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HP Software's community for IT leaders // April 2012

3 keys to maximizing your cloud agility

You thought cloud would lower your TCO – so why hasn’t it?
There are many reasons organizations turn to cloud:

  • Cost reduction: Cloud allows an enterprise to shift costs to an operating expense versus a capital outlay, as well as have more flexibility with a "pay as you go" approach.
  • Deployment flexibility: A cloud-based infrastructure enables the flexibility for computing resources needed at any given time. For example, looking at how we consume media today, how we choose, share, and manage content can change on a daily basis—and enterprises need to be able to respond to the multiple-form-factor approach.
  • Speed to implement: Cloud can provide a more affordable and quicker-to-implementation solution for organizations, whether this is acquiring the software in an as-a-service mode or acquiring computing power.
  • Agility: Cloud services often eliminate lengthy hardware acquisition cycles; lower initial investment possibly shortening approval cycles; and typically offer standard integration services, reducing integration development efforts.

However, if not managed correctly, just like any new technology or solution, your cloud effort can get out of control and cause more harm than good. Poorly managed cloud services can create a host of unwanted problems, including:

  • Wasted resources: The assets may be virtual, but—in the case of private and hybrid cloud—someone still needs to manage them. Simply turning on assets and forgetting about them increases complexity and management costs. One HP ops expert says cloud can be like “virtualization on steroids,” warning that such easy access to computing power often leads to overprovisioning.
  • Spiraling costs: With so much computing power so readily available, it’s easy for people to buy much more cloud than they need.
  • Lack of insight: The increasing problem of cloud sprawl (as well as supplier sprawl) adds to the already complex environment that IT is expected to manage. Cloud is not the all-purpose solution to all IT challenges. Consider your specific needs and exactly how a cloud solution will—or won’t—address them.

To truly understand whether you’re getting the agility you expect from cloud, you must monitor and measure your results. Apply these measures to three common cloud use cases:
1. Is your application development faster?
Cloud solutions are often used to accelerate application development. Provisioning infrastructure as a service (IaaS) provides additional flexibility and speed as developers build their applications.
“One of the biggest uses we are seeing in cloud today is setting up dev/test environments,” says Genefa Murphy, solution manager within the HP Software strategy group.
In theory, being able to set up a dev/test lab in minutes or hours, rather than weeks or months, should allow more time to be spent developing and testing the application in an iterative fashion, meaning defects can be found earlier in the lifecycle, leading to reduced costs and, one hopes, higher-quality apps being released to production. In reality, the time it takes to stand up a test environment is only a single factor, and to take advantage of the flexibility of cloud, you must make sure your entire release process is optimized.
Similarly, the flexibility of on-demand computing power is not the sole cure to rolling out services faster and better. When agility is your challenge, ask whether it’s because you’re waiting too long for servers to be delivered and racked, or due to issues elsewhere in your organization. Computational power on-demand is great, but it doesn’t help much when the application isn’t ready for production, the release window may not be available, etc. That’s why you have to look at the overall end-to-end lifecycle of the infrastructure and the app.
2. Are you delivering services faster?
It’s not just your internal teams who can benefit from cloud. The flexibility of on-demand computing provides the opportunity to become a service broker for IT within your company, and cloud is a powerful tool. To get the most from it, look at how you enable the end-to-end process.
“There are lots of types of cloud to leverage to accomplish this,” Murphy notes, ticking off IaaS, platform as a service (PaaS), and software as a service (SaaS). “You need to decide which options you want to leverage externally versus building internally. And once you do, you need to be able to have a system in place to manage those vendors from an end-to-end perspective, to not only deliver faster to your customers but a way that’s cost-effective and efficient.”
You also have to look internally at how your enterprise interacts with the cloud. Public cloud IaaS may let you provision on-demand servers, networking, and storage in minutes, but designing and building actual services still takes time. Find the bottlenecks and optimize them to work at the speed of your cloud.
3. Are you meeting SLAs?
Amazon, Microsoft, or HP may be providing your computing power, but enterprise IT is still responsible for meeting SLAs. To determine how well cloud is enabling business agility, compare outages and breaks in SLAs on cloud versus your traditional infrastructure.
“You want to make sure you have visibility into how your application portfolio is performing in the cloud,” Murphy says. Monitoring tools and performance systems can tell you whether your applications are performing as expected.
Organizations can run into trouble if they don’t have granular SLAs with their cloud service provider. In multitenant public clouds, the “noisy neighbor” effect (where one application impacts the performance of neighbors on the same server) can degrade performance. Especially if your business depends on services in the cloud, consider pre-buying computing power or a premium service (if your cloud vendor offers it) guaranteeing availability.
Despite these potential drawbacks, cloud—with proper governance and automation behind it—is helping organizations react with agility, turn on new revenue streams, and create entirely new businesses. For more information on tools to monitor your cloud environment, read about the HP IT Performance Suite and HP Business Service Management 9.1. To see HP’s solution for prepackaged cloud services, visit HP’s Cloud Maps page.

Infographic from “2012 State of Cloud Computing,” courtesy of InformationWeek.


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