An Elastic Infrastructure
Moving to the cloud isn’t easy. But success and business innovation can occur when a clearly identified stakeholder works with a trusted partner.
By M. Sharon Baker09/05/2017
After years of talking about it, many large enterprises are making cloud deployments the centerpiece of an overall organizational transformation. Often, they take a hybrid approach that begins with DevOps.
They are recognizing driving business innovation and better meeting shifting market demands requires significantly reduced development times and rethinking how developers innovate. They are also learning moving to the cloud can be more difficult than startups and Software as a Service (SaaS) application firms make it sound.
“Business units go out and consume SaaS like Salesforce, for example, and after they get it up and running then they go back to IT because they now need to integrate with the company ERP and HR,” says Julie Schuneman, Distinguished Engineer and senior cloud advisor, IBM. “That’s where they should have started; first with a conversation about stakeholders and governance.”
After those conversations, enterprises need to create an actual cloud strategy, a step many often skip, she says. For small organizations, the cloud strategy should minimally include identifying a cloud leader and champion, determining what the company wants to achieve and articulating its goals, setting targets to reach those goals and then measuring those goals to determine success.
Enterprises are strategically moving to the cloud because today’s cloud is more dependable, reliable and available, and firms have higher trust in their partners, Schuneman says. They are also embracing IBM’s five points of integration:
- Managing many integration points from a data center to the cloud
- Integrating applications between the cloud and the data center
- Creating end-to-end data security
- Creating a solid service management plan to support end customers
- Having an end-to-end governance conversation and subsequently creating a governance plan
While those concepts aren’t new, they become complicated by the complexity of multiple cloud infrastructures where different people own relationships with particular providers. There’s often no consistency in governance or an understanding of the varying security levels across providers and in different infrastructures, and often, no one is held accountable at the same level, Schuneman says.
In “Tailoring the Hybrid Cloud,” an executive report from the IBM Institute for Business Value that Schuneman co-authored, “executives achieved the strongest results by integrating cloud initiatives company-wide and by tapping external resources for access to reliable skills and greater efficiency.”
Organizations that coordinate multiple cloud initiatives into a centralized, coordinated approach can reap benefits that include reusability of shared functions, elimination of deviations from design principles and cost savings by avoiding duplications and reducing future maintenance, according to the report.
Working with external resources allows organizations to free internal IT teams to concentrate on value-added initiatives, to lower IT costs because third parties can provide core utility services and to add up-to-date and modern expertise as an extension of the IT team.
According to the study, high achieving organizations decided which IT and business functions they could move to the cloud, and then identified and addressed internal and external challenges in adopting the cloud. Only then could they realize operational, financial and innovation benefits. Executives surveyed said 45 percent of their workloads would remain on-premises, and each organization’s unique business conditions and requirements defined its optimal hybrid technology landscape.
Benefits of Self-Service Provisioning
When one of the world’s largest banks wanted to speed innovation, it first investigated why it typically took nine months—an unacceptable time frame—to create or refine its products and services. It soon learned its developers were collectively wasting some 10,000 hours a month waiting for provisioning, server reboots and other IT services when it came to DevOps and test requests.
Although production requests were fulfilled within two hours, it took developers a week to get the same service, which greatly slowed innovation. Working with IBM’s Cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) team, they determined they could dramatically reduce wait times by moving 3,000 dev/test servers to the cloud and giving developers self-service provisioning. Doing so would save an estimated $17 million, and could shorten innovation to a single week in some cases.
Understandably, the bank faced substantial security and regulatory compliance hurdles, and it took the organization six months to vet and review the cloud infrastructure before they could begin the server migration.
One of the keys to success in this ongoing project was having a key executive sponsor who understood how moving these servers to the cloud could reduce costs while greatly increasing innovation of new services by giving developers faster self-service provisioning options. The sponsor played a key role in fostering teamwork between the bank’s IT team, responsible for providing services and charging business units for delivering those services, and the external IBM team.
Cloud-Native Apps Speed Services
A large healthcare organization also re-evaluated its IT ecosystem after deciding it needed more consistency. It’s now in the process of moving many of its on-premises applications to the cloud.
Because it faces some regulatory constraints, the organization is keeping some workloads on-premises in a private cloud, and others are being lifted and shifted to public IaaS so a cloud provider can manage those environments. The healthcare organization has also decided new workloads will be cloud native utilizing IBM Bluemix*.
Currently, the organization has disjointed silos of on-premises and cloud workloads and applications built organically over 30 years that aren’t integrated end-to-end. The monolithic infrastructure suffered from security gaps, and it took a long time to make changes to products or services.
Executives understand that a nine- to 12-month cycle to release new applications is unacceptable and the existing IT infrastructure can’t support its business in today’s competitive environment. Additionally, the organization lacked the cloud skills needed to re-architect applications and workloads.
As part of the IT transformation, executives also want to instill a culture of grassroots innovation and more rapidly bring new value and services to its constituents, which include physicians, staff, patients and their communities. Because IT isn’t the organization’s core competency, it’s working to offload that overhead to IBM.
The healthcare organization needed more than just a public cloud provider; it needed a much broader spectrum of capabilities and support, not just platform as a service with Bluemix, but also the fully managed capabilities of the IBM Global Technology Services, local migration capabilities, and help transforming legacy applications into cloud microservices architecture.
Working with IBM, the organization is implementing a soft launch pilot with a first production workload that some 6 million patients will eventually use. In just 12 weeks, they overhauled the application’s architecture into microservices in a Garage-thinking, agile approach that complied with HIPAA and other regulations.
With one cloud native re-architecture under their belts, the team now plans to tackle three other applications. Seeing they can be much more innovative, the healthcare executives are considering Internet of Things (IoT) applications, blockchain innovations and implementing other cutting edge technologies that are being sponsored by the CTO.
Easing the Transition
As these enterprises learned, moving to the cloud wasn’t easy. But success and business innovation can occur when a clearly identified stakeholder works with a trusted partner to create and execute a company-wide strategy.
“I tell clients there’s no magic wand and pixy dust,” Schuneman says. “Just because the cloud sounds cool, doesn’t mean it’s easier. In many ways, it’s harder. A lot of hard work goes into making it work and being successful.”
M. Sharon Baker is a Washington-based freelance writer.More →