Documentation and Past Lessons Help Determine a Blueprint to the Cloud

Cloud enables business to achieve the transformation and innovation required by the new digital economy. Given its potential impact to the business, the adoption of the cloud should be viewed as a strategic business decision and as such, it requires a well-defined strategy developed by both business and IT working together and supported by realistic business cases.

In “Cloud Choices,” we started describing how a Cloud IT Optimization Assessment (CITOA) can help clients develop a successful cloud strategy with an informed view of architectures, costs and benefits. The methodology used in the assessment is developed by the IBM Executive Advisory Practice for IT Optimization team. In this article, we will focus on the delivery aspects of this type of assessment.

A CITOA is structured to be delivered in three distinct phases—preparation, workshops and report (see Figure 1).

Phase 1: Preparation

Prior to coming on site for the workshop, the IBM consultants undertake the usual preliminary process of understanding and documenting the project scope, goals and objectives. To make the assessment more relevant to your specific situation, we encourage the collection of actual inventory data (e.g., servers, storage, workloads, etc.). For this purpose, we provide data-collection templates and specific guidance on the required data points and ways to gather them. Where actual data isn’t readily available, we encourage your support and management staff to provide estimates based on their intimate knowledge of the environment. We fill in any missing data with rules of thumb and industry averages, which your IT staff reviews and validates for accuracy and usability.

Phase 2: Workshops

Once we’re on site, we begin a group discussion with the senior executive sponsor, outlining your company and IT organization’s long-term vision and objectives. We do this to keep our analysis in line with the broader corporate objectives. We then begin our data collection estimation if data hasn’t been made available. If data was provided, we conduct a session to review, validate and dive deeper into the data. Another major topic of discussion is centered on understanding the various boundaries, which we need keep in mind to frame the technical recommendations. We call these the boundaries of optimization.

We then move on to other technical and financial topics required to build our recommendations and our supporting business cases. These include staff counts and efficiency levels, key workloads/applications and utilization levels. We deepen our understanding of the various servers’ function groupings (e.g., Web, database and application servers) as well as their operational status (e.g., production, development or test). We also conduct in-depth discussions on required service levels, growth expectations, capacity-planning issues and available skills.

In the context of developing the most appropriate cloud strategy, we start with a review of various cloud adoption models, inclusive of cloud deployment models and cloud service delivery models. We use IBM’s Cloud Computing Reference Architecture to discuss relevant architecture patterns, use cases and specific capabilities that underlie each type of cloud computing implementation. We then review current IT capabilities versus desired/required future state capabilities based on key optimization practices to identify gaps and to start framing potential solutions. One critical aspect of any cloud strategy is identifying the right workloads to move to cloud. We identify candidates for cloud based on their affinity for various cloud deployment options. Part of the considerations includes existing dependencies, non-functional requirements, security and compliance considerations and a pain versus gain view.

Phase 3: Report

Following the on-site workshop, we complete our analysis and build preliminary configurations of our recommended alternatives along with an appropriate mix of cloud services software. We use indicative pricing for each component and calculate the capital and ongoing operational costs of their implementation. We then build comprehensive cost/benefit business cases in support of each recommendation as well as a summary analysis of all.

In our business cases, we showcase annual and projected multiyear costs and savings of the alternative future compared to the current environment. Our multiyear projections include an analysis of the technical and financial effects of future workload growth on the current technological direction alongside the potentially far more flexible and cost-efficient private, public or hybrid cloud alternatives. Our experience has shown this technique to be very effective at more accurately exploring the potential long-term costs and benefits of a cloud deployment.

About one week to 10 days later, we present our findings. The typical study deliverable is a presentation consisting of the consulting teams’ observations, findings and conclusions. This includes a graphical representation of the organization’s cloud readiness for effective cloud operations across a number of IT domains together with recommendations to address existing gaps and a roadmap for cloud.

The report also contains a detailed technical analysis of the current state, the financial base cost model followed by our target state model recommendations and business cases. We document all of the rules of thumb, variables and assumptions we used in the analysis. In those cases where a server inventory was made available, we also provide you with a cleansed and formatted spreadsheet with all server data and technical and financial details, allocations and assignments made to each server. The deliverable concludes with a suggested list of longer-term general strategic and tactical recommendations and next steps that may be appropriate to help make the study results as useful as possible.

John Karaba is a Senior Managing Consultant with IBM Systems Executive Advisory Practice for IT Optimization and a lead contributor to the methodologies the team uses to help clients optimize their IT environments and develop cloud strategies in support of business requirements.

Rick Schoenmann is a certified Executive IT Infrastructure consultant in IBM Systems Executive Advisory Practice for IT Optimization.

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