I frequently have discussions with colleagues and clients about the promise of the cloud, and whether we’ll ever fully realize it. The number one benefit of cloud conversions is supposed to be that you can turn over your data architecture and management to a cloud vendor partner, freeing you to focus on deriving business value from your data, rather than managing your technical architecture and constantly reconfiguring it as you grow or as your needs change.
However, many companies find that the potential of the cloud often doesn’t match the reality. Few companies that migrate their workloads to the cloud have IT personnel versed in cloud technology, and thus have to rely on vendor partners that don’t understand business or data needs enough to provide an optimal solution. As a result, even though they realize the enormous potential of the cloud to free up resources to focus on improved outcomes, many CIOs are still hesitant to fully embrace the cloud.
Fulfilling the Promise of the Cloud
It doesn’t have to be that way. There are five areas of concern to discuss with any potential cloud-services vendor to ensure that you’re getting the right cloud services for your organization. When you’re choosing a vendor partner, discuss each of these issues with them. How they address each of these issues, to provide you with an optimal cloud deployment, will largely determine how much of the cloud’s transformative value you can realize to embrace the digital revolution and accelerate your outcomes and increase top line revenue.
Seamless Data Workload Migration and Account Management
As an inviolable rule, migrating data workloads to the cloud should cause only minimal—or preferably no—business disruptions. It’s critical to choose a vendor partner with a tool set that enables automated and seamless migration to minimize downtime. Utilization monitoring should also be straightforward, preferably via a single console that automates as many management and monitoring functions as possible.
Flexible Deployment Options
Whether it’s your vendor’s private cloud—such as Teradata’s Intellicloud™—or public clouds such as Amazon Web Services™ (AWS), Microsoft Azure™, or any other cloud services provider, your deployment options should be flexible, and the vendor you choose should give you the option to deploy in a single environment, or over a combination of hybrid environments in case you don’t want to move all your data to the cloud. One caveat, though. Mission-critical systems, such as data warehouses, should be deployed in a single environment to ensure consistency of data access.
Data and Systems Availability
If your information systems go down, you’re dead in the water. Historically, one argument for not moving enterprise workloads to the cloud has been data and application availability concerns. However, there are vendors out there that will guarantee near 100% availability in their SLA. Speed is an issue too. Access speeds should be as if the data is on-premise—or faster. Things happen, and nothing is 100% perfect. But if you choose the right vendor, they’ll spell out their availability speed and guarantee it, so data and application availability won’t be a concern.
Flexibility and Scalability
Business and data needs change—both as you grow and as the market changes. Your cloud vendor’s suite of offerings should be built around helping you embrace change and growth. Some cloud providers only offer storage and management, which is fine if you already have a robust analytics structure. However, there are vendors that provide both flexible data storage and analytics and database software as a service—which effectively offers you a smorgasbord of options to scale up, or change configurations and applications as your needs change, without having to invest in new analytics applications when yours no longer fit your needs.
Perhaps the greatest concern for CIOs looking to move their data to the cloud is security. It should be your vendor partner’s number one concern as well. Make sure that your vendor’s security infrastructure covers the entire spectrum of security needs, including physical security, network security, data protection, monitoring, and access controls. Their security protocols must support fully-secure data transmission, i.e., data should be encrypted, both during transfer and at rest through self-encrypting drives, on a dedicated infrastructure.
Go For It
Change isn’t easy, but it’s necessary. If you find the right vendor partner, and you go into any cloud-conversion project with knowledge of what they offer, and how it meets the needs of your business, you can make the change less painful and disruptive. Do your research, listen to what potential vendors say, and hold those you choose to their promises. Your cloud-conversion will be the better for it.