Cloud Outages

How to recover after a cloud computing misstep

Early adopters share their lessons learned on ramping up, scaling back and avoiding disasters in the cloud.

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Bussmann advises IT leaders to stay in the driver's seat when it comes to cloud implementation. "Sometimes cloud providers go straight to business units. If you wait for the business to approach you, then it's already too late," he says.

"When business tries dealing directly with a cloud provider, then integration, security, operations from a problem management and escalation point of view -- those topics usually aren't coming up with the cloud provider. It has to fit in the overall service delivery of the IT organization," says Bussmann.

Slow and Steady

At AT&T, an effort to migrate strategic applications to an enterprise cloud is in full swing. In 2012, company IT executives recognized that they had not moved quickly to the cloud, so the project was launched in 2013 with the goal of moving about 40% of strategic applications to the cloud by the end of 2014.

"Advanced planning was critical to our moving quickly and effectively once the program started," says Rick Felts, senior vice president of IT operations. Because of the migration's broad scope, AT&T performed extensive analysis on all workloads, their readiness for cloud and the support model changes that would need to occur, before officially starting the program. The shift in technology crosses all IT functional teams supporting systems across all of AT&T's business segments. It also spans system architecture, development, infrastructure and operations.

"This is a major transformation for the company," Felts says, adding that "acceptance was key to the success" and "education both in IT and the business is a key enabler." To help employees gain cloud skills and to assist in the culture change, AT&T created formal programs, including a cloud "boot camp," to provide training across all IT disciplines.

"To move from traditional engineered solutions to allocatable data center resources is as much a change in mindset as it is in platforms," Felts notes. "Don't underestimate the need to evaluate and change the way you operate."

Public vs. Private vs. Hybrid

Make no mistake -- cloud computing is a multifaceted phenomenon. The cloud is a foundation for sharing data and actually comprises a spectrum of functions that build on one another, according to Gartner. The evolution of new uses for the cloud is spawning many different strategies for cloud computing success. Today, commercial public cloud systems, private clouds and hybrid setups all dot the IT landscape. Because of that, the basic question has moved from "What is cloud?" to "How will cloud projects evolve?"

As enterprises develop their cloud computing strategies, they should break down their programs into two primary IT-centric work streams, Gartner advises.

The first work stream should support the enterprise as a consumer of cloud services, and the second should focus on the enterprise as a provider of cloud services. When the enterprise is a consumer, it should focus on the IT-related capabilities delivered as a service. The main goal is determining if, when, where, how and why cloud services should be used. The hardware and software used to implement the service are handled by the service provider and aren't a concern of the consumer. When the enterprise is the cloud provider, as with a private or hybrid cloud, it should focus on the hardware, software and processes it needs to implement a cloud-based service.

Hybrid clouds, for companies that can afford them, could solve security and "customer experience" issues and allow businesses to move mission-critical functions or sensitive customer data to the cloud.

"I think the hybrid model is going to win out," Wallen says. With a hybrid setup, "I can put the data in a relatively secure location and then have somebody else run the fancy functionality over that data without compromising my security. That may emerge even under the pressure of NSA-type fear as to 'Who has your data?' and 'What type of corporation is it?'" he says. "It's really enterprises themselves that need to step up to the table, not third parties, and present to my employees as if I were a cloud service."

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