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Building a ‘Cloud Smart’ Strategy for your Applications: Part 1 

Rodney Fite and Sachin Chheda

This topic is a continuation of the application attributes, infrastructure, and cloud choices discussion. It has been split into two blogs for readability.

In the December 2019 Gartner IT Infrastructure, Operations & Cloud Strategies Conference, Gartner analysts covered a wide range of topics on the topic of infrastructure. One of the more popular sessions from the conference was delivered by Phil Dawson on “Simplifying Infrastructure by Applications, Workload and Delivery.” Mr. Dawson presents a point of view on the adoption of repeatable horizontal services such as DBMS (as a service) and workload delivery considerations using ‘on-premises, cloud and edge’ infrastructure. 

This is what Angelo Luciani and Sachin have previously called out as being cloud smart. We want to let an application/service’s attributes decide from where to deliver them. I’ve touch on this in my previous blogs, including on the various different infrastructure and cloud choices, on building a software/application strategy, and more recently on application attributes that drive where they should run (or in analyst parlance how should they be delivered). 

There are two not-too-dissimilar ways an IT organization can design a cloud smart infrastructure/cloud strategy for their IT services. 

  • First is an application and service-centric approach involving understanding the various attributes for each of the services being deployed first and then mapping it to specific infrastructure or cloud service. Analysts such as Paul Delory from Gartner and other from other firms have discussed this approach, recommending it be followed for every application and workload – from the top down. As one can imagine, almost always there may be more than one option on where the IT application/service can be run. 
  • The other approach is creating a series of infrastructure and cloud options ahead of time and sharing those along with their specific attributes including costs with the various teams building and delivering the IT applications and services. Those teams would decide which infrastructure/cloud service from the list should they use based on the application attributes. This scenario has become more commonplace in larger IT organizations with 100’s if not 1,000’s of IT applications and services. 

This former approach requires close collaboration between the infrastructure and application teams and significant project management investment at scale to get to an optimal outcome. The second approach may result in IT applications and services teams independently seeking out alternatives if none of the options meet their needs and the collaboration with their infrastructure/cloud teams is lacking. 

There is no right or wrong approach—an organization should decide how to proceed based on their size, team dynamics, and IT applications and services. In either approach, it is important to understand and share how the various infrastructure/cloud options would satisfy the needs of various application types and attributes. And, as with any IT initiative disciplined program management, good communication between the various teams as well as a good understanding of the IT services/applications and the infrastructure/cloud choices are key to success. 

Let me end part 1 of this blog by bringing up the etymology of the term ‘cloud smart’. We came across this term a few years ago while working with one of our US Federal customers, who had been working on their Cloud First and Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI). They realized that many groups with the agency were simply lifting and shifting their applications to the cloud without doing the due diligence to take advantage of native cloud constructs. And, the guidance they were given wouldn’t be practical at that point in time and hence had to update their strategy. They wanted it to be based on practicalities of the state of their IT, while giving them the various choices for applications, IT services, IT infrastructure and cloud services.   

The Office of Management and Budget soon after also updated guidance from FDCCI to reflect the same in the 2019 updates to Data Center Optimization Initiative (DCOI) and Cloud-Smart guidance. The updated program (click here to read) put forth a strategy enabling organizations to “fully actualize the promise and potential of cloud-based technologies while ensuring thoughtful execution that incorporates practical realities.” This pragmatic change helped address areas such as latency, information security, control and more.

In part 2 of this topic we’ll map the various attributes to the infrastructure and cloud choices that would go into any organization’s ‘cloud smart’ strategy.

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