The Elements of a Well-Architected Enterprise Cloud

Forrester, in its 2019 predictions analysis, notes that 50% of digital transformation efforts stalled in 2018. “Although some progressive CIOs and CMOs drove change, most struggled to compel their organizations to see and act differently,” the report said.

This chasm between good intentions and reality is present in the perception and management of the cloud in enterprises. All versions of the cloud – public, private, and hybrid – are growing in deployment. At the same time, Development, Security and IT organizations still work in silos, not only in day-to-day practices but in how these teams perceive ‘the cloud.’

Veristor views the cloud as an operating model, not a destination. We believe public cloud and hybrid cloud models are here to stay. The cloud is not a one- size- fits- all option. As is the case with any innovative product or services offering, cloud resources need to be integrated and adapted into an operation to achieve the value promised and the desired business outcome. To avoid falling into the 50% of organizations who stall in digital transformation, several organizational culture changes need to occur:

  • Development, Security and IT Operations (DevSecOps) need to be aligned with the concept of cloud as an operating model with fluidity that allows for evolving architecture to support business objectives, regardless of the cloud platform hosting the workload.
  • The DevSecOps teams and associated workflow processes should, to the maximum extent possible, be normalized across all environments to maximize workload portability and operational resiliency.
  • Lines between operational and/or organizational silos need to blur. The whole concept of serial step- by- step organizational workflow process should morph into more of a cross-organizational collaborative project focus. The first passes the ownership baton as work progresses through the process where the latter has more of a shared ownership model throughout the application lifecycle.
  • All teams need to work in concert to develop a well-architected cloud that provides the best workload performance at the most optimal cost, while also following all of the operational best practices that each of the previous operational silos developed for their disciplines.

The Well-Architected Enterprise Cloud

If highly effective cloud architecture, then, is the objective, what does a well-architected cloud look like? At a minimum, it should provide fast deployment of resources, scalability, strong security, observability, and intelligence around workload placement and cost management.

A first step is changing perception of the cloud to viewing it as an operating model, not a “place or thing.” View the cloud as a workflow or consumption model where various “platforms” or “resources” are utilized. It is helpful to look at the architecture – starting through the eye of the consumer – and walk through the resources utilized.

Using the operating model approach, the next action is to understand the portfolio of workloads both present and future. Then, use a portal to provide various types of resources, including cloud options, to support the workloads. Included within that portal should be an optimization engine that provides analysis for the workloads that helps the user define where the best performance can be achieved at the lowest cost. Finally, the workload analytics platform should have regular feedback so both performance and cost can be optimized based on measured performance of the workload.

Once the selection is made, a cloud management platform should enable the fast deployment of resources and security controls through automation of both hardware and software elements required by the workload.

Development and IT Operations Working Together

Any disconnect between IT and development organizations, when it comes to executing a well-architected cloud, hampers the success of the entire enterprise. Some of the existing disconnect goes back to ‘shadow IT’ practices when development organizations did not engage IT organizations as they consumed the cloud. They were often seen as “going rogue” when in reality they were just trying to get their job done and meet deadlines. In truth, they highlighted the need for organizations to eliminate practices that slow down productivity or cause cost overruns. It’s time to take the best aspects of these teams and combine to produce a powerful cloud architecture that benefits all.

The first thing that IT should never do when constructing a cloud is to get defensive. Cloud adoption, particularly public cloud adoption, has been very disruptive to many organizations. While it has enabled organizations to develop new capabilities quickly, it has often done so with poor cost management and increased operational risk.

The second thing a company should never do when constructing cloud architecture is not involve IT. Just like you wouldn’t want your best script writer in IT writing your Java code on your web applications, you don’t want your developers managing your IT environments. It just is not their core competency.

IT has a great opportunity here to become educator and partner – working alongside Development to help integrate proper security, visibility and cost controls to those environments without slowing down the business.

Time to value is key in today’s world to remain competitive. IT can’t slow the process down by trying to insert too much control, and Development can’t slow the business by having cost overruns or security incidents due to lack of IT operations experience.

Be Open to the Universe of Options

Public, private or hybrid cloud environments have their respective advantages. The cloud architecture pitfalls IT might fall into are seeing public cloud as an adversary. There are some capabilities provided by public cloud that cannot be provided within the enterprise. However, many of these capabilities can be architected to integrate with private cloud environments. There are many cases where private cloud provides better performance and cost, but IT should be making the investment in workload analytics tools so they have the data to back their decisions and are not seen as simply protecting turf.

Finally, perhaps the biggest mistake of all that companies can make is allowing the use of public cloud in a consumption model but continuing to keep IT limited to the project-based workflow of traditional IT.  Private clouds can move just as fast as public clouds, but they do require an investment in automation to integrate into the cloud workflow. That small investment in automation will provide great rewards as many key enterprise workloads are better served by private cloud technologies.

One Team. One Cloud Future.

The cloud operating model is an incredible opportunity for IT leaders to move from “back office operators” to “front line leaders.” However, IT should avoid the tendency to view cloud capabilities purely through a technical lens. They need to ‘talk the talk’ in the way business leaders talk about other areas in an organization – opportunity cost, risk, operating margins, brand management, customer experience and supply chain management.

The most relevant IT professionals of the future will speak to what a well-architected cloud can enable in terms of becoming more digitally competitive. Changing perception – and practices – of the cloud to an operating model will be the greatest thing that happened to many in IT and the worst for others.  Let’s hope the second group is a small one!