This article explores the early stages of cloud adoption — investigation and experimentation. During these phases, organizations test the waters in an attempt to determine if the cloud is a good fit without requiring significant investment.
But first, we’ll recap some points from last week’s eBook. We’ll recommend some workloads that enable experimentation. We learned that organizations can enjoy the following benefits by utilizing the cloud:
- Agility, the ability to quickly move in and out of resource configurations to address business requirements
- Elasticity, the ability to quickly scale resources out and in to handle spikes and lulls in demand; resources are provisioned just-in-time and fully utilized
- The economic benefits of no up-front capital expenditures (CapEx) or long-term commitments; pay as you go
- Increased innovation by lowering the cost of experimentation, and of failure
- Digital transformation through improved employee access to data and collaboration, mobility, and the ability to drive organizational decisions based on analysis of large data sets.
Now let’s take a look at organizational characteristics throughout the investigation and experimentation phases of cloud adoption.
Cloud Adoption Journey: Investigation and Experimentation
Investigation and experimentation are key phases of a customer’s cloud adoption journey. Perhaps your company is already within one of these phases.
Organizations in the investigation phase have little to no cloud adoption. Most technologies are implemented with traditional on-premise client/server infrastructure with local and off-premise redundancy such as high availability and disaster recovery clustering. While there may be no “pressing needs”, the CIO and technology management feel competitive pressure to innovate and modernize, however they may not be sure yet as to how to accomplish this.
Organizations in the experimentation phase are eager to learn what the cloud can do for them. There may be upcoming events that create some urgency, such as a license or service contract renewal, inability to scale, lack of features, or a market opportunity that requires action. The CIO and technology management may feel pressure to make the “right” decisions regarding the cloud.
The cloud alleviates pressure to make the “right” decisions up-front. With no up-front CapEx or commitments — and pay-as-you-go pricing, the cloud offers an excellent opportunity to experiment with different resource configurations to “try before you buy”. If a configuration doesn’t work, you can quickly rip and replace it. This level of experimentation is simply not possible with traditional infrastructure.
Suggested Use Cases to Consider Moving to the Cloud
It is prudent to move non-core workloads to the cloud to free up time, resources, and capital to focus on the core customer proposition. The following workloads, listed from simple to more complex, allow you to investigate and experiment with the cloud and prove the concept as a first step to adoption.
- Application development, test, and staging environments
- Data storage, archival, backup and recovery
- Web applications
- Disaster recovery and business continuity.
Application Development, Test, and Staging Environments
Application development and test environments are no-brainer workloads. The cloud offers improved development and test agility by enabling experimentation with different environment/resource configurations. Often times, test environments will fall under the free service quotas of the cloud provider. These environments offer the ability to eliminate capital expenditures because you can rip them down when you’re done, or spin down the VMs when you’re not using them, paying only for the time you use.
The cloud also offers a unique opportunity to spin up short-term staging areas. These are key when performing application and data migrations, as well as for copying the environment stack for promoting environments from dev, to test, and then from QA to production.
Data Storage and Archival
Cloud storage offers a low maintenance and cost-effective alternative to managing the traditional infrastructure for data archival. Cloud storage providers offer low costs per gigabyte per month for object storage, as well as reduced cost long-term storage with reduced durability. Thanks to economies of scale due to their sheer size and global presence, included are levels of redundancy and availability SLAs that are extremely difficult and costly to achieve within traditional infrastructure environments. Readers are encouraged to consider cloud storage for its reduced cost and maintenance.
Cloud-ready Web Applications
It is extremely difficult to provision resources for applications with unpredictable, on-off, and bursting demand using the traditional infrastructure. Imagine short-term marketing or other campaigns, seasonal products, and expansion into new markets. It’s easy and costly to over-provision resources based on anticipated demand, as well as time-consuming and potentially harmful to the business to run out of capacity when under-provisioning.
The cloud is ideal for operating web applications. It offers improved agility, scalability and redundancy at a lower total cost of ownership compared with traditional infrastructure, particularly for inconsistent workload patterns. You can spin up VMs on demand within seconds based on images, run the workloads, and then spin them down to ensure resources are provisioned just-in-time.
Platform as a service (PaaS) tools such as Google AppEngine and Managed VMs remove the complexity and maintenance of configuring VMs for scaling, load balancing, and redundancy by managing all these for you, allowing you to focus on your application code. Think web applications such as the corporate intranet, workflow tools, document/help wiki, content delivery, marketing or other campaigns, or e-commerce.
Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity
Disaster Recovery (DR) and Business Continuity (BCP) can be more complex, but offer significant data loss prevention and loss of use risk aversion through a “hybrid” environment, or one in which the primary infrastructure resides in an on-premise data center while a backup environment runs in the cloud.
Organizations considering a hybrid environment may be seeking to contain DR costs, have no current DR plan in place, are not happy with existing DR strategy, or have distance requirements for DR environment locations.
There are several scenarios for application and data failover, each with varying levels of complexity to implement. Today we’ll focus on backup and recovery and “pilot light” scenarios.
Backup and recovery involves copying application data to the cloud to enable recovery from the data upon failure or disaster. In this case, recovery is manually-intensive — not automated — and incurs a longer recovery-time-objective (RTO). However, it is considerably easier to implement.
Pilot light is unique because it allows you to take advantage of the cloud’s pay-as-you-go model while enjoying a reduced RTO such as faster recovery. In a pilot light scenario, application data is replicated to the cloud, similar to backup and recovery. However, applications are stored on VM images in cloud storage, and may be spun up in minutes to launch the application stack in the cloud. This allows you to pay computer resource usage fees only while the applications are running in the cloud, while paying for storage costs only during hours of normal operation.
In today’s blog post, we have learned that businesses are leveraging cloud technologies to facilitate scaling and growth by migrating non-core workloads into the cloud so they can focus on core business activities instead of managing IT infrastructure. We also suggested some workloads to consider moving to the cloud — without needing to make a significant financial investment.