How to Get Started with Cloud Computing

Cloud experts and early adopters offer up five entry points to the cloud

By Beth Schultz
Mon, February 07, 2011

Network World — 1. Get smart

Before making a move into the cloud, get educated on the principles and definitions of cloud computing, advises Johan Goossens, head of NATO's Allied Command Transformation's (ACT) Technology & Human Factors Branch in Norfolk, Va.

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"We started in the summer of 2010 with educational efforts. We got ourselves smart on the terminology, sitting down with vendor partners," he says.

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2. Know your apps

"Before we got started with the cloud, we made sure that we had a good grasp of our application inventory," says Pedro Villalba, CTO at EmblemHealth, a health insurance provider in New York.

"We identified which applications are driving the business, and then determined which ones need standalone environments. We found a lot of applications, because of the way they've been built, don't lend themselves to be used in a cloud strategy unless they're completely reengineered," he adds.

Once he had wrapped up the application inventory, Villalba says he had a clear understanding of what applications would work well in a virtualized cloud environment.

3. Put together a sample business case

"Cloud is not magic. It's not a silver bullet or a panacea. It's an implementation of technology with certain advantages and characteristics," says Mark White, CTO for Deloitte Consulting's technology practice. "Like in any implementation, particularly when you're trialing activities, we recommend CIOs do a business case as a first experience."

The good news is, the public cloud lends itself to "sticking a toe in the water and doing a first department, geography or use case, as in a first workload to move to the cloud," White adds.

Take into account factors such as the characteristics of cost, the expected return on investment categories and hurdle levels, SLA and performance expectations, service characteristics - what is this doing for me and how - and measure those after the fact.

David Linthicum, CTO at Blue Mountain Labs, a cloud consulting firm, and cloud computing blogger at InfoWorld, a Network World sister publication, agrees. "Most of my clients have prototypes going on and that's what I recommend they do," he says.

"If someone comes to me and says, 'We want to look at infrastructure as a service to solve our storage needs,' I say, 'Well that's great, but let's first understand what that is from an academic perspective and then let's look at the business case,'" he says.

"That's the best way to understand the capabilities of the cloud and how it works in context of your system," Linthicum adds. "You might spend maybe a couple hundred thousand dollars in time and effort in doing this, but you'll get something that can end up saving you millions of dollars if you pick the right solution."

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