Taking a Centralized vs Departmental Approach to Cloud Computing
The cloud computing ecosystem has evolved at a scorching pace – from being only a hosted, elastic, commoditized infrastructure a decade ago, to a complex set of SaaS, PaaS and IaaS offerings that are available today across a variety of deployment options. Given the easy access to cloud applications, technology selection and adoption has become faster and more decentralized today, as compared to traditional IT processes.
The growth of ‘hybrid’ IT models has, in fact made it even more necessary for IT teams to ‘democratize’ the process of technology selection, and the role of IT is quickly evolving to business service enablement and value creation across all organizational stakeholders. We have moved far ahead from the days when all IT decisions were taken by a single, centralized IT department. Today, while IT teams continue to manage provisioning and deployment, companies are also empowering various teams and departments to make their own choices, especially when it comes to SaaS based applications such as CRM, project management, team collaboration, mobile engagement, etc.
For IT decision makers, decoupling IT decision making from IT provisioning involves a few critical decisions to be taken. For one, it is important to identify areas where greater IT oversight would be required, and therefore having a centralized strategy for cloud applications / infrastructure would be more effective.
- Legacy IT: Most large enterprises have a great degree of legacy IT infrastructure and business processes that are difficult to manage and run in a dispersed fashion.
- High Volume: Applications that handle large data volumes (static or transactional) often require dedicated infrastructure to be provisioned and managed centrally.
- Integration Complexity: One of the challenges when migrating legacy applications is the complex nature of integration that applications have with one another. Managing such applications centrally keeps the integration complexity to the lowest level possible.
- Security & Privacy: For data and applications (e.g. banking data, healthcare data) that have stringent data privacy and security needs, a centralized approach is more viable.
- Sourcing Complexity: Especially when it comes to specialized cloud needs such as private clouds, virtualized environments or bare metal servers, individual departments or functions may not have the technical skills to make the right decisions, in terms of performance, costs or availability.
At the same time, we are seeing many scenarios today where teams and departments are in a better position to take the right decisions in terms of technology selection. IT teams, in these cases, are often too far away from the real-world needs to assess the nature of business requirements. A departmentalized approach to cloud application selection would make sense in the following scenarios:
- New initiatives: New departments, teams, markets, activities or processes are a great opportunity to allow departmental decision making. Since there is no legacy involved, it is not likely to make a major impact to existing business processes and IT infrastructure.
- Low-criticality applications: Many applications, such as emailing systems, payroll systems, report generation, often involve batch processing of data and are therefore less sensitive to downtime. Trying a new SaaS based application in such cases may not have a significant impact on business performance.
- Predictable performance needs: Applications such as CRM, analytics, ERP and HRM often have simple, standard workflows and predictable querying mechanisms. The dependence on central IT teams to manage these can be minimized.
- Low security and privacy concerns: General applications like public websites, tax calculators, libraries, collaboration, video conferencing, mobile apps, etc. which have low security concerns are easy candidates for departmental decision making.
For many IT departments, moving from a tightly controlled or centrally governed enterprise IT organization to a loosely governed structure can be quite disconcerting initially. A Cloud Management Platform (CMP) is generally a good way to maintain control, oversight and reporting for all cloud applications and deployments across the enterprise. Of course, long-term infrastructure / architecture decisions, e.g., choice of CSP, technology stack, network monitoring, security protocols, etc. will continue to be in the hands of the IT department. By taking a balanced approach to IT decision making, enterprises will be more successful in building a cohesive, secure and agile hybrid cloud strategy.
Nitin Mishra heads the product management and solutions engineering functions at Netmagic Solutions. During his nine years with the company, he has been responsible for conceptualizing and packaging hosting and managed services focused on IT infrastructure requirements of Internet and Enterprise applications.