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4 factors to consider when making the shift to the cloud

For CIOs assessing their organization's cloud readiness, Andrew Larkin discusses four factors to consider before moving their applications to the cloud.

CIOs making their first foray into cloud computing should be mindful of their business goals and objectives when assessing their applications' operational readiness. Another important goal is to ensure their IT teams are ready to make the shift to the cloud, according to Andrew Larkin, director of learning and head of content at Cloud Academy.

In this Q&A, Larkin highlights four key points that CIOs should consider before they shift to the cloud, including ways to assess the true costs associated with cloud migration and the skills needed to create a successful cloud team.

Editor's note: The following transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

What points should CIOs consider when making the shift to the cloud?

Andrew Larkin: There are four factors that CIOs should consider:

1. Start with your business strategy

Moving to the cloud isn't just an IT decision; it's a business decision. Having a clear understanding of your business goals and objectives is the first step in knowing if the cloud is the right fit for you.

Start by focusing on your key drivers for improvement -- whether strategic, financial or customer-focused -- that may relate to specific governance controls. Understand what your organization lacks in development, the challenges you face, and define what you need to overcome them. These factors may be infrastructure-driven or even business process-related, but it's important to know where your weaknesses lie and where you need to streamline additional business functionality.

Andrew LarkinAndrew Larkin

2. Operational readiness

Second, assess your operational readiness -- the readiness of your applications for the shift to the cloud will determine your ability to take full advantage of the benefits of cloud computing.

For most applications, it won't be as simple as performing a lift and shift. Compute storage and network aspects of the cloud are all implemented differently. Many of the additional services you will want to use may require applications to be cloud ready. Take into consideration the design and integration complexity of each application to understand their dependencies, the amount of re-work necessary, and their overall readiness for cloud migration. Also, don't forget to factor in the host operating system and its compatibility with your applications.

3. Cloud computing costs

Costs are an obvious element in the equation and the leading cloud providers have pricing calculators that can help you estimate the real costs you'll face after a cloud migration compared to what you are currently paying. The AWS Total Cost of Ownership calculator and the Microsoft Azure Pricing Calculator are two options for estimating costs, and services such as Cloudamize allow you to compare TCO across platforms so you can choose the best fit based on your current application workload.

4. Culture and skills

Finally, and of equal importance, is the readiness of your own teams to support your cloud strategy. The roles of cloud architects, developers and engineers, and the skills they require, are in demand and rapidly evolving. Knowledge of a single platform or any narrowly defined category within cloud is only a fraction of the skills and experience required.

For example, achieving ROI from cloud services means building resource optimization and agility into every aspect of your deployment. Visibility into what's driving costs only scratches the surface. Teams need deep knowledge of your infrastructure, of the complex pricing models across cloud providers and the technical expertise to overcome any challenges that might be impeding progress. They need to understand how resources are consumed, how costs are incurred and how to manage fragmented resources to prevent over provisioning and underutilization.

On the operations side, teams will need to determine which workloads and applications can be migrated as is, which should be re-architected, and when to replace or retire expensive features or applications.

Read what Larkin has to say about the disadvantages of cloud computing and four cloud migration mistakes to avoid.

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