Justin Augat

Private Cloud: A Game of Skill or a Game of Chance?

Blog Post created by Justin Augat on Jul 14, 2015

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I’m not a gambling man. I rarely play the lottery (except for the occasional 9 figure payout even if the odds are infinitesimally small). But - on the unlikely occasion that I find myself in a casino, or at the local convenience store with a lotto ticket, it’s always a controlled activity. I don’t play more than I am willing to lose. It's effectively "downside risk management". (At least that is how I justify wasting money)


IT organizations are all about control and risk management too.

Downside risk always needs to be managed to expectations. In fact, when companies initiate a new IT investment or begin a new IT project, they go well beyond downside risk management. Typically, a comprehensive business justification, ROI analysis, and of course, risk management policies, processes, and procedures are all put in place ahead of time. Why? Because IT is not a game of chance like our beloved lottery and casino. IT is a game of skill. Any new investment or activity that will require resources and capital are effectively replacing other activities ( creating an opportunity cost of choice). A new activity needs to be done on time, at cost, and meeting business requirements. First time, every time.


So, the goal is simple – identify projects with HIGH potential value, assess the risk, and determine if the investment makes financial sense relative to other projects and competing dollars. This means you need to know as much about the path to the desired outcome as possible before you start, and be prepared with contingency.

 

Private cloud roulette?

So given that companies scrutinize every investment dollar and activity, how is it that so many highly impactful IT projects have such high rates of failure? Let’s be specific and talk about the private cloud. Private clouds are front and center in the media these days. Whether it’s because the "public" cloud does go down from time to time, or because the CFO and CIO are looking to better control their costs and IT activity (respectively), we know that the significant efficiencies, cost savings, and IT flexibility that private clouds present when deployed correctly are undeniable. Yet, here we are with a great piece from Gartner stating that 95% of private cloud customers encounter problems.


That sure sounds like we are in game of chance territory. Roulette anyone? Now – the statement in the blog reads “encounter problems” – which can be subjective. But what is fascinating about this data from Gartner is that (in general) most products, solutions, and services that have this level of media attention do not have failure rates that make roulette look like a good investment. Just saying. The point is, there are many reasons why private clouds could fail to meet business objectives – but clearly these are happening with tremendous frequency. It can’t go unnoticed. Even Gartner was surprised.


With exceptional benefits comes exceptional effort

The fact is, when you look beyond the media and consider the risk and reward of private clouds, you can get a realistic view of what they mean to the business: 1) They fundamentally transform the business 2) They go well beyond “stand up architecture” and 3) They likely require much more vendor involvement. Hold that last thought for a moment.


Let’s consider a small subset of the moving parts of private clouds

  1. Private clouds are complex ecosystems (note that I didn’t say “technologies”) that require different skill sets to deploy and operate as compared to traditional storage systems private cloud.jpg
  2. Application requirements have changed over the years. Today's app requires more resources, are more complex, and business owners have higher expectations for service levels and access. Private clouds are deployed to transform businesses through more efficient means of consuming and deploying resources and applications. So – (the exploding) application resource requirements are front and center when considering a private cloud.
  3. As above, private clouds are transformational in nature. A traditional IT group may not be equipped from a skills perspective at the outset. This is a tough one to accept. But, the fact is, deploying a private cloud is transformational and changes everything. Technology, operations, process, and economics. So – how can we expect our IT experts to become experts in operations, finance, and accounting over night? We can't.
  4. You can see where I am going with this. We all want the benefits of the private cloud, but getting there from the infinite number of starting points, skill sets, resources, etc makes for a custom story each time. Where are you today? Where do you want to be tomorrow? How do you get there? No two companies are the same. No two private clouds are the same. No one should suggest otherwise.

 

The best private cloud vendors understand the complexity involved and aren't shy about it.

The top tier providers know that to deploy a private cloud successfully, a business specific and custom approach is critical. There are lots of risks along the way. Some companies and IT staff can work/train to do this the right way, but it’s likely time intensive and takes from other business activities. And, as you can see, the results haven’t been pretty. For this reason, private cloud vendors have developed dedicated services practice areas to address this complex cloud landscape. Here is a visual of some select (complex) requirements and considerations for cloud transformation:

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The above are key considerations to deploy the physical and operational "stuff". But what about the apps? That is what we are here for. The vendor needs to consider much more than just application migration (but of course that is a critical component):

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And then finally, what about the way forward? Once you have the "stuff" in place, it is necessary (yes, another critical element) to consider the business impact of this technical change. How does the organization move to adopt the new solution? The top vendors are willing and ready to guide organizations toward seamless adoption through proven frameworks - after all, you can have the best solutions in place, but if users struggle (or resist)  ---- well, you get the idea. Considerations for the business include:

 

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Just the tip of the iceberg.

The best private cloud vendors are prepared to take an “inside out” approach through strategy workshops, environment assessment, business and IT requirements, and operational considerations. They understand that successfully deploying a private cloud is a marathon - not a sprint - and requires organization alignment at large. The above is just the tip of the iceberg. Today’s IT professionals know the benefits of private clouds are there for the taking – but they also know that engaging with the vendor early, often, and in depth is the best way to ensure a successful transformation. It’s the best way to play the odds

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