What would IT look like if everything was in the cloud? A columnist takes a look

For some organizations, start-ups in particular, cloud computing will be the only IT game in town.

Given the choice between acquiring, installing and operating a data centre full of equipment and buying public services on a consumption basis, the choice would be very clear.  This choice, however, is not as obvious for larger, well-established enterprises that have already invested in numerous “legacy” systems.  For some leaders, a major commitment to cloud computing could be a very difficult and potentially risky decision.

How about a simple thought experiment?  Let’s imagine what the cloud computing end game is – what it means for an enterprise to go “all in” with cloud computing.   Stating this another way, the complete implementation of ICTaaS (Information and Communications Technology as a Service) and the full replacement of internal IT assets with cloud-based solutions is the ultimate goal.

What would be included in this imaginary scenario?  Here’s a few possibilities:

  1. Desktop/Device as a Service (DaaS):  A cloud-based virtual device solution (such as a virtual desktop) would connect to various desktop applications hosted in the same or different clouds (the Office 365 cloud, the Adobe cloud, the Oracle cloud, for example).  Many of the user devices would be dual-purpose – i.e., used both personally and corporately in a different form of multi-tenancy.   The device would need to interact with personal and corporate cloud services simultaneously.   Device management to monitor, track and manage the device would also be cloud-based, possibly offered by the device supplier.
  2. Customer as a Service (CUSaaS):  Customers will interact with the enterprise using access points ranging from point of sale terminals in a physical store, automated purchases via a tablet or phone, or “in app purchases” originating from applications such as games.  It is highly likely that customers will require access to multiple stores.  Ways to identify and authenticate the customer (IDaaS) as well as to protect against misuse or abuse (SECaaS) will be essential.    In-store devices will also need to be managed and supported, potentially using the supplier’s SUPaaS (Support as a Service) cloud.
  3. Network as a Service (NaaS):    User devices will be connected to the cloud via one or more networks possibly using different network providers.  NaaS services would include:  mobile networks, the Internet, private links, inter-cloud networks, and B2B and B2C networks.  Network management as a service (NMaaS) from the network providers will be a key in ensuring the cloud computing “glue” is functioning and performing properly.
  4. Website as a Service (WaaS):  Corporate websites will be moved to the cloud, as will the web content development, web content management, archiving and searching.
  5. Software (applications) as a Service:  As part of moving to the cloud, an analysis of SaaS solutions (i.e., shared public applications) vs. PaaS solutions (i.e., purchased/developed applications) vs. IaaS solutions (i.e., home-grown custom solutions) will be needed.  It is likely that all three patterns will be used for different solutions, with the results being spread across public, private and hybrid deployments.  Since the “cloudification” process will be incremental and will be accomplished using independent procurements, it can be expected that multiple cloud suppliers will be involved.
  6. Business Process as a Service (BPaaS):  There’s a good chance there will be a decision to adopt cloud-based business processes to replace some legacy applications.  One example of this for CRM is salesforce.  Human resource management and financial management are other possibilities.  In the IT area, the various ITSM processes could also be replaced by cloud-based solutions.
  7. Information as a Service (INaaS):  Many corporate requirements relate to information.  This  includes content storage, big data analytics, backup/restore, disaster recovery, records management, archiving and enterprise search.  While each of these could lead to individual cloud solutions, it would be preferable if they were all part of a unified cloud storage facility.  The data associated with every part of the enterprise cloud ecosystem is inter-related and ideally would be managed holistically.
  8. Operations and Management as a Service (OMaaS):  There are many functions and processes for operations, administration, maintenance and provisioning in the enterprise (not just for the IT assets).  Support for these requirements will also need to be part of the cloud services.

There are many other items to be added to the list, but perhaps you get the picture!  Life will be pretty complex in an all-cloud environment.  An Enterprise Architecture has never been so important as it will be during the transition to cloud computing.

Here’s some of the “multi” complications:

  • Multi-cloud – public procurement processes will almost inevitably lead to more than one type of cloud being used which, for many reasons, is probably preferable but also more complex;
  • Multi-vendor – it’s pretty much guaranteed that no single service provider can meet all of the requirements (and generally we don’t put all our eggs in one basket anyway);
  • Multi-technology – since cloudification cannot occur overnight, technology standards and service offerings will change over time;
  • Multi-jurisdiction – larger organizations will be multinational as will their cloud providers; and
  • Multi-SLA – different solutions will require different performance characteristics and have different service level agreements, thereby making governance and management more difficult than ever before.

To sum up, the journey to cloud computing will be full of pitfalls and, much like climbing Mount Everest, deserves to be well-planned, well-timed and carefully executed.

By the way, I did NOT invent the word cloudification but I may have coined some new service acronyms!

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