The maturation of public clouds into enterprise-ready solutions will be fueling cloud federation with IT internal infrastructure and with other clouds. However, the timing of cloud federation and what IT organizations should be doing about it are still not clearly known. Here are several things IT should consider about the drivers of cloud federation — and what IT should be doing about federation now.
First, let's look at the forces driving cloud federation.
1: Clouds are going to federate, and security concerns are going to give way
There isn't a public cloud vendor that isn't planning or working on improvements in governance and security so as to overcome enterprise objections. Once public cloud providers demonstrate that they can meet enterprise standards in these areas (and they will), there will be widespread acceptance of public cloud solutions.
2: Applications vendors are moving to new models of product delivery
You can still purchase a software package and host it in your data center. But increasingly, applications vendors are going to offer compelling arguments for the flexibility and cost advantages of tapping into their public clouds to run these applications.
Now, let's look at what IT should be thinking about.
3: Analyze your application portfolio
Federation and public clouds might take off, but not every application will be a good fit. Now is the time to analyze your application portfolio and determine which applications you would consider moving out of your own data center and into a cloud environment.
4: Develop a roadmap for your infrastructure and your cloud federation approach
It's not too early to revise your IT infrastructure to also include cloud-based applications that exist outside your premises but that still integrate with your data center.
5: Revisit your disaster recovery plan
Outsourcing business functions to the cloud and engaging in cloud federation and infrastructure blending changes everything when it comes to disaster recovery. What do you in a case where a mission-critical application fails — and it's crossing several cloud and infrastructure boundaries? Present DR plans are not yet prepared to handle these futuristic scenarios, so it's important to start strategizing about how your disaster recovery is going to work.
6: Know how to unplug in your contract
Having greater choice of public cloud options doesn't change the reality that some vendor relationships just don't work out. Legal provisions for "unplugging" from a solution with both parties amicably going their own ways should always be articulated in contracts before you sign on any dotted line.
7: Know how to unplug in your operations
Operationally, never plan a migration to a public cloud solution without having a technical means of easily backing out of the integration with the cloud. This means using industry-standard APIs to connect (or disconnect) your infrastructure to/from the cloud and staying away from custom integrations.
8: Draw your line in the sand for security and governance
Enterprises have already done a good job of conveying governance and security expectations. This is why so many public cloud providers are hustling to improve the governance and security they can deliver. Cloud performance in these areas is going to improve. But even with improvement, security and governance still have to measure up to the requirements of your business.
9: Develop new strategies for collaboration with your end business users
Increasingly, end business users will be calling the shots when it comes to deciding which public cloud solutions the enterprise adopts. IT stands the risk of not being involved in this decision-making at all — and then being told to manage the vendor and be responsible for the results and the risks. Avoid falling into a reactive mode by aggressively planning and meeting with end users, understanding and empathizing with the needs of the business, and presenting a "can do" instead of a "let's see" attitude at meetings.
10: Identify an inner circle of strategic vendors
Although enterprise IT presents rigorous governance and security standards to public cloud vendors, there is always that dividing line between vendors that are integrally engaged in your mission-critical business and those that provide more ancillary services. IT should identify those strategic vendors where close working relationships and confidential strategy sharing and collaboration are essential. This strategic sharing invests both the vendor and the enterprise in a true partnership.
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Mary E. Shacklett is president of Transworld Data, a technology research and market development firm. Prior to founding the company, Mary was Senior Vice President of Marketing and Technology at TCCU, Inc., a financial services firm; Vice President of Product Research and Software Development for Summit Information Systems, a computer software company; and Vice President of Strategic Planning and Technology at FSI International, a multinational manufacturing company in the semiconductor industry. Mary is a keynote speaker and has more than 1,000 articles, research studies, and technology publications in print.