Scott Koegler - February 07, 2019

Make cloud vendors work for you


Enterprises are creating complex combinations of cloud-based infrastructure from a variety of cloud vendors. And while the resources to store and process company assets are robust, CIOs struggle to track and manage their digital assets as their systems become increasingly virtual.

Here are 7 areas you need to keep an eye on to make sure your cloud vendor is working for you.

Enabling digital transformation

IT execs have found that the ease with which they can deploy initiatives using cloud-based services enables them to deliver on business units’ requests for services in time frames that seemed impossible only a few years ago. Cloud vendor offerings remove or reduce the need to develop internal computing platforms and bypass the time it takes to deal with physical computing devices because that’s all taken care of by the cloud hosting companies. This shift in purchasing is changing the way IT executives make all kinds of decisions. But one of its effects is the increased depth of understanding required to make the right decisions as the number and variety of digital assets increases. Here are the issues CIOs need to concern themselves with.

Distribution of spend

CIOs are responsible for managing their budgets to get new projects done and to maintain the operation of existing services. Cloud services offer opportunities to redirect or reduce budget expenditures while providing better and more services. But selecting the right provider for each of the applications to be migrated or initiated is an exercise in educated guesswork because offers differ between cloud vendors. Amazon AWS, Azure, GCP, and other providers differ in both large and small ways that can make significant differences in both quality of service and cost. This complexity is compounded by the fact that even the best decision can become the wrong decision as usage and other factors change.

CIOs need to be able to quickly and easily assess the needs of the applications they target for cloud deployment against what’s known about each provider. There is no single option that’s best for every application. And even though cloud deployment can remedy many traditional IT management issues it isn’t always the right or even the least expensive choice. IT managers need to employ tools that let them make effective choices about complex alternatives then monitor those choices on a continuing basis. The best tools to do this are those that not only understand the details of usage and billing complexities but make recommendations about changes in costs and even suggest changes in platforms when appropriate.

Multi-cloud deployment

As CIOs select the applications they will deploy to cloud-based systems and determine deployment strategies another issue comes into play - the move from physical to virtual systems. CIOs find they need different tools to understand, monitor, and manage their virtual assets. And as they move more of their operations to cloud vendors’ properties the mix of systems, capabilities, performance, and costs become significantly more difficult to analyze than traditional on-premise systems with which IT has long histories of familiarity and experience. But there are similarities to on-premise environments that CIOs need to consider.

Vendor lock-in

Different providers offer slightly different capabilities and cost structures. CIOs need to identify what differences and similarities exist across their chosen cloud provider platforms and document how and if those differences affect their ability to move deployments from one provider to another.

Volume discounts

Favorable pricing influences decisions about choosing to deploy additional instances on one provider’s service over another. The US Department of Defense’s Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) initiative is one example of choosing a single vendor to handle the entire $10 billion initiative. But few companies have the clout and budget of this magnitude and will get better results by applying ongoing analysis to the performance of their systems and balancing volume discounts with multiple vendor options.

Hybrid decisions

Hybrid cloud infrastructure is the inevitable structure of the modern enterprise because some systems either require the kind of security only available with locally installed systems or simply function better and more reliably when computing resources are physically accessible, while others are more suited to network accessible cloud-based deployment. CIOs need to understand the requirements of their applications and use cases for each as they decide what environments deliver the best price/performance. But as they make those determinations they also need to identify those borderline cases that could work equally well in either configuration. Those borderline applications are the ones that will give IT the greatest opportunities to leverage their growing familiarity with different providers and infrastructure options, and can be migrated as needed when conditions change.

Taking control

The options for CIOs managing a diverse infrastructure are daunting and always in flux. IT managers need to understand how usage changes and how those changes affect performance and costs in concrete ways and in near real time. Intuition and reviewing monthly invoices has already proven inadequate because of the level of detail and variability inherent in cloud providers’ invoices. Modern IT management requires sophisticated software tools built with a deep understanding of both legacy systems and management processes, and current cloud vendors and their individual cost and performance structures.

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