered” and “Hybrid Cloud Powered” service provider within the vCloud Air Network. This means customers are able to seamlessly and securely extend their current VMware environment into a public cloud offering, whilst retaining the ability to have control over all operational and governance requirements.

Also, by joining the network, Datacom are working even more closely with VMware to develop more products that will enable customers to deliver even more business values to their own target market.

How is this different from what is already there?

In the past, VMware has released products which service providers can leverage to build their own hosted offerings. However, without a standard method of measuring and identifying what each service provider was providing, it was easy for customers to get confused when selecting a service provider. To fix this, VMware have released new badge system for service providers that can help customers differentiate.

The two badges to be released initially are:

  1. “IaaS Powered” – shows that a service provider has a vSphere based, single-tenanted offering
  2. “Hybrid Cloud Powered”- shows that a service provider has a multi-tenanted vCloud Director-based offering with hybrid cloud capability.

This should get rid of the confusion for customers going forward in terms of which service offerings they will be getting from their own service providers, and help them make a more informed decision.

Why am I excited about this offering?

I think this is a great move by VMware and really does provide some excellent opportunities for service providers and customers alike. I am most excited about the following three things:

  1. Gives customers access to VMware’s own vCloud Air Public Cloud capabilities, but hosted by Service Providers – The combination of VMware’s own vCloud Air Public Cloud offering with service providers’ own systems means vCloud can provide customers with the same functionality that VMware provide on their public cloud offering, but hosted locally by their own trusted service provider.
  1. Give customers maximum choice and flexibility – Service providers can build on top VMware’s offerings and provide differentiated offerings that can meet specific market needs. PCI compliance? HIPAA compliance? Government Approved? SAP compatibility? There will be an offering in the network, built on VMware’s reference architectures, that achieves these kinds of certifications.
  1. Strong focus on hybrid cloud – We all understand and believe that the future is not black and white – it’s not about being in the public cloud or a private/hosted cloud, it will be about hybrid cloud. The vCloud Air Network allows us to provide customers with a seamless and proven offering for customers to immediately start consuming hybrid cloud.

So what’s next?

While this is early days yet for the network and a lot of work is still to be done, we are extremely excited about the possibilities that it brings. Watch out for specific announcements from us around new products and services that we will be building on top of our capabilities in the coming months. We have an exciting roadmap that we can’t wait to share with our customers.

And as usual, don’t hesitate to get in contact if you have questions or thoughts, or if you are just interested in learning more.

Arthur Shih is Datacom Cloud Solutions Manager. He can be reached at arthurs@datacom.co.nz.

Why Your Cloud Architecture Design Should be a Top Concern

Figures from the global job web site Indeed.com show that the number of job postings for cloud architecture design rose 15 per cent between January 2009 and January 2013. Cloud architects are what they sound like: IT professionals who can help businesses plan, design and deploy cloud services. The rise in these roles is directly related to the growing awareness that cloud architecture design is not a matter that should simply be left to internal IT staff. To properly plan a cloud deployment, you need professionals knowledgeable in a range of cloud platforms and providers, in addition to applications and workloads  all ever more important as a multi-cloud approach becomes more appealing to organisations. Here’s why it’s important to take cloud architecture design seriously and enlist the right resources to plan it.

Application performance and availability

Depending on your organisation, you might have workloads that have low or partial utilisation levels, such as batch processing, or workloads subject to dramatic spikes in traffic, such as public-facing apps. Your workload types will affect the type of cloud platforms or services you choose. Effectively matching the right workload to the right cloud platform takes thorough understanding of each application’s needs, required computing power and traffic patterns and storage and compliance standards. Cloud architecture design assesses the requirements of all cloud-ready workloads in your organisation to discover the best options available.

The security of your environment

Every business has its own set of security needs  in fact, security concerns were once the top barrier to enterprise cloud computing. Security is built in through the cloud architecture design and development phases. When you understand or have been involved in the cloud architecture design, you will know exactly how the environment behaves and how it is secured. For instance, some cloud platforms allow customers to create user accounts to provide access to their systems and remove users who have left the company or changed roles. Workloads can be delegated amongst the right internal resources, reducing the risk that the wrong individual or business unit will gain access to sensitive information.

The steps to doing cloud architecture design well

By enlisting the expertise of cloud architects, you organisation will go through a detailed process that will ensure needs are fully understood before designing or choosing a cloud platform or multiple platforms for you. These steps include:

  • Gathering of requirements: Cloud architecture design, business, functional and non-functional requirements and creation of a cloud readiness assessment report
  • Design: Technical cloud architecture designs, implementation plans and migration preparation using identified requirements as inputs so you get a tailored cloud solution
  • Testing and proof of concept: This ensures your cloud architecture design is “proven” and will work the way it is intended to when launched
  • Implementation and build: The use of all the previous steps to construct and deploy your cloud service
  • Migration services: Formulation of the migration strategy that suits your business needs and implementation with proven methods
  • Post-migration support: Decommissioning of your old infrastructure, documentation of your cloud architecture design and handover to your IT team.

If you are looking for help planning cloud architecture design, Datacom’s Professional Services team can create, implement and manage your strategy.

How to Determine if your Business Would Benefit from a Multi-cloud Approach

Cloud offers your organisation a lot of different hosting options and methods of delivery. Yet for years, many businesses have felt as if they are pigeon-holed into just one choice — one that can prevent your organisation from fully leveraging cloud to automate and optimise key business processes that can drive performance, productivity and innovation. Using multiple cloud services or providers could be the better option for your organisation, as it allows you to use different cloud services to map to specific budget, security and systems needs amongst your workloads. Consider if your organisation might be primed for multi-cloud by looking at these three key areas.

  1. You have varying types of workloads with different requirements

As cloud computing has evolved, organisations have gotten hip to the idea of best-placed workloads: that is, the cloud that is most suitable for the applications you are running. This concept accounts for changing workload needs or fluctuating levels of cloud performance, infrastructure and price. The portability of multi-cloud presents the option to benchmark applications and workloads across different clouds to see where they perform at their best. So if you have a mix of workloads that have low or partial utilisation levels, such as batch processing, and workloads subject to wild spikes in traffic such as public-facing apps, the ability to leverage and shift amongst different cloud platforms reduces the risk of downtime and helps control costs.

  1. You anticipate needing to bring a cloud-based project back in-house

A misconception with cloud computing is that once you migrate a service or application to a cloud platform, it should stay there forever. Cloud is meant to provide agility, and there’s no reason to believe you won’t have to shift one of your services to another cloud platform or provider or migrate it back on premise in the future. IDG Enterprise’s Cloud Computing: Key Trends and Future Effects Report found that 42% of cloud-based projects are ultimately taken back in-house. The reasons for this shift include security (65%), technical/oversight problems (64%) and the need for standardisation, or one platform, (48%).

A multi-cloud strategy — especially one overseen by an IT systems integrator — can help your organisation transition systems back on-premise as soon as you need them there. This multi-cloud approach will cut out the complexity of migration issues, service contracts and potential data loss as you already have a multi-pronged arrangement with multiple platforms and providers that understand your need to stay nimble.

  1. You want to avoid commitment to one cloud services provider

Organisations today are outsourcing to multiple providers for a range of business needs. There is no reason why this trend can’t extend to cloud. According to ZDNet, 39 per cent of IT decision-makers feel locked in with their current suppliers. With multi-cloud, you get more freedom of choice, allowing you to easily switch providers if their SLAs, costs or privacy guidelines change. In fact, the University of Sydney’s School of Information Technologies’ Centre says a hybrid or multi-cloud approach is the most cost-effective, efficient way to manage various cloud computing resources.

A multi-cloud strategy can work for a range of business types, whether you’re a local or multi-national organisation, an SME or large corporation, or one that is already using cloud computing or that is still ironing out a path to cloud. Remember to consider using an IT systems integrator to help make your multi-cloud implementation less complex andensure cloud computing success.

Why More Businesses are Considering Multi-cloud Services

In September, non-profit IT association CompTIA reported that greater than six in 10 cloud users have “made secondary shifts of infrastructure or applications following their original transition to the cloud.” This means these organisations are using a “multi-cloud” approach — leveraging at least two cloud services to reduce risk of data loss and performance issues. The idea is that organisations can choose the right cloud type and service to balance the varying needs of their systems and data. Here are some of the benefits of considering multi-cloud for your organisation.

Ramped-up redundancy

Some notable cloud service provider failures in recent years have prompted many businesses to take a good, long look at the safety of their systems. A multi-cloud approach lets you put your servers in different data centres managed by different providers, so that if one provider fails, it doesn’t cause a catastrophic loss of service to your business. Distributing your servers across providers also reduces the impact of potential electricity and networking provider outages. You have the mobility to take your cloud servers from one provider and move them to another to protect your business.

Fool-proof flexibility

There’s a standard rule to follow when pondering cloud services for business: What’s secure might not be the most cost-effective and what’s cost-effective might not be the most secure. Organisations might initially be tempted to drop everything in a seemingly fail-proof private cloud — but that can be mighty expensive. Yet there are data and workloads that absolutely cannot legally or compliantly go into the public cloud.

Having a multi-cloud strategy enables organisations to maximise costs, performance and security by switching between providers and cloud types or even moving applications or infrastructure back into their own data centres for security reasons. Organisations have become more opportunistic in how they evaluate cloud services, always looking for a better price, customer service and features, points out the CompTIA research. This approach also prevents vendor lock-in.

Appropriate application fit

Some tasks perform better on certain clouds. If your organisation has a need to deliver elastic services to a wider number of users over the internet, a public cloud option will work best. But even then, each public cloud provider offers different features. A Gigaom article from last year points out that organisations running certain frameworks for data-intensive-real-time apps might suffer from performance issues on more generic public clouds when they try to scale. A multi-cloud approach lets you move these applications to a different public cloud that might be better equipped to handle the latency of this intensive workload.

A multi-cloud approach may be where the future is headed, but it still takes strategic planning and a migration strategy. Enlisting the help of an IT and cloud service integrator can provide a whole-picture approach that takes into account system and application needs, compliance issues and budget to find the right mix of clouds for your business.

4 Steps to Creating the Perfect Cloud Policy

A cloud policy is essential for any organisation’s ability to remain secure and grow competitively — and the responsibility for developing one remains squarely with you, not your cloud services provider. While a cloud policy is needed regardless of delivery model, SaaS used without clearly defined user guidelines in particular leaves the door open for employees to consume public cloud services that could be putting data at risk without you knowing it. Consider some of the findings revealed in a recent survey of 500 leading companies by Symform:

  • Nearly 20 per cent of surveyed organisations have no established security policies or standards for departments using or considering cloud computing.
  • Of the 39 per cent who claimed their organisations are not using cloud solutions and have no established policies, nearly two-thirds of this group allow employees or teams to use cloud services. Even more frightening, over one-third of the group allow employees to store organisational data in cloud solutions.
  • Nearly 70 per cent are against storing credit card information in the cloud, yet have no policies in place to prohibit workers from doing so.

Unfortunately, the presence of cloud policies does not guarantee proper enforcement. A Symantec-sponsored study showed:

  • 81 per cent of IT executives claimed their organisations had cloud security policies that stipulated clear-cut consequences for violating these policies, yet 55 per cent of surveyed end-users said they “didn’t know these policies from Adam” and 49 per cent of end-users were unaware of any consequences.
  • Some enterprises have completely blocked internal access to Dropbox and iCloud, commonly deemed as insecure for corporate data, instead of putting policies in place to control their use.

The surveys and studies speak volumes. But the questions remain: Where to start in a cloud policy — and what to include? As experts in cloud services, we’ve developed a four-step methodology to help organisations of all sizes develop their own cloud policies.

1. Codify all the steps necessary to deploy a solution. When departments or individuals in your organisation express interest in cloud solutions, you must have a framework for evaluating these cloud services. Establish a process for obtaining all the technical information, such as understanding:

  • Everything the cloud initiative entails
  • Methods for accessing the cloud data
  • The necessary governance and security
  • What test resources and pilot individuals and/or departments are appropriate
  • What IT resources are necessary to launch and maintain the cloud initiative
  • The resources the requestor and IT need post-launch
  • How and when the cloud initiative will be evaluated post-launch to ensure performance

2. Ensure the cloud solution address “The Top 5”. The criteria above address the request and how IT will support the new cloud computing initiative. But IT’s role isn’t solely understanding and supporting cloud solutions. As the experts, the IT department must perform due diligence on the proposed cloud service to ensure it meets “The Top 5”, meaning the cloud initiative is:

  • Scalable
  • Agile
  • Secure
  • Competitive
  • Dependable

Remember: The requestor is focused on solving a problem. IT’s role is to ensure that solution cuts the mustard.

3.  Determine how well the cloud solution considered can achieve the objective. Once the project is fully understood, extend IT’s technical expertise to determine if the requestor has found a solution that fully addresses the need, or if the solution will require customisation in order to meet the basic objectives.

4. Delineate employee access rights and possible workflows. Most requestors err on the side of allowing more access than needed. While this may not be a large concern for small initiatives, or ones handling non-sensitive data, cloud solutions that involve highly sensitive information should be limited to authorised personnel only.

4 Crucial Cloud Computing Lessons

As cloud computing has evolved from competitive advantage to necessity, there are a few givens that organisations considering or already using cloud services should know. Most come down to knowing the responsibilities of your organisation and your cloud services provider so you canenable a more secure cloud computing experience that cuts business risk while offering true scale.

1.  Your organisation remains ultimately responsible for cloud security. This lesson doesn’t mean cloud services that claim to be secure, SAS 70 Type II-compliant aren’t required to live up to their advertising. It simply means that no cloud solutions, no matter how focused on security, can keep your organisation’s data safe if the IT department doesn’t set and enforce cloud computing access policies, as well as compliance standards specific to your industry and geography. Of course, certain cloud services may cater to industries and regions.

Even so, the onus falls squarely on you as the customer to ensure compliance and access control. A good cloud services provider can walk you through some of the policy-related questions you’ll need to ask to ensure the right people are accessing your cloud.

2.  All data is not created — or stored in the cloud — equal. Depending upon the sensitivity of certain data, cloud solutions may not be available. Between industry standards and regulations, data containing customers’ or employees’ birthdates, government ID numbers, passport numbers and similar information may not be appropriate for your cloud solutions. Consult the legal and compliance departments early on in the cloud computing process if the initiative may involve any data one could reasonably construe as highly sensitive and that might need to remain in-house on your own servers. Your next step, once you’ve categorised the importance of your data and what information can be stored in the cloud, is to work with your cloud services provider to determine what gets stored where and who has access to it.

3.  A great cloud computing experience requires a great cloud services relationship. Many organisations fumble the opportunity to recognise cloud services providers as new business partners. Like any major on-premises solutions, cloud services providers require a solid relationship with your business, including the IT department, in order to create cloud solutions that adapt to — and perhaps lead — your organisation’s business evolution. Choosing a cloud services provider that has a local presence will give insight and access to your cloud operations and the people running them.

4.  You’re never stuck with an inflexible cloud solution. Once cloud solutions are up and running, the IT department should constantly capitalise on the opportunity to prove their value over an on-premises alternative. Regularly evaluate cloud solutions’ performance and the changing business landscape. Because cloud services provide incredible agility, there’s no reason your IT department shouldn’t stand at the vanguard of improving cloud solutions. The strong partnership with your cloud services provider will prove priceless as the IT department provides the path for business managers to have input and buy-in to the cloud solutions with the goal of providing even greater ROI.

These cloud computing lessons offer a blueprint for building successful cloud solutions across the enterprise. Knowing the cloud computing areas where other organisations have fumbled will help your business be more in-tune with what it takes to ensure a secure, strategic cloud solutions delivery.