Let the buyer beware – choosing the best cloud for the job

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Last updated 05:00 29/01/2015
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BUYER BEWARE: When an organisation has made the jump to deciding that cloud is the right direction for them, there are still a number of decisions to make.

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There's more to cloud services than meets the eye. Cloud expert Ben Kepes explains how the cloud can transform your business.

I've been writing more about business changes than technology in this series to date. I've done that for a reason - while technology is exciting and all, it only exists in order to deliver value to organisations. While your resident IT geek might like to tell you that technology is important in and of itself, the reality is that if technology isn't driving value for the person who is ultimately paying for it, it won't have a long life expectancy.

That said however, there are some obvious questions that I get asked a lot. One of those is around the decision making process when it comes to buying cloud. When an organisation has made the jump to deciding that cloud is the right direction for them, there are still a number of decisions to make: public, private or hybrid? On-premises or off-premises? Onshore or offshore? It can be a minefield, and  some guidance may help.

So what are the factors that help organisations make these decisions? It comes down to an understanding about what the next wave of cloud computing offers. While rapid deployment and the ability to spin up virtual machines was the value proposition initially, in the composable enterprise, the ability to converge services, manage centrally and ensure an appropriate quality of 
service is key.

You might have heard the term "enterprise grade cloud" and wondered what it meant - it's a simple concept referring to the ability to balance agile deployment alongside efficient and easy management of infrastructure, data and workloads. A truly enterprise-ready cloud will also allow organisations to use both on-premises and off-premises infrastructure to both gain efficiencies, 
improve economics and meet any compliance requirements.

There are three critical factors for an organisation looking for a robust enterprise cloud: the ability to integrate, clear control and vendor expertise in the field. Let's look at these three topics in turn.

Integration increases the speed at which organisations can combine new services alongside existing ones. For most organisations, a move to cloud cannot be seen in isolation, rather they need to think of ways that cloud can embrace both their new workloads and their existing data and applications. Open platforms increase flexibility and reduce any risks caused by being locked into a single vendor. They also bring the added benefit of allowing organisations to mix and match services from different vendors.

Control allows stakeholders to gain true visibility across all their services and capabilities. As organisations' IT portfolios get more and more diverse, IT practitioners are looking for control 'fabrics' that allow them to manage all of their resources - regardless of where they're located and what they're running. Balancing fine-grained control, while still ensuring flexibility and ease of use, 
calls for a broad solution that covers not only infrastructure, but services and platforms as well. The ability to automate much of the provisioning and general management of these resources and services is another key requirement for a modern management platform.

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Expertise is critical given the increasing importance that IT systems have for organisations. Quite simply, for any organisation which sees IT as a critical part of their operation, the ability to rely on a vendor that understands their industry and their business is important. A good analogy here is that of the electricity industry. Electricity is a critical requirement for most organisations. Those same organisations realise that they are best to rely on an electricity vendor that has the highest levels of service and understanding of their particular electricity requirements. IT is no different - such a critical business function should not be risked with fly-by-night or small-scale vendors.

IT in general, and cloud in particular, is a critically important part of a business' operations. As such, the decision about which products, services and vendors to use for an organisation's IT requirements should not be entered into lightly. It is a topic that we will return to in a future article.

In my next article I'll discuss what attributes companies that are "born in the cloud" display and make some suggestions for existing businesses looking to reinvent themselves in and with the cloud.

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