By Craig Beddis, SVP Rest of World Region, UC4 Software

As the hype curve around cloud computing continues north, it’s increasingly easy to get lost in the pressure — perceived or real — coming from all sides to quickly formulate a strategy to leverage today’s IT super trend. The promise of benefits such as fast time to implementation, cheap infrastructure in a pay-as-you go model, substantially reduced electricity and overall IT costs, and a host of other tantalising would-be benefits can seem overwhelming. But as the old adage goes, cooler heads will prevail.

After listening and providing counsel to dozens of IT execs (and those deeper in the trenches) at various stages of cloud implementation, we have identified a set of key considerations among those successfully incorporating cloud into a comprehensive IT strategy. While success in the cloud is certainly not limited to preparing against the following considerations, taking the time to think through them will put you in a better position to help make cloud successful at your organisation.

IT Management and Automation
While one of the benefits of cloud is capacity on demand without having to deal with infrastructure and scalability issues, moving applications and data to a cloud infrastructure does not eliminate management and automation responsibilities — it heightens them. Many of the tools, or combination of tools, used to manage and automate applications and business processes currently running in physical and virtual environments, do not translate well to a cloud model. In fact, many IT organisations experience a loss of visibility into and control over applications moved to the cloud.

This loss of control puts service level agreements (SLAs) and governance strategies at risk and often increases the need for manual management - jeopardising the intended efficiency gains. After all, SLAs are core to any IT organisation.

Successful cloud migration begins by ensuring that your management and automation tools are able to migrate to the cloud along with your applications and business processes. Organisations face the need to add advanced, virtual and cloud-enabled tools that can be bolted on to an existing tool set. Or, a more strategic approach to employing an enterprise solution that is truly platform agnostic is necessary. In any case, the IT management and automation approach must be considered.

A platform-agnostic enterprise solution can enable advanced processes such as predictive and proactive workload management and help IT organisations take full advantage of the elasticity benefits the cloud provides. However, proactive management initiatives currently underway in the physical environment require the right solution to bridge to virtual and cloud environments.

Application Awareness
Too often, application groups aren’t thinking about cloud dynamics, but they need to be. Most groups that are installing or maintaining an application don’t care where it’s running as long as SLAs are met but do enjoy the immediate elasticity advantage that comes with leveraging the cloud. However, careful management when tapping the cloud is necessary to control costs. Cloud-ready management and automation tools can help manage costs and provide proactive and predictive management capabilities that can help applications groups ensure that financial goals and SLAs are met.

Application awareness not only monitors the immediate needs of the application but can also predict load requirements based on previous needs and other factors. This enables proactive load management using existing physical and virtual resources and automated engagement of the cloud as necessary to keep applications running optimally. Predictive capabilities of cloud-enabled tools can also ensure rapid, automated reconfiguration of infrastructure to ramp down engagement when the infrastructure is no longer needed, which is one of the key areas where cost savings are realised.

Current cloud providers can help handle unplanned workloads by making infrastructure available immediately. Application Awareness allows you to proactively manage supplemental infrastructure based on planned and unplanned workloads. Make sure that as you make the move to the cloud your solution provides visibility into your application workloads to proactively manage cloud engagement. The ability to proactively manage the ebbs and flows of daily workloads will save money and resources.

Cloud Utilisation
Any bad habits that exist in the on-premise and virtual environments tend to come along for the ride with the jump to cloud. The tendency to over-provision is one of them. Make sure your management and automation tools can help you visualise and utilise all of the capacity that exists in physical resources and in the virtual environment you’ve invested in and worked so hard to develop. A private cloud that helps utilise your existing virtual capacity is often an organisation’s first foray into cloud computing. Again, when moving to the public cloud, new management and automation tools are often necessary.

Making the move to the cloud opens your systems to new security threats and data retrieval issues. System administrators should map out a contingency plan to back up and protect, as well as find a way to access, all data when necessary.

For example, what if legal discovery becomes an issue for your organisation and the organisation’s email system or portions of the file archive is now running in the cloud? Who is responsible for discovery and what options will be available? Is your organisation held legally responsible or is the cloud provider? When data no longer resides on site, it is important for companies to realise that steps must be taken to put a plan in place with clear delineations of responsibility for data retrieval. Know your limitations, know your internal policy and know your legal obligations.

Top cloud considerations

In summary, if you want your organisation to be successful in the cloud, remember the following tips:

- Moving to the cloud does not eliminate management and automation responsibilities

- Finding a tool to manage applications in the cloud with not only cut costs, but will provide proactive and predictive management capabilities

- The keys to successful cloud utilisation lies in the management and automation tools’ capability to provide visibility into ongoing capacity

- Have a backup plan to protect and access data when necessary