Overcoming the Obstacles to Cloud Computing

While cloud computing has garnered exceptional mindshare – even outside of IT, most organizations are unprepared to adopt it on an enterprise scale. They first must overcome technology, organizational and process hurdles.

Barriers to Cloud

Cloud utilizes virtualization as its underpinning technology, but most organizations get stuck along the virtualization journey – typically somewhere around the halfway virtualized server mark, thereby making enterprise cloud adoption unrealistic.

Of course, cloud is much more than just adding specialized products such as VMware vCloud Director and vCenter Chargeback to a virtualized environment. Cloud, also known as IT-as-a-Service, encompasses multitenancy, auto-provisioning and a cost model based upon resource consumption. A services catalogue should enable users to automatically provision the infrastructure required for their applications – including the appropriate performance and security attributes. Continuous monitoring and appropriate governance are essential cloud components along with a chargeback or showback system in order to encourage efficient utilization. 

Despite the appeal, and perhaps inevitability of cloud computing, most IT organizations are not in a position to embrace the technology because they continue to be mired in the vestiges of physical data centers. Backup and archival processes, for example, utilize agent-based solutions rather than superior array-based alternatives. Firewall and intrusion detection appliances built for the physical world do not perform well in a dynamic virtual environment with migrating VMs. Disaster recovery utilizes manual tape transfers. Change management processes don’t address virtualization induced issues such as VMsprawl. Applications are still purchased and developed utilizing legacy architectures resulting in an inability to support cloud bursting, horizontal load-balancing and active/active data centers. 

Insufficient funding is a glaring obstacle to cloud computing. Legacy departmental budgeting models continue to drive myopic purchases of equipment and software even as IT infrastructure shifts to shared virtualized resource pools. Departments used to purchasing their own equipment are often reluctant to fund shared cloud initiatives out of their budgets. 

Traditional IT organizations, particularly larger ones, commonly are comprised of silos such as Windows, database, storage, networking and server teams. They may report up to different managers and operate their domains in relative isolation. Server administrators are unconcerned with network switch configuration. Storage administrators dole out LUNs as they see fit. The network team controls all traffic. New technology initiatives must be pushed by the championing department to all the various silos for approval consensus. This stovepipe IT model is not conducive to cloud computing where interdependencies demand constant and effective collaboration. 

Successfully Adopting a Cloud Computing Mindset 

Embracing cloud computing requires a new mindset enabling IT organization transformation. Here are five recommendations: 

1)      Establish a single entity or small group of architects that are well versed in all key data center operations including virtualization, Microsoft applications, Linux, storage, compute, network, desktop and voice. All technology should roll up to this person or group who has the top level responsibility for making quick decisions.

2)      Change the funding model to reflect IT-as-a-Service with an aggregated budgeting process. Ease the initial investment requirements by utilizing leasing programs or public cloud providers, thereby enabling a positive cash flow from the start.

3)      Address the edge environments and technologies that eventually should become part of a cloud architecture. Remote office server infrastructure and desktops can often be consolidated through a virtual desktop initiative. PBX voice can move to IP telephony enabling incorporation as virtual machines.

4)      Complete the virtualization journey to implement ITaaS. This entails scrutinizing legacy equipment, tools and processes to ensure adequate cloud support. Evaluate tools and products based upon best fit for the designated architecture. Implement processes supporting the new demands for security, performance, compliance, recovery and availability.

5)      Approach application purchase and development as a Platform-as-a-Service to enable enterprise software decisions consistent with overall cloud architecture. Newer SOA/SOAP/RESTful (aka Web 2.0) application architectures, for example, scale and virtualize much better, are readily supported as VMs, can run seamlessly in the cloud and better enable active/active data centers. 

Cloud Integrators

The former reseller niche of Solutions Integrator is morphing into the newly designated role of “Cloud Integrator”. A competent Cloud Integrator can help transition to the cloud era by implementing a private cloud infrastructure that is both flexible and agile and which seamlessly integrates to appropriate public cloud providers whether SaaS, PaaS or full-blown IaaS. 

Cloud integrators can also assist with tasks such as operational readiness assessments that identify the key infrastructure processes requiring revision in order to support cloud. They can help with architecture design as well as with selecting the optimal tools and products for achieving enterprise objectives. 

See Also:                                                                                                                                                                  . VAR Point of View: How I Became a Cloud Integrator. 03/07/12. Steven Burke. CRN


Chris Reed @Creedom2020, Jeremy Oakey and Mark Vaughn @mvaughn25 of Presidio all contributed to this article.


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