5 ways CIOs should measure the cloud

The choice to move to cloud is becoming clearer every day. But the choices within that decision are becoming more fraught as the marketplace develops and a wider selection of delivery models and platforms.

The onus is also increasingly falling on CIOs to be the chief decision makers with regards to how cloud should fit within the organization.

Here are a few measures for how to best determine what cloud will be best for your business.

The technology

The component pieces of the cloud provider’s technology need to sync with what you are already working with, as well as what you will be looking to integrate going forward.

One of the great things about cloud platforms (generally) is that there is a degree of interchangeability since the technology is treated as a commodity. However, depending on whom you choose to go with, this is going to be easier or harder.

If you go with AWS, you can expect a high degree of difficulty integrating your existing systems simply because they like to get people to use their systems. This syncing of APIs can be achieved, but it requires skilled management to implement.

Other providers will have other techs that their clouds are based on that may be better for your internal systems. For instance, if you have been working off of VMware-based platforms, a cloud service provider running VMware based clouds might be an easier transition.

Cloud vs. business objectives

As you start evaluating the cloud, looking internally to better understand what problems need to be solved, both on the business and technological level, should be your guiding principle.

This should override any internal mandate for cloud for its own sake, instead helping your business identify exactly how, and if, cloud computing is going to be the best vehicle for you to solve distinct business challenges. It’s important to note that depending on the type of vendor you end up choosing, you will potentially be able to.

For example, let’s say an eCommerce business (previously running their infrastructure internally) is seeking to improve their database performance to better access potential revenue being left on the table.  In moving to an outsourced cloud, the cloud provider was able to identify critical database issues for the eCommerce business.

The cloud provider solved the issue with a cloud database performance optimization, which led to more people being able to make more purchases in a given period and ultimately, an uptick in revenue.

What IS and IS NOT appropriate for cloud

There are many different schemes for how best to leverage cloud technologies, from templating to autoscaling and more. In fact, there is such a range of approaches that you risk; potentially foregoing the most cost effective method and wasting money. Getting a sense for what the cloud should be used for effective IT delivery can help you structure an IT strategy better.

Important questions to ask include: do you need to save money or have a budget to adhere to? Are there other places where you could move those resources to better improve your company?

In combination to knowing where cloud fits with the corresponding answers to these questions, you can start to build out areas of applicability and areas of reassessment.

Your team’s capabilities

Migrating to the cloud, while easier than even a year ago, still requires serious expertise and time. Assessing your internal resources will be a major component of how you frame a strategy to integrate cloud into your organization.

Beyond the migration, does your team have the knowledge, expertise or capability to learn to effectively manage the cloud? Depending on how internal prowess is gauged, the choice to utilize an outsourced cloud provider can be the path of least resistance and greatest reward as you leverage cloud technology.

The different flavours of cloud

A serious strategic determination centers around the kind of cloud you choose to utilize. AWS offers a different cloud than Rackspace; Rackspace supports a different cloud than Logicworks; Logicworks is a different cloud than Azure.

Each kind of cloud will have its particular upsides and downsides, whether you prefer the open cloud approach championed by Rackspace, the all-inclusive lock in of AWS, or the interoperability of Logicworks.

Understanding the fundamental differences between each is key to successfully implementing the right choice. Each vendor needs to be measured against your internal team’s strengths and weaknesses so you can better determine what technical knowledge and skills you need to bolster externally and what can be brought to bear in-house.

Thoughts? Let us know on Twitter @CloudGathering.

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10 Sep 2013, 6:37 p.m.

Cloud Buyers and CIOs should also take into account local cloud providers other than the Amazon and Rack Spaces of the world. Many local cloud providers offer the same service levels at more cost-effective pricing.