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If You’re Not Asking These 3 Questions To Drive Your Enterprise Cloud Architecture Strategy, You’re Asking The Wrong Questions

The right cloud architecture depends on the business challenge you’re trying to solve. So ask questions about what your business is trying to achieve.

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It seems like everywhere I look these days, there’s a new cloud technology solution promising to deliver all the benefits of hosting applications, data, platforms and even infrastructure in the cloud. Interest and demand for cloud-based solutions has never been higher, and the marketplace has responded with an abundance of solutions that offer every possible permutation of cloud computing architecture: public, private, hybrid, multi-tenant, single-tenant, SAAS (software as a service), PAAS (platform as a service), IAAS (infrastructure as a service)…the possibilities are seemingly endless. With all of these solutions, how can you possibly determine which enterprise cloud architecture approach is right for your business?

For me, the word “solution” itself begs the question, “Solution to what?” And therein lies the answer to the enterprise cloud architecture quandary that many businesses find themselves in today: The right solution depends upon the business challenge(s) you’re looking to solve.

Looking to minimize capital expenditures and convert to an OpEx-based model? Then a third-party cloud solution should probably be part of your equation. Want to move to the cloud but constrained by data storage regulations? A private cloud solution or a public cloud offering that meets your compliance requirements might be more up your alley. Have some apps that would easily convert to the cloud, as well as other legacy apps that wouldn’t be quite so easy to virtualize? A hybrid approach could be the right answer. As with many things in life and in business, the answer to the cloud computing architecture question is, “It depends.”

These days, it’s tempting to try to solve every IT and business challenge with the phrase, “Put it in the cloud”—but determining the right cloud approach is much more complex than that. Depending on what your business is trying to achieve, putting some aspects of IT in the cloud will yield better results than others, while still others will need some work before they’re “cloud-ready”—such as applications that need to be rewritten to function and be resilient across multiple environments. Again…it depends.

Ask yourself these three questions to identify the right enterprise cloud architecture for your business:

  1. Which systems and processes would most benefit your business with a move to the cloud, and/or which could most easily be virtualized? Knowing your business goals and identifying which apps could be moved to the cloud to best support those objectives is the place to start. For example, applications with low utilization that could share CPUs in the cloud are good candidates if your firm is looking to reduce on-site hardware. Apps with specific regulatory-driven security requirements might still benefit from a move to the cloud (either public or private), but you need to ensure that the proper controls are in place to meet your compliance requirements. For applications and business processes that have high seasonal or event-driven capacity needs, like education enrollment and registration for instance, you might consider the added cloud capacity a hybrid model could provide for overflow while supporting steady-state capacity needs with an in-house environment.
  2. What are the right resource pools? Your cloud architecture approach should be driven in part by the amount of space you’ll need in the cloud. Resource pooling (grouping together data and applications that can share space in the cloud) can help optimize your cloud purchase by ensuring that you pay for just the amount of space you need—and that you use all of the space you pay for. Higher space requirements will obviously drive up cloud costs, so by defining resource pools up front you can ensure that you are optimizing your spend, regardless of whether you are using a PAAS or IAAS approach.
  3. Do you have the right staff expertise to operate in the new paradigm? Moving workloads to the cloud or adopting a hybrid approach can create a skill gap for engineering and operations teams to address. Any cloud adoption analysis should include the assessment of critical staff skills for managing the new environment, which can include a transition from a self-maintained technical focus to a vendor management perspective of technical operation (or a combination of both). The amount of training required and the specific roles and responsibilities for your own staff versus those of your cloud partners should be thoroughly reviewed while considering your cloud options.

When in doubt, always return to the strategy and the business impact, and let these three questions guide your decision-making. As always, your business needs and environment should drive the decision process; don’t let new technology solutions “cloud” your thinking about the best approach. Take the time to go through a thorough, fact-based decision-making process that is well informed by traditional business analysis tools like cost-benefit analysis, gap analysis and/or SWOT analysis. Also, consider a partner with extensive experience who can help you map out a smart cloud architecture strategy and adoption lifecycle that meets your specific business requirements and helps you avoid potential pitfalls along the way.

So, go ahead, put it in the cloud. But before you do, be sure that you’re choosing a solution that answers the right questions for your business.

This post was first published on Forbes.com.

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