Is that going to be Cirrus, Stratus, Cumulus or how about we go for the Altostratus?

To some the names may sound completely strange and weird but all of the above are names of the types of clouds that "roam" planet earth. So, you may be wondering if this is an article on IT Clouds or a meteorological white paper arguing a new name for something that is in all essences just water.

It’s the former. I am writing about the IT Cloud and the topic I am discussing is something very close to my heart. You see a pet peeve of mine is the often lack of decision logic when it comes to choosing a cloud provider. People do more research buying a car than when deciding which cloud holds their companies’ crown jewels! That is just wrong!

So, how do you go about the selecting the right cloud provider? Seems like an easy question right? Just choose the biggest (and not necessarily best) one out there. Sorry no names, but you get the gist... Just chose the biggest and everything will be fine.

That approach may have worked in the past but the IT sky is more crowded and innovative than before. The IT Clouds may have easy to remember names or not.

To achieve maximum business value and maintaining adequate protection, two often conflicting priorities, today’s organisation must adopt a standardised approach, supported by adequate organisation, in selecting the ideal cloud provider.

Some points to consider:

Adopt a Business Services approach: This is not the same as requirements driven selection process. The business services approach talks of what service does the business want to run? For example, Legal council may have a requirement for contract storage search and retrieval. The IT service’s function or as I call it, job, is to service the business service requirement.

The selection approach to the cloud provider becomes clearer when it is driven by the business. The business does not need to know or dictate the cloud provider. In this example, the Legal Council should not and probably will not interfere with the cloud selection process. However, the business services approach will allow the IT function to formulate a standardised selection criteria based on the top level business services definition.

Conversely, the opposite is true. IT must NOT base any methodology on pure technology alone. The ability to "dynamically spin up hundred database servers with full cross wire redundancy" does not and will not enable the business service, unless the business actually demands for such a configuration.

It’s not always about COST - Although the CFO will love you to bit if you base your selection criteria solely on cost, the pitfalls of doing so can be counterproductive. An example that I have seen many times now follows:

  • Business services want to deliver an ultra fast multimedia rich user experience to their customers. The same service must exist when the customers purchase a product. The business goes to the IT function to demand the appropriate infrastructure.
  • The Cloud is the organisation strategy but IT has no standardised approach to selecting the cloud provider. So, for this requirement, they have chosen the cheapest cloud provider and ordered the necessary infrastructure.
  • The business is going to go live in the next 2 days and IT has just realised that the cloud provider provides (1) the necessary e-commerce infrastructure at a significantly higher cost (2) and is unable to support any kind of traffic overload that the business expects.

I leave the next part of the story for you to imagine! It is not a pretty sight. A standardised approach is only possible with if the business drives the selection process rather than the other way around.

This article was originally published in the KuppingerCole Analysts’ View Newsletter.