5 Considerations for Your Move to the Cloud

Pay close attention to these five technology elements before moving to the cloud.

By Bill Schell

Enterprise organizations are eager to explore how to leverage cloud technology. Even government and military organizations are exploring moving to the cloud, driven by the Office of Management and Budget's Cloud First Initiative and the promise of significant IT cost savings. As many enterprise IT professionals have learned the hard way, it is not necessarily an easy path. There are many different approaches to the cloud, and the technology is definitely not "one size fits all."

Especially in our work with defense and intelligence agencies and enterprises, we've seen the desire to leverage some of the incredible advantages that cloud technologies promise balanced with the reality of the challenges, particularly in the areas of security and transparency. Through significant testing we've conducted in our labs to support our government customers, we've found technologies that help. We offer these points to consider when evaluating what technology is best suited to help you move to the cloud so as to improve the agility and flexibility of your organization while providing the security and transparency you need.

Consideration #1: Determine what type of cloud will serve your immediate needs

All clouds, be they private, hybrid, or public, require fundamental enabling technologies. These include automated server provisioning, server virtualization, storage virtualization, network virtualization (software defined networking), and post-deployment server management. Don't discount your ability to reuse any of these fundamental technologies you already have in place!

Consideration #2: Determine what cloud capabilities you need for long-term flexibility, security, and control to support your mission

Will you need private cloud interoperability with other organizations? Will you need to burst to a public cloud for additional compute power? Due to the sensitive nature of information, most government organizations focus first on creating a private cloud -- where you maintain control over your data and where your organizational security measures and compliance requirements are built in -- but with an eye towards a hybrid cloud to leverage public cloud compute capacity when needed.

Consideration #3: If you don't already have it, give strong and early consideration to network virtualization to enhance flexibility and security of your cloud

Network virtualization decouples and isolates virtual networks from the underlying network hardware, similar to how server virtualization decouples and isolates virtual machines from the underlying server hardware. Once virtualized, your existing physical network becomes an IP backplane used only for packet forwarding.

Virtual networks are then programmatically created and operate completely decoupled from the underlying hardware, offering the same features and guarantees of a physical network; yet with the operational benefits and hardware independence of virtual machines. Network virtualization will become a fundamental requirement to enable your hybrid cloud strategy.

Consideration #4: To ensure security, consider moving security decisions to the edge of the network.

Network virtualization helps enable this, and delivers two key security benefits for your Cloud: mobility and isolation.

Consideration #5: Cloud technologies are evolving at an incredible pace. Do not lock yourself in!

Consider using a cloud management system (CMS). Many organizations attempt to build their own CMS only to discover that creating a flexible, open architecture that provides "future proofing" is enormous and prohibitively expensive to create, much less to maintain. Instead, evaluate the available cloud management systems that can incorporate your existing technologies -- no rip-and-replace required! -- and that let you adopt emerging technologies in real-time.

A Final Word

Building effective cloud architectures is complex, but the benefits are significant. We encourage enterprise IT professionals to take that second look at moving to the cloud, and evaluate the many new innovative solutions that will help you protect your level of security and policy while leveraging the power of the cloud to support your mission.

Bill Schell is CEO and founder of August Schell, a provider of information technology professional services and solutions for the government marketplace. August Schell provides professional service expertise for architecting and implementing dynamic private and hybrid cloud solutions using data center automation, server virtualization, and network virtualization (software defined networks) to organizations involved in defense and national security. You can contact the author at Bill.Schell@AugustSchell.com.
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