Five tips for controlling the cloud

By following a few practical tips and defining the right management process, you can gain the control you need to make your cloud solutions successful.

When organizations evaluate cloud technologies, the scope of potential business benefits is often very alluring. Business users are attracted to core tenets of the cloud model: self-service freedom, on-demand scalability, pay as you go flexibility, and significant cost savings. IT leaders enjoy the pure pleasure of not having to deal with aggravating software and hardware installations. That's why cloud solutions are being adopted by IT and business leaders.

While these leaders acknowledge the transformational value of this technology, they are equally concerned about the control and visibility aspects of the cloud model. The same questions are asked repeatedly: Will our applications and data be secure? Can I implement the same roles/permissions? How can I get visibility to manage my business? In other words, business and IT leaders want to control the cloud the way they control their data centers.

According to Webster, to control is to demonstrate power over a process or outcome. So to control the cloud requires a thoughtful and pragmatic approach. Here are five best practices for controlling the cloud.

1: Identify the problem you need to solve

As you evaluate various cloud models, you must clearly define the business problem. The cloud has been a proven solution for a number of use cases, including application development and testing, application migrations, customer training, and consulting projects. You must be clear about the type of application your employees will be using in the cloud and determine whether it will require additional coding to move it to the cloud. Selecting cloud solutions that don't require additional coding will make the process more efficient and allow you to tackle business problems quickly.

2: Define your application and usage requirements

You must understand the nature of the application you're moving to the cloud. Will it require multiple parallel build-and-test environments? Will it require you to scale up or down based on usage patterns? Do you need to collaborate with remote teams easily? Are there specific roles and access rights that need to be managed within the organization? These are questions you should ask your provider as you evaluate various cloud solutions. Remember, cloud solutions are supposed enable you to replace your old IT with cloud IT and bring agility to your application delivery. So keeping them honest is a great way to control the usage and deployment.

3: Define your budget and security policies

Knowing what security means in the context of your business and application needs will help you evaluate available cloud solution options better. Do your application owners know which applications and data are moving to the cloud? Are they familiar with security and password policies that should also be applied to the cloud? Do you have well-defined budget policies? Cloud solutions that provide sound security and budget management features will enable you to direct cloud adoption to match your business needs.

4: Define success metrics early on

Much like any other business initiative, you must consider how you will measure success. Because there are many uses of the cloud, business goals and success may vary from application to application. Not all cloud solutions are created equal, so knowing how to measure and improve is critical to achieving success. Total cost of ownership, faster sales cycles, quicker development and test cycles, and reduced IT support burden are a few examples of how businesses might measure success.

5: Set clear expectations for your cloud provider

This tip is perhaps the most important one for successfully controlling the cloud. You must understand how the cloud provider's responsibilities will help you achieve your cloud control and security goals. Your provider must clearly understand your requirements. As part of your evaluation, ask yourself: Does the provider offer a self-service interface that requires minimal training? Does the provider offer scale and speed without compromising security? Does the provider have a well thought out architecture that meets your requirements for policy management, data center security, user access control, IT operations reporting, and application management?

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About the author

Sundar Raghavan is chief product and marketing officer at Skytap, a leading provider of cloud automation solutions.