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CIO upfront: Where are you in your cloud maturity journey?

CIO upfront: Where are you in your cloud maturity journey?

Adopting the cloud can be done safely and effectively, but it is a continual learning experience, writes Lee Atchison of New Relic

Moving from one level of cloud maturity to the next isn’t always easy, it isn’t always fast, and the specific details differ for every organisation

For many enterprises, finding success in the cloud is still a daunting challenge. Too often, organisations set overly high expectations for the benefits of the cloud while underestimating the amount of work required.

In many cases, the biggest error comes from thinking about the cloud in the wrong way. Most people think of cloud migration as a lift-and-shift operation—simply moving applications that are running in a company’s own datacentre into the cloud. Real cloud success, at scale, requires much more than this. There are six basic maturity levels that organisations go through during their cloud adoption process, and it's important to know where you're at in this journey in order to plan for wider adoption.

1. Experimenting: What is the cloud?

This first, tentative step into the cloud relies on safe technologies — technologies that apply in simple ways to applications and parts of applications that are typically less mission critical. Often, the first service used is a storage solution such as Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3), because it’s easy to store some things in the cloud and avoid addressing the complex processes and servers that an application relies on.

2. Securing the cloud: Can we trust it?

Level two is a critical evolution point in an organisation’s cloud culture, as it begins to involve disciplines throughout the company — legal, finance, security, and so on. This is when policies begin to be formed on how the cloud can be used within a company. The precise nature of these guidelines, from formal policies to ad-hoc “company culture” understandings, don’t matter that much. What’s important is that the entire company is involved and all stakeholders have input.

3. Enabling servers and SaaS: Lift-and-shift, confirmation the cloud works pretty well

The third stage of cloud maturity comes when an organisation begins to replace on-premise servers and other backend resources. These are still simple lift-and-shift applications, with a basic philosophy of “Let’s just move an application to the cloud and see what happens.” The result of this level should be an understanding of how the cloud works from an entire application standpoint. Critically, this is the point at which the organisation begins to enjoy actual advantages from using the cloud - such as lowered costs and increased flexibility.

4. Enabling value added services: Dynamic cloud becomes a practice

At level four, organisations begin to take advantage of some of the cloud’s value-added, managed services, such as Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS) and Amazon Aurora. They may also look at services like Amazon Elastic Beanstalk and Amazon Elasticsearch Service to provide even higher value services to their applications. Here is where the cloud’s biggest benefits kick in, by utilising value added services that require significantly less management than their on-prem equivalents, and starting to utilise some of the benefits of a dynamic cloud such as dynamic sizing. This is also when companies commit to using the cloud for at least some of their strategic applications and services.

5. Enabling unique services: Dynamic cloud is deeply ingrained in the culture

At level five, the concept of dynamic cloud becomes embedded in an organisation’s application development and management processes. It is important at this time to make sure your monitoring strategy gives you the proper visibility you require into these highly dynamic applications. They include serverless computing (such as AWS Lambda), highly scalable schemaless databases (such as Amazon DynamoDB), data warehousing (Amazon Redshift), and other generalised services.

6. Mandating cloud usage: Why do we need our own datacentres?

When an organisation reaches this sixth level, the cloud is meeting most, if not all, of its datacentre needs, and also providing additional value-added services. The end goal is to migrate all applications into the cloud so the organisation can decommission its datacentres and reap the benefits of the cloud.

Moving from one level of cloud maturity to the next isn’t always easy, it isn’t always fast, and the specific details differ for every organisation. To succeed in the dynamic cloud, though, takes a higher level of commitment than lift-and-shift does. Teams must move in a controlled manner and learn from their mistakes along the way. Adopting the cloud can be done safely and effectively, but it is a continual learning experience. Organisations must be willing to learn and adapt cloud offerings to match their needs and expectations to the reality of what the cloud can provide.

Lee Atchison is the senior director of cloud architecture at New Relic.  

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