In my recent travels and meetings with customers and partners around the Asia Pacific region, two themes lead our discussions.
One is the continuous pressure to justify expenditure in the data centre, and the ability to show the ROI on this investment. The second theme is continuous disruption, and how companies should equip themselves to react to new opportunities or competitive threats, while still managing costs.
The contexts for both of these discussions are of course connected – and they usually end up arriving at a third discussion point: cloud infrastructure and services.
I have seen world-class examples of on-premise private cloud infrastructure along with highly performing public cloud environments within the same organisation.
This makes sense; after all in a business climate ripe with digital disruption, the outsourcing of various computing functions to the cloud is now commonplace.
But it’s never been a distinct choice between in-house or cloud, or between public cloud versus private cloud. I have seen world-class examples of on-premise private cloud infrastructure along with highly performing public cloud environments within the same organisation.
What’s required is something called Infrastructure Agility, a concept I have adapted here in which organisations create infrastructure strategies expressly to accommodate flexible tactics around resources, opportunities, competitive defence, and budgeting. Simply put – the ability to change quickly with an infrastructure that supports this flexibility.
In this respect, the concept goes beyond the choice between data centre or cloud, or between private and public clouds: those are largely operational considerations. An organisation can consider and adopt any infrastructure implementation within an agile infrastructure model, including adopting just one discrete option.
On the other hand, Infrastructure Agility maximises your options. The term is referenced by Gartner via a research paper, defined as an operational approach “necessary for innovation and a key enabler of digital business”.
Cloud decisions are best made within
via an Infrastructure Agility framework
Every organisation is different, and IT infrastructures reflect this. But in every case, the IT infrastructure must serve the organisation along with its requirement to remain agile, flexible and competitive.
Some organisations choose to run a private cloud in-house, bursting into the public cloud as needed during peak times. Others make the choice based on workloads. Regardless of your current position, I believe most organisations are best off viewing their infrastructure requirements, including decisions on the data centre and the cloud as a journey, often defined by choosing what is best for individual workloads, certainly, and key business applications.
As one example, analysts at IDC recommend a multi-cloud approach, taking in the best of public and private clouds to suit different workloads. The theory goes – and it’s a good one – that some enterprise applications are better suited to public cloud. That may include web applications where users are spread far and wide geographically, a distributed workflow application across multiple regions, or a workload that is expected to require global scalability. In contrast, ERP, CRM, database applications and analytics tend to run in private clouds within the data centre.
This isn’t just an analyst position. I meet CIOs regularly who tell me they’re pursuing a multi-cloud strategy. The benefits of a multi-cloud and hybrid approach are not always obvious. For example, we recently helped a large airline with a private cloud solution. Managing this hardware in-house, the airline set up a private cloud, providing billable services internally, improving the organisation’s balance sheet.
I meet CIOs regularly who tell me they’re pursuing a multi-cloud strategy.
The point is putting yourself in a position to benefit from a bespoke cloud and data centre strategy that is able to adapt to your business conditions. Infrastructure Agility provides a framework for considering how you can best take advantage of what the cloud offers.
How to apply the Infrastructure Agility concept
Begin with the broader concept– the ability to put resources where they are needed, to pivot as opportunity strikes.
From there, go granular – prioritise and examine your workloads and measure which ones will benefit most from moving to the public cloud, and which should be retained in-house in a private cloud. Consider costs, timely access to data, security of information, performance and service quality, and application scalability.
Prioritise and examine your workloads and measure which ones will benefit most from moving to the public cloud, and which should be retained in-house in a private cloud.
Migrate workloads in test environments and begin with more manageable pieces of your applications infrastructure – whether this workload is moving to a public or a private cloud. Either way, ensure you prioritise evaluation, deployment and management of your service using KPIs, analytics and policy-based service level agreements. Take note of this research released by McKinsey which shows that the most cloud-savvy companies have invested in the organisational capabilities that make cloud adoption easier.
One size doesn’t fit all – but agility is universally important
When it comes to cloud, one size definitely does not fit all. Infrastructure Agility provides a broader framework that puts your business performance and flexibility first. It asks how can we take advantage of the digital disruption sweeping our industry and remain at the forefront of new opportunities. How can we balance the need to lower costs, with the need to innovate or to protect our information? How can we meet the performance-based demands of the business while remaining nimble enough to shift direction as needed?
By using the concept of an agile infrastructure to navigate key cloud investment decisions, executives have a useful strategic framework that helps to meet the demands of today’s digital-first business environment.
I’m interested in your cloud computing experiences. Please share your stories, questions or observations in the comments below or find me on Twitter!
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