The first steps have been taken. Your company meticulously evaluated public cloud providers and their offerings, and you’ve decided to soon join the 91% of enterprise businesses (annual RightScale 2019 State of the Cloud report from Flexera) that have adopted the public cloud as part of their strategic plan.
Deciding to take the plunge is a wise choice in a digital market where cloud adoption is pervasive, but what is the next step? How do you develop a cloud strategy and choose the right implementation amidst a myriad of options and providers?
In this whitepaper, the fundamental offerings of the public cloud are explored and evaluated based on a number of criteria, including: portfolio objective, technical requirements, existing investments, funding approach, and security and regulatory compliance.
At the conclusion, your organization will have the knowledge to develop a strategy to choose the cloud implementation that best suits your business needs.
OVERVIEW OF CLOUD OFFERINGS
Start by understanding your choices. For the flagship public cloud providers, application services are provided in the following paradigms: Software as a Service (SaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS). If you need a rudimentary understanding of these offerings, refer to the whitepaper, Cloud 101: Let’s Remove the Complexity.
Regardless which model you choose, the business agility and management cost benefits are the allure of any cloud-computing model. Businesses that do not embrace the cloud will place themselves at a disadvantage as they compete with others who have gained the agility to innovate and respond to market opportunities through the cloud.
Learn the facts before you decide
Hindsight is 20-20 in every decision. Gain hindsight perspective now by exploring which public cloud implementations are most suitable for which scenarios.
Learn and explore the criteria you should be evaluating as you decide between PaaS, SaaS, or IaaS so that you can move forward with a strategy to make a wise choice:
Software as a service (SaaS)
SaaS products are managed entirely by a third-party cloud provider. These are typically subscription-based services that trade flexibility for reduction in planning and cost. Examples of SaaS products are Microsoft Office 365, Salesforce CRM, Workday, and Google G Suite.
Infrastructure as a service (IaaS)
IaaS may be fairly equated to traditional virtual machine hosting in your company’s on-premises datacenter or remote hosting facility.
With IaaS, you move your virtual machines from your data center to the cloud. IaaS virtual machines may be provided at unlimited scale, but still require your IT teams to manage the underlying patching and support of the infrastructure.
IaaS is a key element of many companies’ hybrid cloud strategies. Example workloads of IaaS include application hosting, backend processing, and traditional enterprise software.
Platform as a service (PaaS)
PaaS includes many services and products that allow organizations to build and run applications without the cost and complexity of maintaining the supporting infrastructure. Examples of PaaS products include Amazon Elastic Beanstalk and Microsoft Azure Web App.
According to an April 2019 Gartner report, SaaS is the largest public cloud market, but research generally agrees that IaaS is the fastest-growing market segment.
The point is not that one model is preferred over the other, but rather to recognize that in a customer-obsessed world with such rapid growth of cloud adoption, it’s critical to pursue some kind of cloud strategy if you want to remain competitive and provide value to your customers.
Figure 1. This diagram depicts the tasks your company is responsible for and which are passed on to the cloud provider in different implementations. Source: Microsoft Technet Full of I.T. WebLog
CHOOSE THE RIGHT IMPLEMENTATION
By breaking down the current-state and goal-state applications portfolio, your company can better understand how to effectively leverage the public cloud.
To assist in developing your cloud plan, you can decompose your strategy into four factors: portfolio objectives, technical requirements, security and regulatory compliance, and funding strategy.
All enterprises possess multiple software applications that fulfill a broad range of business objectives. These applications are typically in variable states of value to your business and have differing degrees of currency with modern patterns and frameworks.
Enterprise applications are generally organized into three categories: invest, contain, and replace (see Figure 2).
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Figure 2. Portfolio objectives are generally organized into these three categories. Each category serves different purposes, and with each there is a preferred cloud implementation that best fits those purposes.
Enterprises have mission-critical applications that serve the core line of business. These applications are rooted in a company’s value offering and are typically enhanced to accommodate a changing business marketplace, respond to competition, and deliver value to customers.
Best choice: PaaS
As these applications are differentiators, these are the most likely candidates for a high degree of investment in cash and staff. PaaS is the best choice to fulfill this kind of role because it offers the greatest flexibility to accommodate custom business behavior.
From accounting to timekeeping, recruitment to accounts payable, most enterprises have a variety of applications that serve a narrow business need. These needs are frequently unchanging, and these applications have served the company well and do not require major project teams to support them.
Best choice: IaaS
The business is not served by major investments in these contain applications. The goal state is to “keep the lights on” without major time and cash outlays. IaaS provides a simplified migration story and allows you to continue to support these applications without overhauling the core implementation and architecture.
Every organization has applications that no longer serve the original business need. Whether the root is antiquated technology (with high support costs), obsolescence due to a changing business and regulatory environment, the need to service a new requirement, or simply that the business has outgrown the app, businesses often have a portfolio of applications in need of replacement.
Best choice: SaaS
For those situations, there are a variety of subscription-based SaaS offerings that will meet the needs of your business. These applications are fully supported by full-time engineering staff, and your business can benefit from the continuous update path provided by third-party SaaS vendors.
For applications under your company’s control, there is a varying degree of technical functionality that may lend favor to one cloud offering versus another.
Assuming a company would favor a PaaS offering versus an IaaS offering, there are a number of technical requirements that would require consideration when you contemplate a migration. Technical requirements that may require reengineering for a PaaS migration include:
Server installed software (ActiveX, Win32, VAS, etc.)
Local/SAN file access (local processing, file drops, etc.) – Many of the PaaS offerings abstract away all local resources to better accommodate the public cloud environment
Web applications that favor server-based session state versus database-/cookie-based state
Non-traditional application and environment solutions (e.g., SQLite, nginx, etc.)
High I/O loads
Vertical scale architectures/server state management – One large virtual machine is typically more expensive than many less expensive ones
If these items are not a factor, then a PaaS migration may be the right choice. However, the more of these items that become applicable, the higher the re-platforming cost and lower the overall value. In that case, it would be smarter to use a traditional IaaS offering.
Leveraging existing investments
While your organization may desire a true cloud hosting approach, sometimes your existing datacenter investments will better serve your application needs.
For example, applications that have a high restructuring costs are perhaps better suited to remain contained in your existing datacenter.
Security and regulatory compliance
Security is paramount to all modern applications, and few industries are exempt from regulatory compliance. While each organization is different, the approaches to cloud deployment have consistent themes.
Platform as a service offerings ostensibly offer the easiest value for custom and convertible cloud solutions, but these may sometime break specific regulatory requirements.
For example, there may be issues with holdoffs (physical server identification), multi-tenancy and own-IP proprietary requirements. While many highly regulated companies go the PaaS route, personally identifiable data and other customer and employee data may reside in IaaS hold-offs or in local data centers operating in a hybrid model.
As much of the current regulatory components are targeted towards on-premises hosting models, IaaS provides the most linear comparison to meet these needs.
SaaS offerings, as public cloud entities themselves, will provide regulatory disclosures to customers. These typically offer very little change flexibility per customer but are available to review on demand.
The two largest cloud providers also provide trust information for all service offerings across the cloud (Amazon and Microsoft).
Cloud investments represent a substantial investment, but each offering lends itself to variable approaches to funding. Ensure that this funding strategy falls within the realm of capability for your organization.
SaaS applications are traditionally offered exclusively as a subscription-based services, favoring operational expenses versus capital budgets.
IaaS virtual machines are offered as an operational expense. However, by supporting a datacenter analogue, product licensing costs may be front-loaded from a capital perspective, favoring those organizations that are cash-heavy.
PaaS offerings are also offered in a pay-as-you-go fashion, but for organizations seeking to reduce on-going revenue expenses, PaaS offerings the easiest path for efficient server usages.
The public cloud offers a variety of different offerings for PaaS, IaaS, and SaaS solutions. As you examine the four main factors above and prioritize how they fit into your organizational goals, you should have a clearer picture of which cloud implementation is best suited for your needs.
While most companies elect to take an incremental approach to cloud migrations, drawing a cloud strategy and evaluating your implementation choices allows companies to get the greatest value out of their cloud investments.