Top 10 List for Success in the Cloud
By Octave Orgeron June 2013
With: Ivan Lazarov, Chief Enterprise Architect, Intuit
John Hill, CIO and Enterprise Vice President, SaskTel
Chris Mankle, Chief Technology Officer, Xerox
Part of the Oracle Experiences in Enterprise Architecture article series
Cloud computing is evolving rapidly as infrastructure architects prototype and deliver first and second-generation capabilities. Cloud service providers, whether public or private, have carefully considered the business models, infrastructure deployment requirements, and operational aspects of cloud implementations. Delivering something new isn't easy. In fact, you could say that they are building the plane while they are flying it! However, so much has been learned that we thought it was time to share current best practices.
In the tradition of The Late Show with David Letterman, we have created a Top Ten List for success in the cloud. Like his top ten lists, we'll list the factors in reverse order, with the most important element last. A companion presentation is also available here.
Spoiler alert: The #1 most important element for success in the cloud is to leverage the principles of Enterprise Architecture. Enterprise Architects can see the big picture. They are skilled at marshaling the diverse set of business and IT resources necessary to ensure success.
# 10 Know Your Target Audience
Just as you can't design information systems in a vacuum, you can't build a cloud for an internal or external audience until you know about your consumers and their needs. Start by clearly defining the applications and services that you want to provide. Are you developing for a business audience? For IT dev/ops? For external customers? For mobile users? Develop business cases for each constituency. If you know who your audience is and what they need then you will be better positioned to fine tune your capabilities and prioritize your new investments. For example, if the goal is to reduce IT infrastructure spending, your business case should demonstrate how a cloud-based service model shares infrastructure, thus reducing costs. If your organization wants to increase IT agility or support corporate growth, show how a cloud solution supports elasticity and rapid provisioning.
It is helpful to conduct surveys. Provide questionnaires to your consumers to discover how you can best meet their business requirements.
For example, when SaskTel set out to introduce a cloud-based Identity and Access Management service, the telecommunications leader hired a third-party to walk them through the process of obtaining input and feedback from clients. In partnership with Oracle, SaskTel gathered a core group of business and IT experts to define and develop the IDAM solution. They augmented the team with Enterprise Architects from Oracle Consulting Services. Their objective was to align the team's functional business objectives with an IT strategy and execution plan, as well as to guide the creation of the new solution.
"Technology is the easy part for us," reported SaskTel CIO John Hill. "What we lacked were business architects-people who can translate the concept and value of technology into terms that business people understand."
# 9 Have an End-to-End Service Catalog
When designing cloud solutions, don't just envision generic services. Think carefully about the functions and capabilities you want to offer. These items should be well documented in a service catalog. As you define Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and Quality of Service tiers (QoS) you must determine what kinds of technologies you will need to meet them. Create a strategy for how you will do metering and rating such as by CPU hour, by month, or by number of users.
Think of the service catalog as a living entity, not a rigid set of instructions.
For example, when Oracle and Xerox worked with the State of Texas to develop the Texas Cloud Marketplace, a comprehensive IT environment that supports dozens of state agencies, Oracle Enterprise Architects engaged business users at multiple levels to fully understand the scope of the problem. Before they specified the technical components of the cloud architecture, they developed a capability model, a business architecture, and an operating model for bringing state agencies into the cloud. They carefully defined several fundamental services and a set of SLAs that could evolve with the cloud architecture. Instead of just focusing on the needs, expectations and the business requirements of today, they sat down with senior business leaders and agency representatives to identify their expectations for tomorrow.
Xerox worked with the Oracle EA team to create use-cases that reflect the needs of each agency. They considered the profiles of the various agencies and then developed a business service catalog that supports the specific functions these agencies needed. A critical success factor for this project was metering and monitoring, which led to a cost-recovery model that represents best practices within the public sector. As Texas State officials quickly realized, if you can't meter and monitor, you can't bill for cloud services.
# 8 Master Provisioning and Automation
Developing solid cloud provisioning and automation capabilities is essential to the success of cloud solutions. You must be able to make your sources repeatable for different groups within the organization and for different locations. That includes infrastructure, services, applications and data centers. Doing this effectively requires using proven EA frameworks, artifacts and tools.
Make it a goal to have zero manual intervention so you can remove human errors from cloud provisioning and deployment. Establish business flows to automatically build the necessary components and infrastructure when a customer clicks to buy a service.
Oracle Enterprise Architects advised Intuit to use Oracle Enterprise Manager and Oracle Virtual Machine to deploy a management platform for key parts of its private cloud, which aims to improve customer service by tying software offerings to an equally integrated business infrastructure.
# 7 Do Capacity Planning
There is a tendency to think of cloud services as infinite. They are not. However, cloud services are generally easy to scale. Cloud service providers have an advantage over traditional IT since the cloud operating model makes it easy to add capacity by acquiring hardware, storage, and network resources and adding them to the pool. This agility is one of the great benefits of cloud, but it necessitates up-front capacity planning and ongoing management. You must proactively monitor performance and utilization, as well as conduct regular forecasting exercises so you know when it is time to order more licenses or add more equipment. Are you continuing to meet necessary service levels? If not, is it because of capacity issues or bandwidth issues?
Make sure your expansion plans align with your SLAs and don't overbook or oversubscribe your cloud resources. Like an airline that over-books flights, spreading resources too thin leads to a negative customer experience. Stacking your workload, applications, and services responsibly requires good capacity planning.
Oracle Enterprise Architects helped Intuit determine how many compute resources to put behind each virtual machine. They also created a dashboard that reveals precisely how much capacity is deployed and where it is deployed so system administrators can quickly allocate additional capacity as necessary.
# 6 Provide Security Across All Layers
People often think security begins and ends with a firewall or virtualization. But firewalls and virtualization are not enough. Cloud deployments require security across all layers of the infrastructure including servers, networks, storage, and data.
Service providers typically enable role-based access to information by implementing identity management systems to authorize users. The same security precepts that they have applied to traditional architecture also apply to the cloud.
Ensure security across all layers, and don't overlook database security. A database firewall provides a first line of defense against threats originating from both outside and inside the organization. It monitors data access, enforces access policies, highlights anomalies, and protects against network-based attacks. Be sure to properly secure and isolate each element of the cloud architecture. And be proactive about monitoring. Step back and consider what processes you need to ensure that every activity is completely trusted-by person, department, partner, or application.
# 5 Process Architecture Must Support End-to-End Flows
To ensure the success of your cloud implementation you should create end-to-end process flows for all services. Many organizations use Business Process Management (BPM) technology to model, simulate, execute, and optimize business processes. This makes it easier to create business processes quickly as well as to instigate process changes in a nontechnical, business-friendly manner. Business analysts can model processes by defining a logical sequence of events that illustrate links from the cloud infrastructure to each service and to the consumers of those services. They can also develop feedback loops to ensure that each process is complete and auditable.
A process architect can help you define end-to-end process flows, as well as document them and communicate their value to the people consuming cloud services. During collaboration sessions, a good process architect will be able to forge links between application developers and IT operations staff as well as communicate consumer expectations. These process flows can then be implemented using a common framework or in technology-specific layers such as virtualization with Oracle Enterprise Manager and Oracle VM Manager.
# 4 Be Customer-Centric
In moving to cloud-based solutions, organizational and process changes are inevitable. The basic model of how IT is delivered will change. In many cases, the IT organization will behave more like a service provider and less like a traditional IT shop. This shift in emphasis necessitates a more customer-centric approach, whether the customers are consumers, business users, or another entity. Consider setting up a dedicated cloud team and establishing key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure progress towards fulfilling customer expectations.
For guidance, many organizations adopt Information Technology Service Management (ITSM) processes and leverage the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), a set of best practices for aligning IT services with the needs of business. Oracle Enterprise Architects often recommend ITIL as a key enabler for delivering successful cloud services.
For SaskTel, the shift in IT delivery meant a cultural change, including hiring the right people. They created a Cloud Center of Excellence comprised of people who understood the user community and its needs. To create a customer-centric organization, they hired for attitude and aptitude, not necessarily technical skills.
As SaskTel learned, your comfort level with cloud technology and architecture will grow over time. But if the team doesn't engage with customers, you won't solve the fundamental problems.
# 3 One Size Does Not Fit All
There is no single solution for resolving the complexities of cloud computing. Use the right tools for each job and align your capabilities with your service level agreements. Balance commodity and optimized infrastructure to deliver the right solutions at the right service levels and price point.
When it comes to provisioning there are many ways to slice and dice your infrastructure. You don't need to virtualize everything across the board or create something that needs to be completely homogenized.
The future state of the IT environment should be driven from a combination of business goals and objectives, the technology solutions used to implement those goals, and the organizational changes required to move the company to where it needs to be. All of these elements need to be carefully considered. There is no single template to achieve the perfect future state.
# 2 Have a Marketing Strategy
A good marketing strategy includes publishing a business service catalog, illustrating the satisfaction with your service-delivery function, offering financial incentives year over year, and working closely with your consumers. Cloud investments depend on continual uptake of the service model to justify the capital expenses. This means that your service catalog must keep up with and even anticipate what the business will need over time. Even though this is new territory for IT, building a business model that includes demand plans, IT investments, cost recovery models, and marketing plans for IT services has become the foundation of the IT operating model.
The challenge is not just competing on price with an individual public cloud service, but ensuring that the enterprise is operating according to an optimal shared-services function. This implies lowering costs for all-for the long term. Ask yourself these marketing questions:
How will you appeal to your consumer base and offer a better service level agreement (SLA)? What incentives will you offer to use the cloud service? How will you guarantee lower costs each period? What can you do to ensure re-subscription?
Communicate the business case to your customers as part of your marketing strategy. The business case for cloud starts with the vision that the organization has defined and the related goals and objectives that are required to achieve that vision. A good marketing strategy should result in enthusiastic adoption.
There are multiple milestones and different business justifications at various phases of cloud implementation. To ensure ongoing executive support, try to achieve a business benefit at each milestone. Cloud computing is not the end goal for an organization. Providing value in the drive to achieve business objectives is the end goal. Keep that in mind when developing your marketing strategy.
# 1 Use Enterprise Architects
Drumroll, please. The number one most important element in creating successful clouds is to leverage enterprise architects. As we mentioned at the beginning of this essay, enterprise architects can see the big picture. They know how to align business with IT and connect people, process, and technology together to meet the stated objectives of the project.
Oracle Enterprise Architects recommend the following five principles for any large scale transformation:
- Think in time (Current State / Future State / and Intermediary or Transitional State)
- Examine "multidimensional processing" (People, Process, Strategy and Technology)
- Bring together multi-pillar architectures (Applications, Technology, Hardware and Software)
- Perform "Environmental Contextualization" (Fit the cloud system into the overall ecosystem; don't merely design the architecture as an end in itself)
- Provide trade-off analysis for best-fit architecture (Balance Business, Organizational, Financial and Technical factors)
Oracle delivers enterprise solutions that align business strategies with architecture principles. For example, the Oracle Architecture Development Process (OADP) reflects several decades of implementation knowledge. Oracle has acquired this expertise by assisting with enterprise IT solutions at virtually every corner of every major industry. We have applied this methodology with great success to build both private and public clouds.
Figure 1: Oracle Architecture Development Process
The Enterprise Architecture Framework leads enterprise architects through the process of building a cloud solution, from the statement of the architectural vision and the analysis of the business architecture, through the systems and technical architecture designs, to incorporating deployment considerations of migration planning, governance, and change management.
Oracle recommends the Oracle Enterprise Architecture Framework (OEAF) to streamline the architectural process when designing a public, private, or hybrid cloud infrastructure. Oracle's framework is aligned with other industry EA frameworks but adds Oracle-specific artifacts such as reference architectures, tools, and prescriptive guidance.
Figure 2: Oracle Enterprise Architecture Framework
Success in the Cloud
Architecting and implementing a cloud solution is a complex task. Oracle Enterprise Architects can align all the moving parts and deliver a practical execution plan. In addition to enforcing technical best practices and creating a practical architecture plan, they are skilled at mitigating transition risks, fostering executive communication, and handling project management. Have a conversation with our architects and let them build a roadmap for you.
About the Author
Octave Orgeron is Senior Director and Oracle Enterprise Architect with Oracle.