How do you make a cloud do what you want it to?
Consider an example using actual clouds: Back in 1946, a chemist named Vincent Schaefer did the unthinkable: He created a snowstorm in a laboratory. This became the first known example of premeditated weather modification. Scientists can now release crystal compounds into the atmosphere that induce (or inhibit) precipitation, in a process called cloud seeding.
So how is this related to cloud computing? Simple: You get out of the cloud what you put into it. And if it’s quantifiable return on investment you’re looking for, here’s how to make it rain:
Set clear business goals (‘scalability’ is not specific enough)
Just as there are a number of reasons a scientist might want to influence weather patterns – fight drought, clear away fog and precipitation at airports, etc. – every organization that moves to the cloud needs a well-defined set of business objectives to guide implementation. Yes, cloud computing has inherent benefits, including:
- Few if any capital expenses.
- Reduced overhead.
- Low-cost durability.
- Real-time collaboration.
But saying that the cloud is flexible is like saying cumulus nimbus is “fluffy.” You’re describing a potential characteristic of the cloud rather than explaining how it solves a certain business problem.
For example, maybe you’re a B2B marketing agency that wants to create a mobile-enabled content management system so customers have an easier time publishing your content to their website, regardless of their location. The cloud certainly has the flexibility to support such an app. But everything from the type of compute power you choose, to how you store your data, to your networking infrastructure, to your integrations and so on will influence the performance, security, cost-efficiency, flexibility and durability of that app.
In other words, all of these decisions must be made in support of your vision for that application. Not to mention, all of these architectural elements of your app will need to be monitored post-implementation to ensure that they’re actually doing what you need them to.
Choose your resources wisely
Which brings us to another critical question: What cloud do you cultivate?
If it’s ROI you’re after, there’s only one clear choice on the market: Amazon Web Services. In addition to being the world’s leading cloud provider, and supplying flexible billing (per-second for EC2), AWS is also known for being among the most reliable public cloud offering. The company serves some of the biggest and most well-known content providers, including Netflix, Pinterest and Airbnb. Not to mention, AWS boasts a five-year ROI of 560 percent. It’s hard to argue with that.
Still, even AWS’s value is dependent upon the expertise and knowledge that you bring to it. Yes, there’s a lot less maintenance involved in Infrastructure-as-a-Service. Nevertheless, you still need to be savvy enough to make fundamentally smart decisions about which of AWS’s storage, compute, database and managed services you decide to deploy in your cloud environment.
Other key considerations include:
- Security: Return on investment is dependent upon your ability to facilitate a secure operational environment in the cloud. AWS offers multiple tools that help with the administration, hardening and monitoring of your cloud footprint.
- Cost optimization: The cloud inherently has fewer capital expenditures and less overhead, but business-wide cost savings can only be realized if the proper steps are taken to reduce current spend; for instance, by:
- Reducing your reliance on existing in-house data center infrastructure.
- Using managed services in place of proprietary services.
- Knowing which cloud management processes to automate.
- Leveraging EC2 spot instances to save up to 90 percent of the cost on on-demand instances.
Cloudy with a strong chance of ROI
The cloud represents a fertile business opportunity for organizations of all sizes, but maximizing ROI still requires that extra push from a knowledgeable source of expertise. You wouldn’t try to change the weather without the help of a meteorologist. Don’t try to transition to cloud (and don’t expect significant dividends) without the help of a certified cloud solutions architect.
The cloud forecast looks promising. It’s time to make it do what you want it to.