A Framework For Developing Cloud Strategies
A framework can increase the chance to succeed, shorten the implementation and save money.
Cloud adoptions by businesses have continued to grow in the last few years and the trend continues, according to a Gartner report. However, according to the CISCO sponsored IDC survey, only about 14% of enterprises that already adopted cloud had some level of enterprise cloud strategy in place. The same survey also found that these cloud leaders are seeing tangible benefits from their efforts and on average see an annual benefit per cloud-based application of $3 million in additional revenues and $1 million in cost savings, which “have been largely the result of sales of new products and services, gaining new customers faster, or accelerated ability to sell into new markets.”
While the benefits of a well-articulated cloud strategy are clear, developing such a strategy is not a trivial exercise and requires systematic thinking. The purpose of this article is to propose a general framework that can be used by any organization for developing such a cloud strategy for any cloud initiative, be it at application, product, service, business function, or enterprise level. The proposed framework is represented by a 3-D matrix as shown in Figure 1.
For easy reference, this framework is referred to as the 65N Framework, where each of the three digits of “65N” represents one of the three dimensions, which are briefly outlined below.
The first digit six represents the horizontal dimension with six actions for developing a cloud strategy. These six actions are inherently progressive from left to right. As such, they are represented with progressive colors in the diagram. The six actions also fall into two segments represented by black and white font colors, respectively. The first three actions focus on the scoping strategy, while the last three actions cover the implementation strategy.
The first action is to understand motivations. While moving to cloud seems to be a no-brainer nowadays, it is still of paramount importance to understand the whys for your particular situation. Every organization is unique and each may have its own reasons for workload cloudification. Some organizations may be looking for cost savings, others may be driven by time to market or efficient operations. A “me too” approach is unlikely to be a recipe for success.
The second action is to define strategic targets, i.e., what workloads do you want to move to the cloud and what exactly do you want to achieve. To provide useful guidance, the targets should be defined with the following SMART principles:
- Strategic – The idea is to identify those targets that are strategic in nature, generally those that may affect the selection of the architectures, locations, and technology stacks.
- Measurable – For each target, it should be possible to determine if it is met at the end of the implementation phase.
- Achievable – There should be no show stoppers for achieving any of the targets.
- Realistic – It should be possible to achieve the targets with all constraints considered.
- Time-bound – It should be possible to define a timeline for achieving each target.
The third action is to identify impacts to stakeholders, i.e., who will be impacted, positively or negatively, and what the impacts will be if the defined targets are implemented. A stakeholder can be an individual (e.g., employee, application user), a role (e.g., administrator, developer) or an internal or external organization (e.g., IT, finance, partner, customer).
The fourth action is to choose cloud locations for implementation, which may be public, private or hybrid cloud locations, or combinations for a multi-cloud strategy.
The fifth action is to plan strategic milestones for implementation. It may be useful to classify the strategic milestones into short term, mid-term and long-term millstones, or into different phases.
The final action is to design strategic measures for implementation. It is recommended that each measure be designed with the following START principles:
- Specific – Each measure should be well understood by relevant stakeholders without ambiguity.
- Timely – Each measure should be available for execution when required.
- Actionable – Each measure should have clearly defined actions that can be taken.
- Results-oriented – Each measure should be able to generate a defined set of results.
- Trackable – It should be possible to track progress for each measure during its execution.
The second digit five represents the vertical dimension with five perspectives that should be considered for each of the six actions.
The business perspective considers actions related to the various business aspects such as finance, sales, marketing, organization structure, human resources, partnerships, business operations, etc. The application perspective considers actions related to the cloudification of specific applications with various use cases. The following are some example use cases:
- Migration of an existing application from on-premises to an IaaS provider or private cloud
- Migration of a set of business functions from on-premises applications to a SaaS provider
- Enhancement of a legacy software product or solution to be cloud native with container packaged and dynamically managed microservices architecture
- Implementation of new cloud native applications on a public or private PaaS platform
- Implementation of new cloud native applications in a public or private IaaS cloud
- Using cloud for all development, test, staging, production, and disaster recovery workloads
- Using cloud for development and testing
- Using cloud for disaster recovery.
The technology perspective considers actions related to the choice of cloud technology stacks such as the following:
- IaaS technology stacks for compute, networking, and storage and provisioning automation
- Database technology stacks for relational and NoSQL databases
- Common PaaS technology stacks for security, messaging, queuing, notification, orchestration, API management, big data, analytics, log management, etc.
- Domain specific PaaS technology stacks such as CRM, ERP, machine learning, IoT, etc.
The process perspective considers actions related to the choice of DevOps processes, tools and methodologies for the end-to-end automation of version control, containerization, continuous integration, automated testing, continuous deployment, release management, configuration management, operations monitoring, etc.
The governance perspective considers actions related to governance, risk management, and compliance with regard to applicable laws and regulations, relevant international, national and industry standards, corporate policies, 3P software licensing terms, cost control considerations, etc.
The third digit (N) represents multiple iterations for the cloud strategy lifecycle. That is, a cloud strategy may need to take an iterative approach and be evolved over time. Whenever major new business needs, new applications, new technology stacks, new processes, new governance requirements, or new learnings from early cloud implementations are identified, the strategy may need to be revisited and updated in order to continue to serve its purpose going forward.
As a general framework for developing cloud strategies, the 65N Framework can be used in various situations where a cloud strategy is required. This may include but is not limited to the following use cases:
- Cloud strategy for an entire enterprise
- Cloud strategy for a business unit of an enterprise
- Cloud strategy for a department of an enterprise such as R&D, finance, HR, etc.
- Cloud strategy for a particular application such as a billing system
- Cloud strategy for a complete line of software product and service offerings
- Cloud strategy for a software product offering
- Cloud strategy for a PaaS offering
- Cloud strategy for a SaaS offering
If you are already moving workloads to the cloud or considering doing so, developing a cloud strategy is a critical step that you should seriously contemplate. By taking a systematic approach guided by a well-defined framework such as the one introduced in this article, it will help you get started or get back on the right path for your cloud journey. Of course, having a cloud strategy does not necessarily guarantee success. However, it will certainly increase the chance to succeed and possibly shorten the lifecycle of implementation and save you money if you develop, evolve, and execute the strategy properly.