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

Reach the cloud, one step at a time

The trick of moving to the full, hybrid cloud is that there is no trick. A clear, incremental path will help you create a cloud-enabled data center.
The goal of almost every IT shop is the same: Be more responsive to the business. That means that the faster the business moves, the faster IT must move. That puts a lot of pressure on Ops leaders, which is why many of them look to cloud solutions. Strategic use of the cloud offers savings, flexibility and responsiveness, but uncertain or ill-considered implementations lead, at best, to no improvement in agility and, at worst, to a lot of pain and rework.  
A successful move from a traditional IT environment to a cloud-enabled data center is smartly measured. You start with the preliminary optimization discussed here previously. The next level, actually building a powerful cloud portfolio, is a similar step-by-step process, with metrics at each stage.

Step 1: Add self-service capabilities.

The first step toward the truly cloud-enabled data center is to identify services that line-of-business (LOB) customers use frequently, give them a self-service front end, and automate provisioning. Your team hears “I need a new server” fairly often. Automate the process and let LOB take care of it themselves—faster and with less impact on IT resources.
For metrics of success, start with the amount of time it took to provision each service before and after automation. Second, how much time is your team now spending on managing these services? Automated server provisioning might cut a two-day task down to two hours—a real benefit to your business customer. But automation may also mean it takes zero staff hours, which is the benefit to you.

Step 2: Offer infrastructure as a service.

Internal customers often request infrastructure for a finite period. A major marketing initiative might require dedicated infrastructure for six weeks. There are two problems to setting up this temporary infrastructure the traditional way: first, all that manual work from Ops; second, your customer will probably just leave the infrastructure running when it’s no longer needed.
Infrastructure as a service gives LOB users a portal where they can order a service and indicate duration. The infrastructure is automatically provisioned, and it automatically shuts down at the end of the project. Your success metrics are, again, the time saved in provisioning, plus the cost-reduction in no longer supporting phantom infrastructures needlessly.

Step 3: Offer software as a service.

Give your customers the ability to self-provision an IT environment and they’ll want to start loading applications to it. Whatever they are, databases or middleware or something else, that takes time from your Ops team.
By automating the software stack and providing some of it as a service, you can give the business what it needs faster. And you can do it all without actually spending any staff hours. Again, success is measured in speed of provisioning and conservation of staffing resources.

Step 4: Leverage public cloud resources.

Public cloud resources make sense when you don’t have enough internal resources, or find it cheaper to procure certain services externally. The resulting converged or hybrid cloud lets you take advantage of a wider range of possibilities to deliver the best, most efficient services for your business.
The goal in using public cloud resources is to lower or contain costs. You’ll need to pay attention to service level agreements (SLAs) and ensure that you’re getting the availability, performance and security that you need. Stack those measures against the costs of providing the same capabilities internally.

Set your organization up for success

Going straight from a traditional IT environment to a cloud-enabled data center involves a lot of steps, technology change and process change. It’s important to have a long-term vision for how you’re incorporating the opportunities of cloud, rather than merely engaging in separate projects that might solve today’s problems … while creating tomorrow’s.

For more on best practices for building a cloud-enabled data center, read the white paper, “Managing and Delivering Across Hybrid Cloud.


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