What to consider when migrating to the cloud

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CIO Cloud

Whether it's public, private, hybrid, or some combination of the three, the increasing reliance on cloud solutions is bringing about a major generational change in technology. 

The mainstream model of multi-tiered deployments in internal data centers is being supplemented and extended by cloud environments. One reason for this is that cloud solutions focus on the overall stack, offering flexibility, manageability, and standardization at a higher level of integration and abstraction. Other reasons are that cloud solutions offer service on demand, the potential for a greater degree of scalability, and new application architecture options.

Of course, just as some organizations still use mainframe computers, organizations will have a wide range of technology deployments for a long time to come. Private, public and hybrid cloud environments are growing rapidly because many new applications are being established there – and some of those applications are using capabilities that are difficult or impossible to provide in traditional environments.

Growth in cloud environments is also accelerating because organizations see the transition occurring and want to remain current. They want to attract employees that are technology savvy and interested in breaking new ground. Meanwhile, some businesses are being established in the cloud from the ground up, and never see a reason to deploy a traditional data center.

All of those things considered, the right cloud model for most organizations is a hybrid cloud model. If you are still trying to run part of a business on a mainframe or minicomputer, for example, you may find that it becomes harder and harder to deliver services via a website, or to offer real-time balance-checking to your clients, or to deploy mobile applications that are responsive and flexible.

Over time, it’s very likely your traditional environment will serve fewer of your computing needs, on a percentage basis, forcing you to rebuild or migrate your environments. Extending your architecture with cloud solutions will enable you to derive benefits from both your existing investments and from the attractive emerging solutions.

Open hybrid cloud at Red Hat

Inside Red Hat IT, we are use an open hybrid cloud, with “open” being a key consideration. The difference between hybrid clouds and open hybrid clouds is simple: a hybrid cloud could be developed using proprietary technology, and an open hybrid cloud is developed using open-source technology. Open source offers substantial benefits in both flexibility and value. As a result, open hybrid clouds better enable integration of existing solutions at a more attractive cost.

Here's how it breaks down for Red Hat IT. We have Software-as-a-Service applications for services such as customer relationship management. At the same time, we have a number of applications that reside in our data centers because of their application characteristics, because that’s the way they were designed by our software vendor, or for other business reasons. We also have a substantial Platform-as-a-Service environment for associate and enterprise applications. Our data centers run Red Hat’s open source operating system. 

To connect the environments, we also use open source products to link our external applications with our internal applications in an open hybrid cloud configuration. We’re introducing elements of private cloud technology, again open-source based, to give us the flexibility to deploy cloud applications in our data center and at multiple cloud vendors as we choose. We are extending our open source connectivity framework to link them together.  

Approaching hybrid cloud the open way enables Red Hat IT to inherit all of the benefits of open source. We experience less vendor lock-in and an increased ability to optimize the environment to meet our specific needs. Open source technology also enables other vendors and partners to participate in the process, to enhance our tools, and to provide additional capabilities and connectors.

Cloud support: What to expect

Regardless of your approach to the cloud, CIOs and IT leaders should expect an evolving model of support and services as the marketplace undergoes rapid growth and change. Some cloud providers will offer environments that look quite similar to traditional hosted IT services. In this model, IT organizations will contract for and consume outsourced applications. Other applications will be delivered using the Software-as-a-Service and Platform-as-a-Service models. In the latter cases, vendors typically provide support to enterprise teams using the services. 

There is another popular alternative, an emerging class of public cloud providers that are offering computing, storage, communications, and management tools in a commodity environment, sometimes referred to as Infrastructure-as-a-Service. I advise enterprises using these services to select partners to help them with their journey, rather than attempt to go it alone. Most enterprises will likely be better served by focusing their technology resources on developing solutions that optimize value for their enterprise, relying on partners to provide support for the infrastructure.

In selecting those partners, I recommend that IT decision makers look for vendors that can provide support in their data centers as well as offer a range of solutions across both internal and external cloud deployments. And of course, I recommend that open source be a foundation of the solutions provided by those partners.

Regardless of your approach to the cloud, you need a strategy and a plan. Consider the opportunities and potential for your enterprise and insure that you are setting the appropriate direction for your cloud deployments.

Lee Congdon is Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Ellucian, the leading independent provider of higher education software, services and analytics.

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