When James McPartland took on the CIO role at Torchmark Corporation in 2014, he had a big task before him: Show the rest of the business that IT could help drive growth.
Hybrid cloud projects: 8 questions to ask first
How much will your organization benefit from hybrid cloud? Prepare wisely
How much will your organization benefit from hybrid cloud? The answer depends more on what you do before moving to the hybrid cloud model than the actual act of doing so. As Ben Rossi observes in an article on Information Age (Is the promise of cloud still a bit foggy?), when companies fail to reap the desired results from hybrid cloud projects, it’s usually due to the overall approach and preparation process, rather than the underlying technology.
[ What is multi-cloud and what it do for you? See our related article, Multi-cloud vs. hybrid cloud: What's the difference? ]
Simple but powerful starting questions like “Why go to the cloud?,” “What should go to the cloud,” and “When should the migration to cloud happen” matter a great deal. The answers vary widely between enterprises. A pragmatic individual in a global IT team recently noted that no matter how cool the enabling technology might be, much groundwork needs to be done before kicking the tires with hybrid cloud solutions. Here are eight questions to explore as you prepare to move to a hybrid cloud model – and the benefits you’ll gain as a result.
Question 1: Do we have a thorough picture of our current landscape? Start by assessing and representing your enterprise’s diverse landscape of applications and enabling infrastructure. More often than not, applications persist because of the data that they hold. You want a clear, enterprise-wide representation of the application portfolio.
Benefit: You’ve identified all the pieces you’ll deal with in the project.
Question 2: Which business functions should we prioritize?
Enterprises have a wide array of business functions, both external and back office functions, supported by applications and the underlying infrastructure. As time goes by, market forces, industry trends, and mergers and acquisitions change the significance of some business functions. This is the time to prioritize the business functions that matter the most to the organization. Some business functions may not need to be performed anymore and can be rationalized or consolidated into others.
Benefit: You’ve given more shape to the business that matters.
Question 3: What are the key applications for the significant business functions?
You need to give more attention to enabling applications for significant business functions during your move to the hybrid cloud model. Now’s the time to identify the applications that really matter. You also want to identify redundant functionality across applications and rationalize them down to a more manageable number. Some applications may have to be decommissioned, while others could merit a more state-of-the-art, user-friendly interface. Some may simply have to be re-engineered all the way back from the drawing board.
This is also a good time to revisit the original business requirements for existing applications and revise them to cater to the needs of newer generations of users. Reality check: Some applications are better left alone.
Benefit: You’ve identified which applications really need to be modernized.
Question 4: What do we seek in our future state architecture?
By this time, the need for a multitude of environments to host the different subsets of applications becomes more and more evident. It’s time to define the future state architecture, factoring in the need for all the constituent environments, as well as their applications.
Benefit: You can start visualizing the future homes for these applications.
Question 5: Which applications need to move to the cloud – and what cloud environments suit them?
Ask yourself the key business and technical drivers for migrating to the cloud. Use these drivers to shape the specific criteria for determining the suitability of particular applications to go to the cloud.
Identify the applications that need to remain on-premise, or move to private or public cloud. Exercising the criteria on the portfolio of applications will also get into details like the cloud deployment model, as well as the need for applications to remain on-premise in the traditional bare metal or virtualized environments. This is where the value of hybrid cloud becomes apparent. You gain flexibility to find the right cloud for the right application.
Benefit: You’ve identified the cloud environments on which to deploy applications.
Question 6: What are the core sets of tools and platforms that we need to sustain going forward?
On the one hand, enterprises face a continuous and challenging proliferation of applications, technologies, tools, and platforms. However, cloud serves as a terrific catalyst to go back to the basics from multiple perspectives. To streamline the experience of the internal developer, as well as the operations team and therefore, the external customer, now’s the time to take the critical step of standardizing your software development, deployment, and management platforms.
Benefit: You’ve introduced some order to the chaotic technological world.
Question 7: How do we integrate the landscape of applications across the enterprise, and what are the most commonly used integration patterns?
The migration to the cloud model does not take away the need for connecting back to the historical data that could still be resident within the systems of record. Here again, cloud serves as a great catalyst for modernizing not only applications but also integration styles.
With the advent of a multitude of data sources including IoT and sensors, as well as the need for structured and unstructured data, a diverse array of integration patterns continues to emerge. Now is the time to identify the integration patterns that apply in the context of your enterprise.
Benefit: You’ve refined the enterprise integration strategy across the hybrid cloud.
Question 8: When do we migrate to the cloud?
At this point, business and IT need to come together to identify the timeframe for migrating the solutions that matter to the appropriate target environments.
Benefit: You are ready to embark on the journey to the cloud with a thoughtful roadmap, keeping in mind it will continuously evolve.
Chasing cloud ROI
The answers to these questions will position your enterprise for a more successful hybrid cloud migration. While executing the roadmap as defined, stress the importance of monitoring the business and technical KPIs throughout the migration process.
This follow-up work is very important because cloud computing ROI can be extremely elusive. The data will help you answer the biggest question for the business: What did we get out of migrating to the cloud? (And while doing so, it would not hurt to factor in the 9 key phrases of DevOps.)
Evolution to the cloud can be a long journey that varies based on the size and complexity of the applications landscape and involves many more considerations. Here, I’ve called out critical questions that must be explored in advance to continuously justify the migration.
Would you suggest a ninth question? Please let us know.