With announcement of G-Cloud iii and Cloud First Strategy, how can organisations adopt a Cloud strategy so it is no longer the elephant in the room?

May 2nd, 2013   

Mark Godfrey, CEO

The recent announcement that the UK government is set to adopt a cloud first policy for IT procurement is a clear indication that Cloud is a strategy that is here to stay.   As the UK Government Procurement Service awards suppliers to G-Cloud iii this week, (we are one of those suppliers), it is time that the hype with Cloud services is translated into successful adoption.    From my experience our customers want to know how to take advantage of cloud services and the potential savings, but, often wonder where and how to start? This is closely followed by the usual concerns around data management, security and risk.

There are an infinite number of articles focusing on the potential savings and benefits in terms of speed, choice and flexibility of cloud based offerings.  So, why the concerns?

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Why the Cloud is the elephant in the room – Cost Reduction vs Risk

Cloud is being ignored or going unaddressed, due the misunderstanding of how to approach and adopt cloud services.  This is often caused by the starting point and the perception of where benefits can be derived. It’s logical to believe that the biggest benefits of cloud computing will be borne out by outsourcing the biggest enterprise applications. These are the most expensive to buy; the most difficult to deploy and the most cumbersome and costly to sustain and upgrade. Over 70% of IT budgets are spent keeping existing applications and projects running. On paper therefore, taking them as a cloud service would provide the best return in terms of cost reductions and benefits. But there’s an issue….

These applications are often the lifeblood of the organisation and represent risk in equal measure to the potential rewards of changing how the application is provisioned. This risk is felt equally by either the in house IT function or Managed Service provider. This is quite a daunting prospect and not surprisingly is often pushed back in favour of more manageable lower risk projects. Cloud is reported back as risky and difficult; some of the high profile cloud outages over the last few years have not reduced this ‘fear’ factor of migrating core system to the cloud.

Thankfully there is a more logical approach, so, before we attempt to eat the elephant in the room, let’s see what else is on the menu…..

The logical approach to adopting Cloud

The move to Cloud services should be approached as an evolutionary rather than revolutionary process and the first projects tackled should be low risk; low impact; low complexity and measurable in terms of cost and benefits realisation. It may take a little longer to get core systems into the cloud, but the process is less fraught.

1.   Analyse what data is low risk?

It is important for to understand what information or applications an organisation has and understand what low risk is.  One of the first products AI created was AI.ANALYTICS. It’s a low impact tool that crawls legacy unstructured data stores and analyses potential benefits in data and application consolidation as well as achievable cost savings. The key benefit of the tool is that the results are based on customer data, not the speculation of a world of analysts or consultants and so the predicted benefits can be validated and adjusted to suit risk and access/recall profiles. Furthermore the organisation can better plan their data management and migration projects, often to new applications, saving money and creating a consolidated information environment going forward.

What we have found in using AI.ANALYTICS is that many organisations hold a staggering amount of data that is redundant, never accessed and usually kept only because there is no defensible policy or procedure for deleting it. On average we have found 58% of data is redundant which equals a staggering average cost of £20,000 per terabyte per year.  Any individual can buy a terabyte drive on the high street for less than £70.00, however for traditional storage providers who hold 50 Terabytes in a data centre and then need to keep it all running at 99.999% availability, this, it seems, is what they would charge, and we, it seems are happy to pay.

 2.    Cost effective cloud storage – “Archiving as a Service”

Through partnership with our Cloud Service Providers, AI.FILEMANGER was born. A simple process of data analytics, cleansing, extracting and policy based archiving that allows an organisation to put a defensible, recall based archive policy on data held in a secure, accredited cloud service.

How is this approach low risk; low impact; low complexity and measurable?

Low risk: Most data is kept through regulatory obligations and not the need to access. Less than 2% of documents over three years old are ever recalled.

Low Impact: This is an automated process that never touches recent, high recall information. End users will not even realise that it is happening.

Low Complexity: Older data is much easier to apply rules and policies?.  Think of it as a new approach to Physical Document Storage.  When my cabinet is full, I transfer all the oldest documents to a box. When I’ve filled 6 boxes, I call a van. The data goes away and if I ever need it again, I know exactly where it is and can get it back in minutes, and then the clock starts ticking.

Measurable: Of Course! Savings through cloud archiving are huge. The graph below shows a 5 year estimated cost model, based on a total of 50TB of data growing at 20% year on year.

Cloud Archiving Graph

Probably not the most exciting step on the journey to cloud computing, but in terms of risk, impact, complexity and reward, it ticks all the boxes.

If it’s excitement you’re after, look at what you paid on storage for the last three years, multiply it by 58% and think what you could have achieved with it !

We all need a place to start when adopting a Cloud strategy and although we don’t all fancy chewing our way through an elephant, there’s no need to starve ourselves of the potential benefits of cloud service provision.