How lack of discipline can kill cloud efficiency and ROI

In this guest post, Dale Vile, CEO and research director at IT market watcher Freeform Dynamics, tells CIOs not to be afraid to change the course of their cloud plans as their IT and business needs evolve over time.

Cloud services are now generally accepted as an integral part of IT delivery. If the findings of a recent survey of 166 IT professionals are anything to go by, however, the chances are that most are not making the most of their cloud service estate.

Many of those participating in the research, commissioned by OVHcloud, said the mix of services they had accumulated over the years was less than ideal in the context of current requirements, with too many workloads running on the wrong type of service.

Where this happens, service fees and operational overheads are higher than necessary, and key application requirements are often not fully met.

If any of this sounds familiar, it might be time to revisit the way cloud-related decisions are made in your organisation. The research suggests, for example, that services are not always selected on an objective and coordinated basis.

One size fits nobody very well

One of the issues is that developers, application teams and other IT pros can easily become victims of habit. A common story we hear is of a team choosing a service for their first cloud initiative, then using the same service without too much further thought for all subsequent projects.

You might be thinking this sounds perfectly reasonable. If you have used a service successfully, surely it makes sense to stick with it. In practice, though, it’s not as simple as that.

Cloud services vary considerably with regard to the functionality, service levels and contract terms they offer. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, and as project requirements also differ, what’s right in one scenario may not be appropriate in another. Approaching cloud service adoption with a ‘one size fits all’ mindset is, therefore, a recipe for ending up with a lot of technical and/or commercial mismatches.

We then have the consequences of uncoordinated adoption activity across the IT organisation. One group might start down the Amazon Web Services (AWS) route, another might get locked into Microsoft Azure, while a third group might develop a habit for yet another provider.

As integration requirements inevitably emerge down the line, getting services working together when each team has been doing its own thing can be a big challenge.

Also often overlooked is the way application needs change over time. For example, evolving usage patterns, escalating resource/performance demands, and new compliance requirements. Dynamics like these might mean the cloud you started off with to host an application ceases to be cost-effective or tick the right regulatory boxes. Switching to another service could save money and help you maintain alignment with business expectations.

And we shouldn’t forget that the provider community is ever-changing too. When you selected that service three years ago, or even last year, it may have been the best option available to meet the needs of a specific application.

Since then, however, the original provider may have modified its pricing structures, deprecated key functions, or otherwise made changes that render the service less suitable. Other providers, meanwhile, might well have introduced offerings and features that would suit the application much better.

All of this highlights the need for good governance, i.e. a structured, coordinated and disciplined approach to making cloud-related decisions. This doesn’t mean dictating the use of specific services to project teams, but providing them with guidance on the criteria to be used when assessing needs, and evaluating and selecting options.

Mechanisms to review services already in use to identify where changes make sense are also important, as is the ongoing involvement of individuals such as architects and senior operations staff who can provide the bigger picture perspective.

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