It’s difficult to remember a time that businesses weren’t talking about the cloud. As a staple of IT trade publications, press releases, videos and social media, cloud computing generates more business interest and investment each year.

The reason for the growing attention is simple: Cloud computing has matured to the point where many businesses can deploy their IT services more effectively and more efficiently in a cloud infrastructure.

Types of clouds

“The cloud” is actually a misnomer. Cloud is often focused on as a place. Many focus on who and where the resources are delivered. Public clouds. Private clouds. Hybrid clouds.

The real innovations are the shifts in how IT is operated and consumed. Cloud represents a shift of IT from an asset model to a service model. Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Compute Engine offer virtual servers and storage services that customers configure and deploy according to their needs. Platform as a service (PaaS) offers services for developers, such as managed clusters of servers, databases, and software development and management tools. PaaS services are appealing to software developers who would rather write code than manage servers. Business services are delivered through Software as a Service (SaaS) providers, which provide comprehensive business solutions for common needs, such as customer relationship management and human resource services. And for all these examples, the operations teams are organized differently and perform work differently in order to deliver these services economically and at scale.

Architecting cloud solutions

Today’s CEOs, CFOs and CIOs are challenged to decide how to leverage the cloud technologies and approaches to improve business performance and execute on strategy. The combination of so many options and constantly changing business demands can make a rational decision process appear intractable. But it is not. At Kovarus, we have helped our customers successfully move IT services to the cloud platforms that best suit their current needs while leaving them the flexibility to adapt to the ever-changing mix of business demands. The foundation of our practice centers on infrastructure optimization and cloud enablement processes that combine industry best practices for architecting cloud solutions with the unique requirements of our clients’ businesses.

Organizations should not expect to make radical shifts in IT delivery through a short-term, single-step approach to cloud enablement. Companies that realize the greatest payoff from their cloud investment do not simply move application workloads from on-premise hardware to a cloud provider; instead, they change the way they think about and manage infrastructure. Taking a phased approach to cloud enablement allows IT teams to make incremental improvements, deliver short-term value and adapt as they learn. At Kovarus, we have found the process of adapting cloud technologies is best done in two broad phases: infrastructure optimization and cloud enablement.

Infrastructure optimization

Infrastructure optimization encompasses standardization, virtualization and automation. These three key building blocks provide an efficient, scalable and reliable IT service delivery platform.

Standardization focuses on simplifying architectures, reducing diversity and aligning workloads to optimal, fit-for-purpose infrastructure. Standardization reduces management overhead by enabling greater automation and avoiding the need to deploy infrastructure with vendor-specific requirements.

Virtualization is a software layer of infrastructure that exploits standardized hardware to optimize efficiency and reduce costs. The major problem with hardware is its lack of flexibility, which contributes to underutilized resources. A business manager makes acquisition decisions with an expected lifetime of three years or more. Although the line of reasoning makes sense when business leaders are making capital expenditure decisions, the changing needs of the business ultimately lead to significant inefficiencies.

Conversely, virtualization reduces the need for dedicating assets to one application by allowing multiple applications to share common resources.

Automation is the third piece of infrastructure optimization. When the infrastructure is virtualized, businesses now have the ability to deploy assets on demand and reallocate as needed for operations. However, this has the potential to increase management overhead without effective oversight. For example, if a company allows its software engineers to provision servers as needed for development and testing, it could significantly improve server utilization by allocating resources only when needed and redeploying resources according to workload demand. However, if engineers misconfigured the servers or didn’t patch operating systems properly, it could also lead to substantial downtime or security vulnerabilities. Limiting access to virtual machines and storage is not the solution. The key is to automate provisioning so that you are using tested and approved virtual machine images, applications and configurations.

Together, standardization, virtualization and automation reduce IT complexity while improving utilization and flexibility. This helps reduce capital expenditures and increase the return on investment in IT infrastructure.

Cloud enablement

Infrastructure optimization is an important first step to realizing the benefits of cloud computing, creating the foundation upon which a business can execute its IT strategy. The second step, cloud enablement, is an ongoing operational model that incorporates orchestration, correctly organizing teams, and a shift toward thinking about platforms.

Orchestration is the process of coordinating multiple tasks needed to deploy or support an IT service. Automation, which is part of infrastructure optimization, focuses on creating a repeatable process for a single task, such as provisioning a virtual machine or deploying a database server. Orchestration builds on automation to enable the deployment of complex application environments including servers, load balancers, proxies, databases, caches and other components of application stacks.

DevOps is a term derived from the combination of “development” and “operations” and describes IT practices that break down barriers between the groups that write software and those that deploy and manage it. This may sound like a radical concept in organizations that have had a strict separation of duties between developers and administrators, but while there are still valid reasons to partition the responsibilities of development and management (especially for security and compliance reasons), the benefits of DevOps practices are especially evident in agile cloud environments.

The final stage of cloud enablement is the software-defined data center. In this idealized model, IT professionals create a highly automated and responsive infrastructure utilizing private and public clouds, automation and orchestration tools and DevOps practices to optimally deploy compute, storage and network resources according to business needs.

The journey to the cloud

Achieving a cloud-enabled enterprise is challenging, but businesses can streamline the process with guidance from expert practitioners and the right tools. The Kovarus Cloud Enablement Platform brings together the best technologies for delivering IT services in a hybrid cloud infrastructure and proven expertise in those technologies and includes a service catalog that enables users to select IT services from a fully managed and governed set of IT services. Kovarus also works with organizations to implement service catalogs tailored to their specific needs, using a decision engine to model various scenarios and find the optimal solutions based on cost, performance and compliance requirements. The Kovarus Cloud Enablement Platform includes a variety of orchestration and automation tools, as well.

Cloud computing comes in many forms. Discovering and deploying the right cloud strategy is key to realizing the promise of cloud technology. To get started, contact Kovarus at sales@kovarus.com.