Ah, the old song. How sweetly its sung. And, sadly, how wrong it is. This article will look at how everyone should be looking to at the least adopt a hybrid approach to cloud – even if their datacentre is new and only partly used.
Software as a Service is here to stay
Using an expensive resource like an IT department to do easy things is wasteful – and some classes of application are better run as Software as a Service. A prime example of this is business to business email. Every business has its own email addresses, and its staff use them to talk internally and externally. It’s an extremely well-worn path to run them internally, but it’s one that should be avoided. The cost of running a cloud mail service is now trivial (whether Gmail, Exchange Online or A. N. Other). The big players keep their services running, feature rich and secure. Staying on premises adds to your risk profile, eats time better spent on other work and adds no value.
Let’s not overlook that last point. When staff are working on your in-house email service they are not working on other things – and are wildly unlikely to be able to be doing anything out of the ordinary with your email.
Obviously, there are some cases where specialist products are needed, for example, bulk emailing tools such as Mail Chip or Pardot. These are usually hosted in a cloud where they can get the professional care they need, and the traffic they generate isn’t hitting your perimeter defences. I have run services that generated a couple of million emails per month and they worked far better when I moved them to a cloud.
A large number of other business apps (usually things non-core to your business) do better in the Cloud. Finance, HR and CRM systems all distract your IT staff and are often better managed in a cloud by specialists, where the patching and monitoring can be done by people for whom that application is core to their business. SAP just flat out care more about keeping the SAP services running than anyone else. Payroll is the key exception that motivates absolutely everyone, but which for security reasons should also be kept away from your in-house staff.
Ok, so a few non-core services should move to cloud – is that it?
Have you really thought about what is “non-core”? For any organisation that really should include repeatable IT services like backup and disaster recovery. These are IT processes which add little value to your day to day business but are must haves that soak up time and money. Using as a Service (aaS) makes all sorts of good sense, for the same reasons as the emailers and HR solutions. They are core to those vendors, who are very highly focussed on keeping them secure, on-line and efficient. Even if you have a nice, shiny new datacentre you probably still cannot do the work as well as an aaS vendor. And if you can – why on earth would you? Trying to compete with a vendor in the delivery of their product is pointless.
How about systems monitoring and control? Both EC2 and Azure have products in the cloud that can help manage your on premises estate. They benefit from regular patching and updates and are available at a low cost. Having a look at something from that stack is only sensible – right? And you have looked at the products and know what you could have – haven’t you?
So what should sit in my shiny new datacentre?
If all the non-core systems, both for the organisation and for the IT department need to extend into the cloud, what should stay close to home? Is the new on premises datacentre just a white elephant? Well – actually no.
Firstly, moving services to aaS models takes time, and is disruptive. Your team will need to move them gradually to manage the impact on your business.
Secondly, there are some services that you do which are core. They are more likely to have bespoke features which your IT team has added to provide particular functionality – and these may not transfer so well to aaS models. I would argue that they might benefit from the flexibility and capacity of public cloud – but with a large sunk cost on premises (and with space being freed up by moving less key areas to aaS) this might not be at the top of your mind.
To take advantage of the latest in BI and data analytics, however, you will need to keep even these core services connected to the wider world of public cloud.
I have talked about getting past other perceived cloud blockers in my past couple of articles (here and here). But enough of the negatives, next up some positives. Both VDI and development are on my shortlist, but you can send me a message to request any future topics.