5 Steps to Becoming a Cloud Matchmaker
As more lines of business (LOBs) leverage cloud computing, savvy IT departments are embracing the role of “cloud matchmaker.” They’re touting their ability to broker relationships—matching business needs with the offerings of different cloud vendors, rather than just provisioning and administering these services on premises. To become an effective cloud matchmaker, IT needs to develop not only new skills, but a new outlook. Here are five ways to do just that:
Centralize Cloud Management. For all the talk of “shadow IT,” surveys by the industry trade group CompTIA find that business units are involving IT in the discussion when they use cloud vendors. “The business departments realize they’ll run into issues, like integrating the cloud with the company network, that will require IT’s assistance,” says Seth Robinson, director of technology analysis for CompTIA. “The key is to formalize that relationship—IT may not have the final approval on cloud vendors, but it will manage the overall architecture.” Business units usually welcome an IT department that can centralize the management of all the cloud resources.
Focus on Innovation. LOBs sometimes complain that IT rarely comes to them with ideas on how to use cloud and other technology to improve the business. Robinson thinks this may be due partly to the way IT workers are evaluated: Many IT functions measure performance with “keeping the lights on” metrics, like uptime. While that’s important, Robinson suggests IT workers also need to be assessed and rewarded by metrics tied to initiative and innovation. “You need to incentivize IT workers to come up with ideas for how the business can use cloud services more effectively,” he says.
Eliminate Red Tape.The use of cloud computing was driven in part by LOBs’ frustration over the slow pace of internal IT—response time is often delayed by layers of IT bureaucracy and limited resources. Robinson says reducing red tape requires IT to have a deeper understanding of company strategy so it is able to prioritize issues and properly allocate resources to meet business needs. “An IT department might reflexively think every piece of company data needs the highest protection possible,” Robinson says. “But you can move faster if you think about which data actually needs that protection, and which data can be handled with lower levels of security.”
Make Costs Transparent. Cloud computing incurs costs that are often hidden from LOBs because IT often picks up the tab for things like security and integration. In addition, LOBs without technology expertise might buy more cloud resources than they need. Jim Rapoza, a senior analyst with market research firm The Aberdeen Group, says new software tools that provide visibility across the entire IT infrastructure allow IT departments to reclaim those resources, as well as gain full transparency for all cloud costs. “In the past, IT departments just had rudimentary measures of ROI that no one believed,” he says. “Now IT has the ability to draw in new data about all costs—like networking and security—that allow them to analyze the true cost of different cloud options.”
Consider the VMware IT Business Management Suite (ITBM), which provides transparency into total costs of cloud environments and IT services, including hardware, software, labor, vendor relationships, and support. Such detailed information about actual costs allows IT and business units to work in harmony to leverage the cloud and other technology to the best advantage, developing strategies that reduce costs and improve efficiencies.
Prepare an Exit Strategy. Starting a relationship with a cloud vendor is easy—there is no shortage of companies that want your business. But extracting yourself from that relationship isn’t always simple. IT can take a role in making sure the cloud agreement doesn’t allow the vendor to hold the company’s data hostage. A key benefit of the cloud is the ability to move from one cloud provider to another, or even back in-house, as conditions change. Rapoza says this flexibility will be provided in the future by the Software Defined Network. This evolving concept could bring the same virtualization benefits to the network that companies have enjoyed with their servers. SDN promises to let companies shift quickly among different cloud vendors and on-premises resources as business needs change.
For more thought provoking cloud management insights visit vmware-erdos.com.