Nearly a decade ago — as the immense business benefits that cloud technologies brought to early adopters became public knowledge — forward-thinking organizations started declaring their “cloud-first” strategies. Even the notoriously slow-moving federal government jumped on board: if the government could go all in on public cloud, so could you. The trend continues to this day, with the 160-year-old National Australia Bank publicly announcing its cloud strategy and preferred cloud service provider (CSP) last month. So how might your company roll out such an approach?
Most enterprises begin evangelizing cloud-first policies as soon as they find success in their early cloud pilot projects. Selecting these pilot projects — and properly supporting the teams delivering them — are typical first steps. You don’t need to be years into cloud adoption to be a cloud-first organization.
Cloud-first is a declaration that no new workloads will be deployed in legacy locations, at least not without the pain of significant business justification. It’s a signal that the leadership team has done a legitimate total cost of ownership (TCO) analysis, found that the legacy environment will never be able to achieve the economies of scale afforded a public cloud provider, and is ready to embark upon the journey to an agile cloud environment. Unearthing the true numbers behind your on-premises datacenter and performing the TCO analysis are good early steps on your way to cloud-first. Simple calculators are available from the major CSPs (AWS, Azure, GCP), but for a full analysis you should work directly with the provider as they also have enterprise discount programs which should be modeled in. Note that such analysis will lead to your post-migration run cost, but will not account for the labor (and potentially tooling) cost of the migration itself, or conversely the cost of the technical debt incurred by staying on-premises.
Any good cloud strategy should also incorporate how it will be delivered. You do not need to reorganize your entire business to start realizing the benefits of cloud adoption, but the skills required to build and operate an on-premise datacenter — or coordinate change management with a colocation provider — differ enough from the skills required to build and operate a public cloud environment that current employees can get nervous. Skill gap identification and associated upskilling, retention, recruitment and hiring activities are all required to be successful in the cloud, especially in today’s tight IT labor market. Account for these investments in your cloud strategy.
In addition to individual skill sets, communication and collaboration between individuals and between departments or lines of business may need improvement to attain the business agility benefits the cloud can offer. Removing the bottleneck of infrastructure procurement will highlight strengths and/or weaknesses of your software engineering capabilities. An agile methodology that supports experimentation and rapid learning, coupled with a company culture that does not punish failure, will accelerate the execution of your cloud strategy.
A powerful acceleration factor to consider is leveraging a partner who already has the skill sets and experience desired and can transfer that knowledge to your team.