Building an Open Cloud Strategy

Building an Open Cloud Strategy

Image Credit: The Open Road by Gayle Nicholson

“Choices made, whether bad or good, follow you forever and affect everyone in their path one way or another.” --J.E.B. Spredemann, An Unforgivable Secret

For several years now, one of the most used words in the last couple years in every IT organization has been “cloud”. Why? Because using or providing “cloud” services is one of the main objectives for CIOs and CTOs across the globe.

In 2017, the “cloud” word is not new anymore, but still relevant and a big part of the IT transformation process. Here are some numbers that highlight the importance of cloud adoption:

  • According to an IDC study (The Salesforce Economy: Enabling 1.9 Million New Jobs and $389 Billion in New Revenue Over the Next Five Years, IDC), cloud computing is growing at 4.5 times the rate of IT spending since 2009, they also expect to grow at better than 6 times the rate of IT spending from 2015 to 2020.
  • Gartner predicts the worldwide public cloud services market will grow 18% in 2017 to $246.8B, up from $209.2B in 2016.
  • Gartner also predicts that just Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) is projected to grow 36.8% in 2017 and reach $34.6B.

The importance of cloud was reaffirmed when the big tech companies like Amazon, SalesForce, Google, Microsoft, IBM, VMware, Dell, Red Hat, Oracle, and HP joined the race to become “cloud” providers and get a piece of the market share. Enterprises across the world also knew that in order to compete and survive in a technology driven world, IT transformation was imperative: one must join the cloud revolution.

The Problem

One of the main problems with Cloud adoption is, without a doubt, the lack of a Cloud Strategy. Gartner estimates that “less than one-third of enterprises have a documented Cloud Strategy”. In my opinion, having a cloud strategy will provide multiple benefits to an enterprise, including:

  • Maximize the cloud business impact and benefits such as: accelerate time to market, increase agility and efficiency, and cut costs.
  • Translate business objectives and enterprise requirements into technology.
  • Be able to prepare for the cloud infrastructure needs.
    Have a detailed and well defined roadmap for a cloud adoption framework.

At the end of the day, having a Cloud Strategy should enable the IT leadership to plan and be effective using cloud technologies as the base for IT modernization and digital transformation.

Going beyond a Cloud Strategy: Adopting an Open Cloud Strategy

Open Cloud is not just using Open Source software to build private or hybrid clouds. In my opinion, it is also the adoption of the open source culture and best practices as the cornerstone of an Open Cloud Strategy.

For example, when talking about Open Cloud, let’s not forget that most public cloud providers use open source software as their foundation, and making their offerings able to have interoperability with open source software workloads has been a priority for large vendors like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. The reason behind this strategy is simple: open source is great for business!

Here are some of the benefits of adopting an Open Cloud Strategy:

  • Expand the software support ecosystem by being part of open source projects and their communities.
  • Reduce costs.
  • Avoid vendor lock in.
  • Improve code quality.
  • Improve security.
  • Increase interoperability.

Some of the benefits outlined before could be exemplified by the following open source project examples:

  • Linux, which is no longer just for hobbyists and amateurs, runs deep in the enterprise powering critical applications in all industries. Linux not only is the best example of open source and community collaboration, but also the flagship product for several companies like Red Hat (my current employer).
  • OpenStack, a project where community work and best practices are providing an IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service) alternative, 100% open source and with a vibrant community.

Here are some of the things to consider while adopting an Open Cloud Strategy:

  1. Business impact.
  2. Cultural impact
    a) Evaluate the cultural impact of adopting an open cloud approach in the organization.
    b) Evaluate the benefits of the open source community model and how that could drive collaboration and innovation in the organization.
  3. Workload impact
    a) What will it entail, from a technology point of view, to adopt open source? For example, which workloads will need to be migrated or re-architected.
  4. Learning curve
    a) The level of effort required from the employees to efficiently manage the new technology.
    b) Is there internal talent inside the organization with expertise in the technologies to be adopted that could accelerate the learning curve process.
  5. Software assessment
    a) While adopting an Open Source project to be part of the cloud strategy, there are several questions that should be asked to determine complexity and impact of the implementation and maintenance :
  • License type
  • Age of the project and maturity
  • Public references of success (enterprise usage)
  • Number of contributors
  • IT experts opinions about it
  • Enterprise support availability
  • Change rate: commits, frequency, number of releases
  • Size of community

Bottom line, adopting an open cloud strategy at the end of the day is a business decision. A decision that now more than ever is easier to make because of the increased benefits and popularity of open source projects and their communities, the impact of their use in the enterprise, and the amount of quality Cloud computing open source projects available (OpenStack, Kubernetes, Docker, LXC, KVM, Ansible, etc.).