Cloud Computing in the Real World: 10 Steps to an Enterprise Cloud Strategy that Works the First Time

What can you do to ensure that your cloud computing plan is ready to go and will get the job done? These 10 steps will help.

By David S. Linthicum, Founder and CTO, Blue Mountain Labs

Your enterprise wants to create a cloud computing strategy that matches its business goals and objectives. In many IT shops, cloud computing was once considered an unnecessary distraction. However, these days you need to have a cloud computing plan ready to go. Everyone is asking for it -- from the CIO to the board, even the investors. You can’t escape the hype.

How do you create an enterprise cloud computing strategy that works the first time? How can you leverage best practices?

Here are 10 steps to get you there.

Step 1: Ignore the hype. The technology providers spend an inordinate amount of money to wag the dog, thus the hype value and the true value of cloud computing are very different. The hype will just confuse you.

Step 2: Create your business case. We all know that IT exists to add value to the business. Don’t forget that law. Make sure to create business cases for all migrations to private or public cloud-computing platforms. If there is not a good business case for a system, don’t make the move.

Step 3: Define your domains. You can’t boil the ocean, and you cannot move most of your IT infrastructure to the cloud at the same time. You need to divide the applications, databases, and other infrastructure components into small problem domains so you can better understand requirements. Then provide segmentation and prioritization for the cloud migration, if indeed the smaller domains should still move to the cloud (see Step 2).

Step 4: Define the useful cloud computing technology patterns for each domain. Which cloud computing technologies are you likely to leverage? In this step, define what they are but not who they are. If you pick cloud platforms and service providers too early in the project, without knowing the core requirements, you will likely pick the wrong technology. However, it’s useful to define the patterns of the technology you’ll leverage at this step, including SaaS, IaaS, and PaaS ... private, public, or hybrid. In other words, you need to know what cloud computing is before mapping out a path to it.

Step 5: Define your core requirements for each domain. What are your systems doing now? What can they do better? What do they cost? Can the use of cloud computing technology assist you or not? You need to focus on your data, applications, and user-interface processing requirements at the very least, including what applications run where and for what purpose. Although this step is just one of ten steps, it represents more than half the work.

Step 6: Define your security requirements. Understand your core security and compliance requirements for all systems. What approaches are to be leveraged and what technology will be useful? By the way, you can create a secure environment in the clouds -- it just takes planning.

Step 7: Define your governance requirements. How will you control access to data, services, applications, interfaces, APIs, etc.? Determine the technology you'll need to monitor these components.

Step 8: Create test plans. These are the procedures leveraged to test the final deployed cloud-computing systems, including the oldies but goodies: unit, integration, and regression testing. However, things are a bit different in how they work within cloud computing platforms. Make sure you consider that.

Step 9: Create performance models. Will the use of cloud computing, including public and/or private clouds, provide the performance required to drive the business? Create performance models, and conduct performance tests. Keep in mind that you’ll undergo organic data growth over time, so make sure to plan for that.

Step 10: Create a final migration plan. This is the “do it” step, or the master plan for all of the activities that need to take place to get from point A (on-premise systems) to point B (some of these systems are moved to public and private clouds). You need to order this plan by domain, in priority order, or put first those domains that will provide the most value and put those of least value last. Make sure to build in reflection time or time for adjustments when things go wrong. They always do.

Getting to the clouds is not that hard if you just keep these steps in mind.

David S. Linthicum is the founder and the CTO of Blue Mountain Labs and an internationally recognized industry expert and thought leader. He is the author and coauthor of 13 books on computing, including Enterprise Application Integration (Addison Wesley). David is the keynoter at the 37th International Computer Measurement Group's annual conference (CMG'11), December 5-9 at the Gaylord National Hotel in the Washington, DC area. You can contact the author at david@bluemountainlabs.com.